herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Cullen lauds character as Sexton and O'Brien avoid injury

Sean O’Brien Picture: Sportsfile
Sean O’Brien Picture: Sportsfile

Coach Leo Cullen lauded the "grit and determination" showed by Leinster to rescue a bonus-point to lead Pool Four of the Champions Cup.

The decision to remove Jonathan Sexton, who did not place-kick, and Sean O'Brien at half-time as part of an "ultra-cautious" approach did not backfire because Joey Carbery and Jordi Murphy delivered.

Mick Kearney was given a Head Injury assessment which the second-row passed in what was a blood and guts encounter.

The sheer size and power of Montpellier, allied to the pudding of a pitch at The Altrad Stadium, played away from Leinster's strengths and meant the hand-to-hand combat of trench warfare was unavoidable.

"It was a really strange game," reacted Cullen.

"Conditions were very, very difficult out there. We'll take a point and move on for our other challenges later in the campaign."

The three-time champions had to come from behind to come away with something tangible.

For long spells, they were on the verge of being swallowed whole by 22-stone wing Nemani Nadolo, who's two tries led to the home side's 16-point lead at the end of the third quarter.

"It wasn't looking great midway through the second-half," added Cullen.

Isa Nacewa's third penalty put Leinster within a converted try of an unlikely point.

Slowly, Leinster's fitness and the clever ploy of listing six forwards and two backs on the bench rather than the traditional five-three split paid dividend.

"I thought the guys showed really good grit and determination at the end hammering away at the line," he claimed.

"We were very close to getting over on a few occasions. It was nice to get there in the end. Isa showed good composure to get closer to the posts to make the conversion easier for himself."

Nonetheless, Cullen was left to curse the inaccuracy of Leinster at crucial moments of the game.

"We allowed Montpellier into the game. We gave up some pretty soft scores.

"The first try we gave away, we actually turned the ball over and we gave the ball straight back to them.

"The second try, we just got narrow in defence off a lineout maul when we looked like we were in pretty good control, had them to the sideline.

"Then, we gave away a very cheap score down in the bottom corner as well.

"You just need to be more composed and accurate away from home."

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