Schmidt's holding out for a miracle
Rugby:Leinster coach Joe Schmidt admitted his side need a miracle to make the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup after the 28-21 defeat to Clermont Auvergne at the Aviva Stadium.
“Miracles happen in sport, I guess, but mathematical long shots very seldom come into being,” admitted the New Zealander, whose side earned a losing bonus point thanks to a late Fergus McFadden try.
Schmidt pointed to the strength in depth at Clermont’s disposal, adding: “I don’t think we have the same depth as some of the big-spending French clubs. It’s hard to take defeat two weeks in a row, with the amount of effort the players put in.
“The other challenge for champions is they always look pretty good when they are on top. It is how they come back from adversity that is the real challenge.”
Clermont Auvergne coach Vern Cotter has his eyes firmly on reaching the final back at the same venue next May.
The French giants suffered semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Leinster last April, but look nailed on for a home quarter-final after man of the match Morgan Parra’s 23-point haul, allied to Wesley Fofana’s first-half try, did the business for them in Dublin.
They have an enviable eight-point buffer at the top of Pool Five, with second-placed Leinster needing to beat the Scarlets and Exeter Chiefs - with a bonus point or two - in order to reach the last eight as one of the best runners-up.
Cotter said: “We intend to go the whole way. It’s a game of rugby, it doesn’t always go the way we want, but our intention is to go as far as we can.
“Last year we lost a semi-final in Bordeaux. Goodness knows what would have happened if Wesley (Fofana) had scored that try (in the last minute of the semi-final against Leinster).
“We didn’t get a crack at the final. We would like to get there and see if we can get over the line and take the title. That is our firm intention.”
Although Clermont celebrated with their fans in the stadium after ending a run of five defeats on Irish soil over a five-year span, Cotter will keep his players’ feet on the ground.
“All the criteria that is important for a top performance - technical, tactical, physical, psychological - I thought we were present in all those sectors,” he added.
“Without getting too carried away, we are reasonably happy. We will now try to negotiate the next three games in the Top 14 before getting ourselves up for a final effort to qualify.”