Seán Cronin hopes defeat will cause a Leinster reaction
‘Seanie was talking after the game and saying that we need to move on and build on this’
Sean Cronin of Leinster makes a break past Zack Holmes of Toulouse to score his side’s third try during the Champions Cup loss. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
No matter what way you dress it up, Leinster let a win, and with it an imposing position in Pool A of the Heineken Champions Cup, slip through their fingers in Toulouse on Sunday. That will forever remain three or four points that got away. But maybe the old adage that you learn more in defeat than you do from a victory can also hold true.
The memory of Sunday’s defeat at the Stade Ernest Wallon will resonate into December’s back-to-back matches with Bath and the January rematches at home to Toulouse and away to Wasps.
“That’s what I was thinking inside,” admitted Sean Cronin in the aftermath of Leinster’s first loss in 11 European games. “Seanie (O’Brien) was talking after the game and saying that we need to move on and build on this. I was thinking in my head that it wasn’t necessarily a kick up the arse but it is early in the season and early days yet. We have two huge games against Bath and, looking back on this, there are a lot of things that we can look to do better for the next day that will definitely help us.”
Cronin also refuted the notion that they’d bought into the praise surrounding their performance against Wasps. “No, we were pretty level-headed. The coaches pointed out a few areas where we weren’t that good against Wasps and that we wanted to work on. There was no complacency there. Like I said, I think we just tried to overplay at times and probably lost out on aspects of the pressure rugby. They kept the pressure on us better in the second-half. We had moved on from Wasps.”
In any case, Sunday reminded Leinster that they are the hunted ones now, not least after a performance which catches everyone’s eye, and especially by a club with as proud a European pedigree as Toulouse have.
“Yeah, you can see that they really buy into it,” said Cronin. “They’ve got the four stars on the chest. They’re a big club and they really buy into the European competition, which is great. We knew that coming down here. Guys had played here before – I hadn’t – and we knew about the atmosphere. I think John Fogarty described it as an attack on the senses.
“I don’t think that disrupted us too much. It was just trying to push the play too much in the first 25 minutes and leaving them back into the game. Then in the second half maybe we should have played a bit more pressure rugby instead of going for the scores and then there were knock-ons and turnovers. Not that there was a lot of them happening but they just happened at crucial times of the game and it left them back in.”
Cronin was as culpable as anyone for forcing the play in the first half, his offload being picked off by Alban Placines in the move that eventually led to the game’s opening try by Maxime Médard. Thereafter it was noticeable how much Cronin daren’t risk a pass, much less an offload.
“We said at half-time that if we upped the tempo, just held onto the ball and didn’t do anything stupid, didn’t push the play and just kept working them, working them ... and we felt comfortable. We got into their 22 a few times and after that we just lost a big moment. It’s crazy when you come up to this level, or international level, if you come up to those big moments and you don’t win them they can be the turning of the game and it just went against us.”
“Hopefully, we’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of competition out there at the moment and hopefully I’ll get a call from Joe, I’ll be in the squad and we’ll see what happens after that.”
By contrast, Billy Burns played down his chance of making the squad despite his quietly impressive start to his time with Ulster following their 44-12 defeat to Racing.
“I’m here to stake my claim for Ulster and to play ten for Ulster. I’ve always said that I want to play international rugby but at the moment there’s enough competition with Ulster that it’s my place here I’ve to worry about. I’m just trying to bed in here and get some consistency going. I am getting there. But it’s not really on my mind at the minute.”
Ulster were disappointed not to have scored four tries and taken a bonus point from the Defense Arena.
“I think against a team like these guys, they’re a big old side, we wanted to change the point of attack and move them about a bit. It was maybe a bit more expressive than normal but it was all part of the plan,” said Burns.
“We’re an ambitious team, we play a brand of rugby that is hopefully going to wear teams down and stretch teams. We want to be scoring four tries in every game. We felt like we left a few out there and that’s the most disappointing thing.”