O’Connor happy to win ‘arm wrestle’


Published: Sunday 14th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor was happy to see his side come through a real ‘arm wrestle’ with Harlequins as they edged out the Londoners 14-13 in Saturday’s European Champions Cup Pool 2 match at the Aviva Stadium.

The Blues had appeared on course for a more comfortable victory when leading 11-0 at the break, as man-of-the-match Ian Madigan landed two penalties and Isaac Boss picked off an opportunist try in the right corner.

Harlequins used their superior scrum to force the issue in the second period as full-back Mike Brown crossed for a try approaching the hour mark and Tim Swiel, who deputised at fly-half for the injured Nick Evans, added eight points with the boot.

But Leinster had the final say thanks to a decisive 71st minute penalty from Madigan.

O’Connor said: “I wouldn’t say (we) escaped (with the result), no. It was tight, it was an arm wrestle. It was very, very intense, a high quality game between two very committed sides. Escaped is a very strong word.

“If we had executed a little bit better we could have been out of sight at half-time. That was our doing. They came back very hard at us in the second half – we were a bit inaccurate early doors and, as a result, they got their tails up and got a bit of momentum.

“We would have liked to get a little but more out of tonight. We would have liked to be more accurate and get something more in London last weekend but there’s two games to go (in the pool stages) and we’ve given ourselves a chance.”

The win leaves Leinster level with Harlequins on 13 points, with Conor O’Shea’s side just ahead on scoring difference.

“If we’re good enough and we can get maximum points out of those two remaining games, or more points than Quins, we give ourselves a chance (of reaching the quarter-finals),” O’Connor said. “That’s not a bad place to be with bodies coming back into the group.”

Harlequins director of rugby O’Shea was left frustrated after his charges only collected a losing bonus point from their trip to Dublin.

As a collective, Quins performed to a higher level than Leinster but failed to clinch a precious away win that would have put them in clear control of the pool. They also ended the game down to 14 players following a late yellow card for lock Charlie Matthews, who was seen to raise his hand into Dominic Ryan’s face.

“I’m just frustrated,” O’Shea said. “You come to win. We didn’t come to make up the numbers and credit to our fellas. First half, they tackled their socks off because we didn’t hold the ball. Second half they showed huge mental strength and could have nudged a pretty historic win but we didn’t.

“You are bound to be disappointed after a game like that. First half, 11-0 down, we missed a couple of opportunities ourselves but didn’t hold onto the ball if we are being honest. Our defence was heroic, but we didn’t hold onto the ball as much as we should.

“A couple of TMO decisions (went against us), but that’s life. It’s small margins. We are in control of our own destiny but it’s a long way to go. The boys are very disappointed.”

Published: Sunday 14th December 2014 by The News Editor

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