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'The last 20 minutes is probably the thing that is lingering...'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Leinster boss Leo Cullen is a remarkably tough cookie to satisfy. His charges had just carried out a demolition job on English visitors Bath, even bagging the four-try bonus point just 25 minutes in. Yet there was the coach, less than an hour after full-time, sounding the red alert about how their performance had worryingly petered out rather than finishing with a flourish.

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He had a point. The general nature of Leinster performances in matches that they gave comfortably won over the Cullen years is that their replacements get chucked into the fray and the beating steps up a notch for their vanquished opponents in those closing moments. 

This didn’t quite happen on Saturday, however. For sure, Leinster were comprehensive winners, galloping 31-6 ahead after just 29 minutes. However, they only drew the remaining 51 minutes 14-all and what especially bugged Cullen was that a late try for a Bath sub had allowed the visitors to ‘win’ the final 20 minutes on a 7-0 score. 

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Ex-All Blacks prop John Afoa guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload
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Ex-All Blacks prop John Afoa guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload

It’s a good stick to beat his team with given that an away date at Montpellier is next up on Friday. “Pleased to get a win and to get a bonus point is great. Lots of good stuff, particularly early in the game I thought,” said Cullen.

“The last 20 minutes is probably the thing that is lingering a little bit for us in terms of some frustrations because ultimately Bath won that last 20-minute period 7-0. If you had given it (the result) to us earlier in the week, we probably would have settled for it. For now, it’s just trying to turn the page because we have a short turnaround into Montpellier away next weekend.”

If Cullen was concerned about the closing 20-minute period in what was a comfortable win, imagine what Montpellier must be feeling after getting hosed 35-0 in the second half at Sandy Park on Saturday night after reaching the interval trailing by just a single point, 7-6. Philippe Saint-Andre’s side will surely be out to make amends in the south of France.

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“In terms of putting together an 80-minute performance, we are still a bit off,” claimed Cullen, his words something that will definitely be repeated in the training ground in the coming days before they fly out. “Montpellier picked a bit of a scratchy team for the game (against Exeter), but they have been going very, very well in the Top 14. It is a great challenge for us. Going away to France is always tough. It’s important for the group to get excited now and look forward to that challenge.”

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