Matt O’Connor offers no excuse for poor Leinster performance

Ross and Gopperth acknowledge flawed execution of game plan

 Leinster’s Jimmy Gopperth kicks clear during their Heineken Cup quarter-final at the  Stade FŽlix Mayol, Toulon.  “They put a lot of pressure on our set-piece. We didn’t really get front-foot ball. Photograph: Inpho

Leinster’s Jimmy Gopperth kicks clear during their Heineken Cup quarter-final at the Stade FŽlix Mayol, Toulon. “They put a lot of pressure on our set-piece. We didn’t really get front-foot ball. Photograph: Inpho

 

In stark contrast to his valedictory farewell to international rugby, this was not how Brian O’Driscoll would have envisaged ending his association with Leinster in the Heineken Cup. “Yeah, definitely, disappointing for him and I’m sure he’ll be disappointed off the back of the performance,” said Matt O’Connor afterwards.

“All the lads are gutted we sent him out that way but that’s sport sometimes and like we said we were second best, and here’s no excuses . Leo Cullen is thankfully going to still be in the environment; a bloke who has lifted the trophy three times. They’re pretty special characters to be saying goodbye to from Heineken Cup rugby today.”

Analysing a defeat of this scale was not easy, and prop Mike Ross attributed it to their lack of execution. “A couple of times we were in the right area and we didn’t put good pressure on them. To get into their 22 was hard work and we had to be flawless when we got in there and a lot of times we weren’t. Other times we got a bit unlucky.”

Playmaker and goalkicker Jimmy Gopperth ventured: “They put a lot of pressure on our set-piece. We didn’t really get front-foot ball. They sort of had a lot of numbers on their feet and they attacked our breakdown a lot. We couldn’t get any quick ball and couldn’t penetrate. Steffon Armitage was very, very good on the ball and slowing our ball. That’s the name of the game. You want to play quick ball and find mismatches but we just couldn’t fire any shots in that way.”

As to his own relative lack of game time lately, Gopperth said: “No, I was fine . . . We were right up for the game.”

Asked to compare the challenge of facing this Toulon side or France (to which Toulon effectively only supply Mathie Bastareaud, Ross said: “They have a lot of big names throughout the squad. Their squad list reads like a world XV. They are very physical and a very big side. You had to be absolutely spot-on in your tackle or else you were going to be committing two or three into the tackle and once you do that you are short elsewhere. They are probably one of the biggest sides I have ever played against.”

The Toulon owner and benefactor Mourad Boudjellal paid tribute to his coach Bernard Laporte. “I say congratulations to Bernard because I saw the work he put into this game all week and I say to him you have just beaten the Irish national side. Now we are about to play another Irish national side . We are hungry once again and we have just offered the French public the most amazing of games. I saw all the quarter-finals and I thought this was hands down the best. We are hungry for victories. We feared that we would no longer be European champions after today but that is not the case.”

Their Argentinian backrow Juan Fernandez Lobbe, said: “We did watch Munster v Toulouse, we know they will be a tough team to beat. Munster, Leinster and Toulouse are marquee teams in European rugby, we want to be a benchmark team in European rugby like them.”

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