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Baird 'starting to get comfortable' at pro level after impressive hat-trick

The 20-year-old looked a dominant figure as Leinster dismantled their title rivals.

Image: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

LEO CULLEN COULDN’T help but laugh as he took his seat post-match in the RDS.

After naming his team on Friday, he sat in the same place and explained how Ryan Baird’s athletic abilities were beyond doubt. What he wanted to see, and to test, were his tight-five fundamentals.

The head coach was humming much the same tune after last night’s impressive nine-try demolition of Glasgow, only with more evidence of Baird’s quality across an array of facets.

The powerful 20-year-old grounded a hat-trick, including a remarkable 40-metre burst that would have had wingers struggling to keep stride with him, as Leinster defeated Glasgow 55 -19.

Baird was given responsibility of calling the line-out on what was just his second senior professional start. In contact, he put himself to work, taking on 21 carries, Quality carries too, as he consistently got a powerful leg drive going to push himself through tackles and over the gainline.

“Starting to get comfortable. It takes time,” Baird says, not realising it takes the less-gifted athletes far longer than seven appearances and a greater age than 20 to look as capable as he did.

It’s a completely different step up to anything I’ve played before. To get that sort of game under your belt is crucial to feeling comfortable.”

As is his wont, Cullen didn’t add fuel to the flames in the Baird hype train, referring to the man-of-the-match performance as, “a positive step in his development.”

Leinster’s 21st win on the trot is yet more evidence that they are a fine-tuned machine of a side, with every cog turning with barely a squeak. Baird was not the only hat-trick scorer in last night’s rout, nor was he the only 20-year-old who looked to the manor born.

ryan-baird-is-presented-with-the-player-of-the-match-award-by-ian-farrell Baird collects his richly-deserved man of the match award. Source: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

Harry Byrne looked entirely comfortable with the responsibility of being the pivotal point of a dynamic and fast-paced Leinster attack.

“I thought Harry ran the week well,” said Cullen, “that’s the role of the 10, not just the day of the game it’s how they run the week and the confidence they give to the team and the directions they give the team.

“Again, between him and Ciaran (Frawley), they’ve ran this block well. When you’re missing two 10s with the national team, you’ve two less experienced players in the mix, but I think the two of them have done well.”

There was nothing wrong with Leinster’s confidence and direction anyway. Glasgow, in theory, ought to have posed a real threat to the eastern province’s winning streak, but they will stand unbeaten at the top of Conference A until at least next month’s trip to face the Cheetahs in South Africa.

Two weeks out from the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens, they’ll have little cause to hold anything back in Bloemfontein.

“Pleasing because we’re up against a good team in Glasgow and they’re constantly probing, looking for opportunities,” said Cullen of a 55-point haul against last year’s finalists.

“I thought the intensity we brought to the game was good, very, very pleasing. The focus was pretty good. A couple of times in the second half I thought we looked vulnerable, Glasgow exposed us a couple of times. But overall, we’re pleased with how the players applied themselves.”

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Sean Farrell

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