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O'Connor relieved but praises Leinster for 'a pretty good job' against Bath

The Leinster head coach said he’d like to see his side ‘get over the paint,’ but kicking penalties was the natural choice.

MATT O’CONNOR ADMITTED his relief after Leinster prevented Bath from a late match-winning score at the Aviva Stadium, though he stated his belief that his side had done “a pretty good job” for the majority of their Champions Cup quarter-final win.

Jamie Heaslip Captain Jamie Heaslip and head coach Matt O'Connor post-match at the Aviva. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

Leinster advance into the semi-finals of the European competition to face the winners of tomorrow’s clash between Toulon and Wasps as Stade Mayol aware that they will need to improve.

O’Connor’s men conceded two tries in the 18-15 victory over Bath, both involving linebreaks by Bath out-half George Ford, as they failed to cross the whitewash themselves.

A take-any-points-on-offer policy saw Ian Madigan expertly kick six penalties from six to secure the victory.

But just three points in the second 40 meant Leinster failed to build on their 15-5 half-time lead, and they finished the game defending inside their half against Bath’s threatening attack.

“You are always relieved when you win an knockout game,” said O’Connor after watching Leinster hold out, “it was always going to be tough. It was going to be hard-fought and they’ve got some tremendous threat on the ball.

“George Ford was pretty dangerous when he got opportunities and when you’ve got guys like [Anthony[ Watson, [Horacio] Agulla, [Matt] Banahan, [Jonathan] Joseph and [Kyle] Eastmond outside him, it is going to be a tough afternoon defensively.

Jamie Heaslip applauds the crowd Heaslip applauds the crowd in Dublin. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

“I thought we did a pretty good job by and large for most of the game. Fordy [George Ford] capitalised on two opportunities and they got tries from those, but the rest of the game, apart from the unstructured bits that Watson created late in the game, I thought we were pretty good defensively.

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“We played in the right areas. We took our points when they were on offer. The scrum was outstanding.

We thought we could get a little bit of pay out of that [the scrum] with the six front rowers that we’ve got in our squad, fit and healthy, and I thought we did a fantastic job at getting dominance up there which was pretty important in an arm wrestle like today.”

That Leinster failed to score a try and only twice came within obvious striking distance – through Jamie Heaslip in the first half and Zane Kirchner in the second – might be cause for concern, but O’Connor felt that was simply the nature of this game.

A try in the second-half would have made this quarter-final all the more manageable, but O’Connor disagreed that his side had brought the nail-biting finale on themselves.

“I don’t know if we made it harder on ourselves,” said O’Connor. “We were a little bit inaccurate. In the second half we came up with a couple of poor kicks. We missed a lineout, you fall off a number of tackles.

Leinster fans look on in the sun Leinster fans shield their eyes from the sun this afternoon. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Fordy’s scores in the second half brought them right back into it and from that end you are going to have a tough afternoon to close it out. But up until that point I thought we were doing all the things we spoke about and were executing pretty well.

“You would like to get over the paint [the tryline], but the reality is you play what is in front of you and if they infringe, you have got to take your opportunities at this level because it is knock-out rugby and points were at a premium.

“I thought the decisions from Jamie [Heaslip] and the leadership group and the goal-kicking of Mads was first-class.”

Scrum power and more talking points from Leinster’s win over Bath

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Murray Kinsella

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