Leinster emerge from Connacht scrap with clean bill of health and many positives
While hardly setting the world alight, Matt O’Connor believes his side will benefit from the blow-out
Leinster’s Jimmy Gopperth offloads to Gordon D’Arcy to score his sides only try. Connacht head coach Pat Lam thought the pass was forward. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Leinster emerged from a relatively productive weekend with a win away to Connacht which returned them to second place in the Rabo Pro12 table while trimming Munster’s lead to three points. Just as satisfyingly, they also reported a clean bill of health approaching their decisive Heineken Cup pool games away to Castres next Sunday and at home to the Ospreys five days later.
Already denied the services of their primary source of go-forward ball in the shape of Seán O’Brien, that was imperative, and while they hardly set the world alight in eventually subduing a typically fired-up Connacht, Matt O’Connor believes his strong selection, which is likely mirror his European line-ups, will benefit from the blow-out after the Christmas hiatus.
“That was the thinking. Some of those guys have had two weeks off away from that rugby environment. There’s been a lot of distractions with the Ireland camp, Christmas and New Year. The thinking was to get a good week’s training and a good hit-out to set us up for next weekend.”
Luke Fitzgerald withdrew before the game due to illness but O’Connor said: “Luke trained all week and it’s probably a 24-hour thing. Dave (Kearney) did the job well.”
Leinster didn’t hit the front until the 63rd minute through the first of two penalties by Jimmy Gopperth, before he subsequently converted Gordon D’Arcy’s decisive try, and the way he steadied the ship after being introduced for Ian Madigan would seem to put the Kiwi in pole position to start at outhalf against Castres.
Noting that Connacht “were always going to be massively up for the game” perhaps tellingly O’Connor added: “From that end, we knew we had to be accurate. We kicked poorly in the first half. We didn’t kick it out when we had the luxury of the 22. And when we kicked contestable, they weren’t contestable and we invited them back into the game which was disappointing. By and large, we fixed that in the second half. We looked after the ball. We played in the right areas and we were pretty happy with the second half.”
A hard-earned, sleeves-rolled-up win on the road may not be the worst preparation for facing the reigning French champions. “You’d like to look at all the glitz and glamour of coming here and playing the style of rugby you like to play,” said O’Connor, “but talking to people who’ve been involved in Leinster for a long time, it never happens in Galway. We were realistic in relation to what we had to do to get a result. It won’t be too dissimilar to next week. It’s all about the four points, it’s all about getting the result this weekend and next.”