‘It’s only really when the game looks dead that we really clicked into gear’

Sean Farrell reports from the RDS

THERE WAS PLENTY of wreckage to sift through, but ample reason for Leo Cullen to smile.

Connacht created all manner of havoc in the Leinster defence during last night’s high-octane inter-pro, carving them open on four occasions in the RDS.

Hugo Keenan (collarbone) was forced off injured, the blue pack couldn’t lay a consistent platform and clinical Connacht attacks kept punching holes to bring the Westerners out to a 12-29 lead.

They very nearly escaped with a famous win and all five points, but their hosts wrestled back control of the party, showing champion pedigree to pare a 17-point deficit away in the space of 12 frenetic minutes.

“We played in fits and starts,” said Cullen, likely thinking to the promise shown in creating Conor O’Brien’s try, or the forward-led score for Mick Kearney early in the second half. Few watching on expected there would be a 20-minute wait for Leinster to threaten the try-line again.

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“It’s only really when the game looks dead that we really clicked into gear and showed a bit more attacking intent and have more intensity to our actions on the field. We looked good in the last 15 minutes.

“Full credit to the players for turning it around, but the previous 60 minutes was not quite at a standard we would like.”

Though it was Connacht who were forced into a late back-line reshuffle, Leinster’s young back-line struggled to get to grips with the venom in the visitors’ attack led by the excellent Jack Carty with several impressive athletic feats from Darragh Leader aiding the cause.

“We were a little inaccurate, which gives them opportunities and we didn’t put enough pressure on them. Certainly not sustained pressure. ”

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When the sustained pressure did eventually come, it was well worth the wait for Leinster fans and neutrals in the ground. The confidence of owning so much silverware appeared to shine through as Stuart Lancaster’s attack held its width and was able to plough through or cut loose to get around their opponents. In the final 12 minutes, they did both.

Sean Cronin’s try proved the catalyst. A sensational attack marked with slick, quick passing brought Dan Leavy barging into the corner bring the game back onto the line with eight minutes to go.

And having almost looked resigned to defeat at one point in the second half, the reigning Pro14 and European champions roared towards the finish line with nerveless assurance, racking up 42 phases before Andrew Porter forced his way over for the winner.

“We looked a bit disjointed in the first half. Connacht are a very good attacking team and they pulled us apart quite easily at times,” said Cullen, adding:

“Full credit to Connacht, they were the far better of the two teams. In the first half they looked a much stronger team.”