Leinster make their play for final spot
Exeter 20 Leinster 29:The benchmark was a four-try bonus point and the European champions Leinster achieved that feat before 10,198 spectators at a freezing Sandy Park. The return could have been greater but at one stage in the first half when the Chiefs scored 10 unanswered points to lead 17-12 at the interval, the visitors’ prospects looked a great deal bleaker
Leinster has issues in a number of areas, the breakdown, re-starts, discipline in the second half and from time to time the lineout. Still they overcame the travails on the strength of several outstanding performances, not least captain, Leo Cullen, Cian Healy Seán O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (first half) and Eoin Reddan. Kevin McLaughlin worked hard with and without the ball while Gordon D’Arcy was sharp.
Leinster’s chances in trying to make the quarter-finals deteriorated appreciably prior to kick-off with the news that Montpellier had beaten Toulon, effectively leaving just a single runners-up spot available for the quarter-finals: Munster appear best placed to secure that final berth against a second string Racing Metro 92 side, although they need to score four tries at Thomond Park tomorrow.
Of course there is still an outside chance that neither Irish side will be in the draw, but only if Toulouse pick up two bonus points in a high-scoring defeat to Leicester at Welford Road in the final round of pool games tomorrow.
Heaslip wasn’t sure if the five points will be enough, but admitted how tough it had been against a stubborn Exeter outfit.
“I don’t know (if Leinster has done enough to qualify), we went out with a mission to win the game and after that chase the bonus point. We got that, hopefully we did enough,” said Heaslip
“Exeter really stuck it to us, it was a great game to watch, absolutely knackering to play in. It’s out of our hands now.
On failing to add any more tries after he touched down under the posts on 53 minutes, Heaslip added: “Exeter just weren’t letting up and at times we were probably our own worse enemy, knocking it on and not being clinical in their half and letting in some easy scores.”
Leinster conjured the perfect start to the match with a try from Gordon D’Arcy after just three minutes. Jonathan Sexton got every inch out of a penalty kicked to the corner. The pack did a little spade work in softening up the Exeter defence with O’Brien’s muscular charge bringing play to within metres of the line.
Eoin Reddan whipped the ball away, Sexton found D’Arcy and the centre stepped inside a tackle to scamper over. Sexton converted but Leinster’s fallibility in several aspects of the game would prove a troublesome handicap as the half progressed.