Leo Cullen praises his Leinster team for delivering in big moments

Ciarán Frawley finished a well-constructed try to beat Connacht at the death

Leo Cullen conceded he was preparing himself to make a different post-match verdict in public on his side’s performance as they trailed 22-19 towards the endgame in the Sportsground, before Ciarán Frawley finished a well-constructed try in overtime to rescue sixth URC win in succession.

“That’s our best passage of attacking play in the whole game. Much more accurate with our passing, distribution, people nominating nice and early so we’re presenting a dangerous shape, people working hard off the ball, bit more accurate around the contact area as well and that’s what you can produce.

“So, really pleasing when guys are under fatigue and you’re able to deliver like that at the end.

“Before that, go back to the start, Connacht get their try which stems from our missed lineout and there were a few of them in the first 20 minutes. We had some period of pressure when we were up on their try-line and they were at 8-0 for quite a while against us. Eventually Charlie gets over but there was a lot of huffing and puffing before that. Connacht very strong defensively even though we’d a ton of possession and territory down there end.


“Second half we were a lot better, particularly that first half of the second half. We were a lot more dominant in terms of our carries, contacts.”

Had Leinster also been awarded a penalty in that dramatic endgame, they would have been faced with a decision.

“If we get a penalty what will we do? Will we go for a draw? I think the general consensus was to go for the win,” said Cullen.

“It didn’t come down to that situation but at least the players are brave to take the space and be composed enough to execute under pressure. It’s a great team try at the end which was very pleasing but there’s lots of parts to the performance you look back at and go we’ve plenty to work on.

“Overall I don’t know what ye think but it’s a great advert for the game. We talked about it last week. It’s great isn’t it? Two provincial teams providing great entertainment. It was a bit too exciting. At 78 minutes I’m thinking: what am I going to say to the media if we’d lost the game? It’s a credit to the game but wind the clock back and you go ‘lads come on!’”

The Connacht head coach Peter Wilkins admitted: “Yeah, it’s really frustrating. We’ve talked all season about you get what you deserve. I think rugby is a game like that where there’s that many small moments and blocks in the game that you if you get enough of them you come out on the right side of it.”

“But you know what, I thought we deserved it this evening, and I thought just the way we responded to Leinster’s positive periods of momentum, the way we responded to the yellow cards, the way responded to the scoreboard when we went behind on that.

“I felt like we had done enough and I think the biggest frustration is that we bounced back so well from those challenging moments within the game, not to get one final go of bouncing back, and that’s obviously the nature of the game but that’s something we’ll have to process. But incredibly proud.”

Caolin Blade had been announced as man of the match before Leinster’s late try, with Connacht seemingly set fair to win.

“We’re extremely disappointed, we’ll have to look back on it,” said the scrumhalf. “Too many times in that second half we just stood off. WE let them play their game, they are a top-quality side but we’re extremely disappointed.”

Blade also admitted that Connacht had no option but to move on quickly, with just a six-day turnaround before hosting a star-studded Bordeaux-Begles next Friday.

“There were a few mistakes on our side and we’ve no one to blame but ourselves. We’ve two huge games coming up in the Champions Cup so we’ll be disappointed but we’ll have to move on.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times