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Friday 18 August 2017

Leinster wake in nick of time to win ugly

GIVEN the exciting scoreline you may have been forgiven for thinking this was an exciting game.

While it's true it was tense on the scoreboard, it was also extremely frustrating and despite the win Leinster supporters and their team will have left the ground with plenty to do if they are going to have any say at the business end of the European Champions Cup.

So Leinster escape just, and they will now hope that they take on a dissapointing Castres at home in a week's time and then welcome back some of their injured big guns for their later matches.

Leinster's failure to gain a winning bonus point may yet hurt them, but at least they won a game that looked unlikely for 60 minutes.

TEMPO

Leinster started this match with the kind of tempo we had come to expect when they upped their game for Europe, and for the first few minutes their running was direct, they were producing quick ball and using the likes of Jamie Heaslip, Jack McGrath and Dominic Ryan to full effect.

The result was three points, but it had taken too much work and like the story of the season thus far turned out to be another false dawn.

After all their early promise Leinster began to creak at the seams very much as they had done against Munster.

The home side showed that they are too vulnerable still in the midfield and around the fringes of the ruck where Wasps big ball-carriers were making far too many easy yards.

As they done all season Leinster was making things hard for themselves by losing ball in contact, turning over possession and not passing efficiently.

Eventually a telegraphed pass to Leinster winger Darragh Fanning was graciously accepted by Wasps midfield back Leiua who galloped away.

The disappointing thing from the spectators' point of view was that it is harder to run at pace with the ball than without and Leinster's cover defence just gave up, disconcerting when it seemed that Alapati Leiua could have been caught.

It showed more about Leinster's mental state than anything.

After about 30 minutes Leinster found a way through courtesy of a smashing run by their Man of the Match Jamie Heaslip.

Heaslip made the yards, Ian Madigan perfected the kick and the fast following Darragh Fanning made it two tries in the last few weeks.

Despite gaining much needed confidence from that try Leinster again went to sleep.

Wasps attacked and when Leinster's backline pushed up hard but too staggered, the ball was recycled to the fastest player on the pitch Christian Wade. Wade embarrassed three Leinster players to go over for a great individual try but one a decent defence should have seen off.

Madigan was left flat-footed, whist Fanning left for speed, but when you are marking one of the fastest players in Europe you do not allow him the outside break.

Coming up to the break Leinster were hanging on but the scoreline could have been far worse if Wasps had been more patient.

MOTIVATIONAL

Into the dressing rooms and the half-time talk would test coach Matt O'Connor's motivational skills, and would have to rely on a speech similar to that delivered by Munster's Anthony Foley for their comeback.

What they needed was to cut out the basic errors and play to some sort of discernible game-plan, something that Munster at least had up their sleeve in London. But again rather than look for space and use the wind, Leinster fluffed about just kicking the ball aimlessly back to Wasps.

But in fairness to Leinster around the 60 minutes marker they finally woke up, increased the tempo, increased the physicality and set about giving the ball some width, the result was Fanning's second try and a chance that if they used the wind effectively Leinster might just win.

Enter two of their best performers - Seán Cronin and Ryan. Both players picked superb lines of running to break open Wasps defence with Cronin on his day as dynamic as any hooker in Europe, while Ryan continues to improve at a rate, and if he keeps going the way he has been he will be attracting the Irish selectors' attention come the World Cup.

Outstanding for the home side was captain Heaslip who despite struggling at times to get over the gainline against the bigger opponents uses every inch of his body to ensure Leinster has some go-forward ball, as well as Cronin and Ryan who matched defensive aggression with attacking prowess.

Leinster limp on, winning ugly is at least winning and even in the last minute they many have lost but they didn't, a lot of work to do but the right result.

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