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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020

5 talking points after Leinster secure a Champions Cup quarter-final

Matt O’Connor’s men were brilliant in the first half, but Wasps fought back powerfully after the break.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Ricoh Arena

LEINSTER DREW 20-20 with Wasps in Coventry this afternoon. Read our full report on the match here.

Leinster hang on

Leinster’s first-half performance was massively impressive as Matt O’Connor’s backline made huge yardage with ball in hand and the forward pack dominated the set-piece. This was Leinster at their very best, as Wasps were left chasing shadows.

Andy Goode misses a drop goal to win the game Andy Goode misses with his last-gasp drop-goal attempt. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A 20-6 lead at the break was justified given Leinster’s excellence, but Dai Young’s side muscled their way back into the tie thereafter. Ashley Johnson and the superb Nathan Hughes led the charge as Wasps battled hard to eat their way into Leinster’s advantage.

As O’Connor’s side appeared to lose their composure in crucial moments, Wasps grew in confidence by the minute. Leinster did defend very well at times, but their second-half collapse will rankle, even with a quarter-final spot secured.

An off day for Madigan’s boot

While the inside centre was lively with ball in hand, making a number of darting passes, some excellent tackles and clever passes, this was an afternoon to forget in terms of his place-kicking.

James Haskell tackled by Ian Madigan Madigan goes in around the ankles of James Haskell. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

The four missed penalties jarred all the more because Madigan is such an expert off the tee in normal circumstances. An early touchline conversion suggested this would be a fine day with the boot from Madigan, but his opening penalty effort was scuffed.

From there, the striking was inconsistent and Madigan will have been frustrated not to put Leinster 23-20 up with 77 minutes on the clock, even if he was more than 40 metres from the posts.

Jordi Murphy’s maturity

Among the several positives for Leinster was the performance of Jordi Murphy at openside flanker, quite possible his finest for the province in that position. The 23-year-old was hugely rounded in Coventry, contributing in defence and attack.

Jordi Murphy tackled by Nathan Hughes Murphy was excellent at openside. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Two gorgeous offloads in the first half gave Leinster momentum, while he took advantage of a hole in Wasps’ midfield defence to make a massive bust. There were at least six firm tackles and many involvements at the breakdown too.

As Leinster’s internationals look towards the Six Nations from next week, Murphy did himself no harm with this display. Man of the match Luke Fitzgerald, right wing Fergus McFadden and Marty Moore all had strong afternoons too.

Wasps no mugs

Some may focus their attention critically on Leinster’s second-half performance, which certainly raises questions, but Wasps must be given credit for their excellence in bouncing back after a morale-damaging first half.

Nathan Hughes Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Young’s men came out after the break with intent intact and their attacking effort thereafter was brilliant. There was pace in their phase play, power in the carries from the likes of Hughes and mauling ingenuity close to the Leinster line.

Goode had a chance to win it at the death, but it wasn’t to be.

Leinster’s first-phase possession

That first half was notable for Leinster’s brilliance with ball in hand, with much of the best play coming from that old loop play that Johnny Sexton trademarked in his time with the province.

Rob Kearney tackled by Alex Lozowski Kearney benefited from the clean set-piece possession. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

This backline is full of individual quality and to see the component parts click together will have pleased O’Connor greatly. The real key, though, was the excellent set-piece platform provided by Leinster’s pack.

The scrum and line-out in the first 40 minutes were superb, providing out-half Jimmy Gopperth with superb possession from which to launch his backs onto the front foot. That is the blueprint for Leinster if they are to win silverware this season.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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