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Fin Smith explains the Leinster 'chaos' that caught out Northampton

By Liam Heagney
Fin Smith, left, and Fraser Dingwall react to last Saturday's defeat for Northampton in Dublin (Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Fin Smith has shared his thoughts on last Saturday’s agonising Investec Champions Cup defeat for Northampton at Leinster. The Gallagher Premiership leaders found their way back from a 3-20 early second-half deficit to leave the URC side frantically defending in the closing minutes before the game finally ended with the Irish winning 17-20 and progressing to the May 25 final versus Toulouse at Tottenham.


The 21-year-old Smith played a central part in the Saints’ comeback, recording a lavish tackle count as well as pulling the strings in an attack where he also landed two touchline conversions with aplomb in front of a record 82,300 attendance consisting mainly of Leinster fans.

Now back in the East Midlands ahead of next Saturday’s round 17 Premiership match at home to Gloucester, Smith has reflected on what unfolded in Dublin where Northampton found themselves two tries behind just 15 minutes in and looking vulnerable to a possible hiding before they finally got stuck in at the breakdown and clawed their way back into contention.

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“The word chaos was thrown around a bit,” explained Smith when interviewed on The Rugby Pod about the semi-final. “There was no finger-pointing about what they [Leinster] were doing and what we weren’t, but it was chaos and always is in Europe.

“They pushed the boundaries well and we probably didn’t do that as much. Fair play to them, they were bloody good and we didn’t put our best stuff out there.

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“It was a real disappointed changing room afterwards, in all honesty. As good as they were, we felt like we maybe didn’t give our best and we could have on another day had a better go at it, but what can you do?”

Smith, the two-cap England rookie who celebrates his 22nd birthday next Saturday, elaborated on what was taking place in those collisions. “They [Leister] were just throwing everything into every breakdown whether they were jackalling, then letting it wait a few seconds and throwing a couple of bodies into it.


“I think it’s always reffed slightly different in Europe. You’re allowed a little bit more around maybe just having a nibble with your hands on the floor a little bit.

“Or if you are hitting someone and going off your feet if you hit the person first, then you get away with it a bit more. But that is just something that we didn’t adapt to very well and they were on it to be fair.

“Credit to them and what they were doing to us. They had more linespeed than we were used to facing usually but, like I said about the breakdown, the ball was taking a few more seconds to come out of that. It was bobbling around.

“And then also I think it showed that we maybe haven’t played in too many of those big away games. We took about 20, 25 minutes to really catch up to the intensity of it, not just physically but we were probably just a lot less mentally sharp as them early on.


“We were just doing some stupid we never usually do like chucking offloads, we were being sloppy, things like that. When you have a bit more time in the Prem and get away with stuff like that, against a top side like that they really punished us for it. It definitely took us a little while to warm into it.

“It was proper, as much a high intensity we have played all year. We love playing at speed, they did as well. You looked at the clock after about 30 minutes and you were like ‘s***’. It was a proper game. They were whacking us, we were whacking them and it was good to be a part of.”

  • Click here to listen to this week’s edition of The Rugby Pod featuring Northampton’s Fin Smith

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J P 74 days ago

No comment on the textbook red card for Ramm that was just ignored? Amazing that

Johnny 78 days ago

There isn’t one element you mentioned there that every top class or successful team gets up to. The great All blacks sides used to play on the ‘fringes or edge’ but it was essentially saying they were doing something illegal or borderline to gain dominance. The fine margins at the top are minute between the top sides. La Rochelle, the crusaders, Saracens, Toulon etc etc…..have all been accused. Get over it, the comment comes across as salty and naive. Northampton as well as they played to get back into the match were thoroughly beaten and controlled for 60 minutes and Leinster have only themselves to blame for kicking it away and hence losing control of the match and being nearly the architects of their own downfall.

Simon 78 days ago

In the fine tradition of Irish rugby, Leinster cheat well and for some reason only known to whoever referees them, they are allowed to get away with it every single game. If teams have not got the physicality up front to stop them getting the ball, they will win every single game.
They take out players beyond the ruck and often hold them on the ground. Those that are beyond the ruck and therefore offside, hover there to cause distraction but also to join the next ruck from the side thereby stopping the jackal.
The lineout prior to the second try on Saturday. 3 Leinster players left the lineout before the ball was thrown and were driving the maul as soon as the player hit the ground and thereby getting that valuable momentum.
They scrummage illegally, with the looshead turning in to stop the opposing tighthead from pushing straight and making it uncomfortable for the hooker. The tighthead takes a step and tries to get his opposite loosehead to drop the bind. Flankers often ‘move up’ and actually bind on the prop and not remain bound to the second row.
It does cause chaos and is done quickly and efficiently so that referees are blinded by the illegal tactics.
I am surprised opposition coaches when they meet referees before games don’t mention it. I am also surprised that they do not go to the referees group and ask them to look at the tactics used and referee them properly.
If they are the better team and win, fair play but a lot of their momentum is gained illegally and therefore it is not a level playing field.

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