Schmidt proud of 'first rate' effort
Rugby: Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt felt his side were good value for this evening’s 29-20 Heineken Cup victory over Exeter Chiefs, which kept alive the holders’ hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
Schmidt’s team knew they needed to take maximum points from their visit to Sandy Park, but needed a change of tactics and two second-half tries in seven minutes — from Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip — to overturn a 17-12 interval deficit against the competition newcomers.
Leinster will have to wait until tomorrow afternoon for the result of Munster’s home tie against Racing Metro Paris to see whether they, or Munster, will progress the last eight as one of the best second-placed teams alongside Montpellier.
“We are where we are. We can’t control anything else that happens. There certainly won’t be any celebrating from us because we know that Munster have a real target,” Schmidt said. “That is one of the advantages of playing on the Sunday is they know clearly what they have to chase. They’ll clearly work really hard and make sure that they get as close to that as possible against Racing.
“We knew how tough it was going to be to come here and get the five points, which was the minimum we required. I thought we were really good for it, and the quality of our tries was first rate, but I have a lot of respect for Exeter as well.”
Exeter flanker Tom Johnson was carried off on a stretcher after 14 minutes with suspected cruciate ligament damage and could be doubtful for England’s opening RBS Six Nations game against Scotland next month.
This was Exeter’s first taste of the Heineken Cup and they have lost four of their six Pool Five games, picking up victories only in the back-to-back matches against Scarlets to finish above the Welsh region in the final standings.
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter said: “I think we played with a lot of intensity and that was our aim going into this match. We were aware that at Clermont (last weekend) we didn’t match their intensity at times.
“That has been a big focus of what we wanted to do this week and I think we did that very well. But at the same time you have to keep it going and get a lot of little bits right. The odd bit of scrum pressure, the defensive lapses and all of a sudden you are under your own posts and another try has gone in. That is what the Heineken Cup has taught us.
“Last week we were beaten by Clermont in a game where we controlled possession and territory for quite long periods, but all of a sudden we seemed to concede a try. That happened to us a bit today but I think we managed to ride those moments a bit more. We also showed a bit more threat ourselves today with ball. I think we look dangerous at times. We went in with a good game-plan based around pressure and trying to keep elements of possession.
“That would mean Leinster would be struggling to get those four tries, and I think that worked to a degree. At was nice at the end that the pressure that came on meant Leinster had to win the game because we were one score away from making things difficult for them at the end.”