O'Connor was pleased with the performance of Luke Fitzgerald. Cathal Noonan/INPHO
Winning Ugly

'I wouldn't say escaped' - O'Connor defends Leinster's performance in seeing off Quins

It wasn’t pretty but Leinster just about got the job done.

IT MUST BE frustrating for Matt O’Connor to have to answer questions about his side’s performance after a hard-fought win against their main pool rivals but Leinster’s mediocre showing in attack was the hot topic after their 14-13 victory over Harlequins.

Before an Eoin Reddan snipe sparked a late revival it was looking increasingly likely that Quins might leave the Aviva with a famous win.

Despite only sealing victory in the dying minutes, O’Connor denied that his side were hanging on at the end.

“I wouldn’t say escaped,” O’Connor said.

“It was a high quality tense fixture between two good sides. Escaped is a strong word. If we had executed a little better we could have been out of sight at half time. They came back very hard at us in the second half and we were a little inaccurate early doors.”

While the win gives Leinster a great chance at making the knockout round, it will be tough to overtake Quins in the race for a home quarter-final.

After letting an 11-0 lead slip, O’Connor knows that his team missed an opportunity to seize control of the pool.

“We would have liked to get more out of tonight,” O’Connor said.

“We would have liked to have been a little more accurate and got something in London last week but we have given ourselves a chance. If we are good enough and we can get maximum points over the next two games or more points than Quins then we have a chance.”

One major problem for Leinster was the scrum, and Jack McGrath had a particularly tough night. Having come straight from a tough autumn series into the high intensity of the Champions Cup, McGrath might need a breather to rediscover his best form.

O’Connor said he would consider resting McGrath, but with Connacht and Munster next on the fixture list, he is unlikely to be wrapped in cotton wool over the Christmas period.

“The guys in the Premiership and the guys in France play a lot of rugby,” O’Connor said.

“Has Jack played enough at that intensity? He has played a lot in recent times but we will look at resting him over the next couple of weeks and freshening him up for rounds five and six.”

While Leinster’s attack as a whole underwhelmed, Luke Fitzgerald showed some promising signs at 13, especially in the first half.

O’Connor was pleased with what he saw from Fitzgerald, and was particularly satisfied that his 13 got through the game injury-free.

“I thought Luke was brilliant, I thought he had a great game,” O’Connor said.

“For a bloke who hasn’t played a lot of rugby I thought he was fantastic. Not fantastic in a purer sense at 13 but for the amount of work he got through.”

Originally published at 23.00, 13 December.

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