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Dublin: 6°C Saturday 16 January 2021

'Probably the worst day most of us have had in a Leinster jersey': Wasps defeat still stings Johnny Sexton

The out-half remains frustrated as he felt Leinster were in control of Sunday’s Pool 5 clash… until they weren’t.

THERE WAS STILL a mild sense of shell-shock around Leinster’s Clonskeagh base this afternoon.

Outside, the weather did its changeable mood thing and the noise of trees being hassled by the wind only served to make the quiet dutiful movement of the odd player and staff more noticeable.

Jonathan Sexton Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Leinster run like clockwork from Monday to Friday these days. Jonathan Sexton wandered in ahead of time and looked strangely daunted. Sunday’s 6 – 33 dismissal at the hands of Wasps was humbling for everyone associated with the province.

“It wasn’t a great day. For most of us it was probably the worst day we’ve had in a Leinster jersey,” said the out-half.

It’s very disappointing to do that at home, in front of our supporters, in the first game of the European Cup.

“It’s one thing losing at home, another thing losing by the margin that we did.”

27 points, three tries to nil. No matter what way you slice it, it looks bad.

Once Wasps forced their way into a lead, Leinster looked like rabbits in the headlights, making fundamental errors and constantly losing the marginal contest that mount up to swing games.

“It seemed to just snowball,” says Sexton searching for a place to pin-point where it all went wrong.

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Jonathan Sexton dejected Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We were in their 22 a number of times and came away with nothing. One time we felt (the ball) was slapped down… we had three visits to their 22, they had none, but we go in 16 – 6 down. That’s a fact, I suppose, but we’re not getting away from the fact our performance wasn’t good enough.

“We had to park that (at half-time) and go out and get the next score. The worst thing we did was start the second half poorly and next thing we’re 23 – 6 down. So we had to chase the  game, force things.”

That’s the thing that seems to have unsettled Sexton the most about defeat: everything felt under control, until it was suddenly ripped from their hands.

“I was surprised in some ways looking back on it. Obviously, we weren’t good enough, but during the game we felt quite comfortable at times. We started well into a strong wind and we were 6-all, than 9- 6 and we still felt happy enough with that scoreline knowing the wind would be at our backs in the second half.”

Sean O'Brien gets treatment Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Sexton will look for an angry and purposeful reaction from his team-mates when they run out to take on Bath at the Rec next weekend. And the province insist they remain hopeful of having at least a few of the seven first-team injury concerns – Isa Nacewa (knee), Luke Fitzgerald (shoulder), Ben Te’o (glute), Rob Kearney (hamstring), Sean O’Brien, Mike McCarthy and Richardt Strauss (all concussion) – cleared to play in England.

However, a 27-point reversal on home turf is down to more than the absentees of certain personnel, for Sexton, it was also about attitude.

“It’s a good structure to play in and it allows you to get on the ball and make decisions, but parts of that broke down badly at the weekend.

“Part of that is guys being accountable for the ball and working hard to get back in to position. Parts of the structure do need to be improved, but other parts like winning 50-50s and collisions., they’re the unacceptable ones – you can’t turn up to a rugby match and not win them.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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