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'We lost focus': Lesson of 2013 and lure of home quarter final driving Leinster

Sean Cronin was one of the starters when Northampton claimed a win in the Aviva three years ago, but things have changed for both sides.

IT’S HARD TO escape the similarites between Leinster’s back-to-back meetings with Northampton Saints in 2013 and the 2016 edition. And even more difficult to seperate the two after Leinster claimed another bonus point win in Franklin’s Gardens.

Sean Cronin started in the front row in the Aviva Stadium on the night of that 9 – 18 defeat three years ago. Jack McGrath was alongside him, Devin Toner packed down a row back. But outside the tight five, Leinster are a very different animal today with only 11 of the matchday 23 from that night still on the playing staff at the club. Still, ‘those who don’t konw their history…‘ and all that.

“I just think we lost focus of the things that serve us well in the week beforehand,” says Cronin on the subject of how a team can beat an opponent 40 – 7 on the road and then fall to a 9 – 18 loss to the same side on home soil a week later.

“We lost the breakdown battle, they spoiled us there and our maul D wasn’t great either.

“They put lots of pressure on us, they didn’t want to kick for points, because they were going after tries in the maul. They spoiled a lot of our ball and they couldn’t get in to our game and the match petered out after that.

“It was pretty frustrating. A lot of us remember it well, so it’s a big focus to make sure we don’t repeat that.”

Sean Cronin Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Northampton aren’t the same animal either mind you. There are problems which seem to be festering in Jim Mallinder’s squad and while he will welcome Kieran Brookes and Callum Clark back into his pack, Dylan Hartley almost seemed intent on picking up a ban in his six short minutes back in green on Friday. Throw in the ongoing concern for George North and the confusion over his concussion and the Saints have few reliable weapons to call upon.

For Cronin, retaining focus means more than avoiding defeat. Even with a 21-year-old out-half fresh from his European debut, the eastern province are a side high on confidence and belief, intent on extending their lead in the pool so they can start thinking about chasing a home quarter-final.

“That’s the focus. I’ll not beat around the bush and say otherwise,” nods Cronin.

“We want to win, we want a home quarter and that’s the focus we’re trying to have as a team. It’s just another stepping stone, we know we have to win and not have a repeat of a few years ago – I think we ended up getting an away quarter final (against Toulon) that year on the back of it.

“It’s a huge focus for us and to get the win on Saturday night is the start of it.”

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Sean Farrell

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