Leinster was hit hard by the head. Favorite in the European Cup final against La Rochelle, Jonathan Sexton’s teammates lost the match in the final seconds of the game after a hard attempt by Arthur Retière, who closed the siege of La Rochelle in front of the Irish defensive line. The victory that the Irish media celebrated raised questions about Leinster. Old problems that still arise.
Leinster’s old demons
While Leo Cullen’s men were big favorites for the fifth European star, they encountered a huge team from the conquest of La Rochelle. Columnist Eddie O’Sullivan underlined the incredible statistics of Leinster, who made no attempt in the final. “Leinster tried to score in the most important gameThe Irish have been known to come into contact often and try to score instead of taking the penalties available to them. Sexton has systematically chosen a penalty in Marseille. carried during the meeting.
Leinster was again overcome by physical adversity. According to the Irish Times or The 42, Robbie Henshaw’s teammates came across a physically solid team, as they did twice in 2019 and 2020 against the Saracens and last year in La Rochelle. Where the Irish were able to hit fast balls, La Rochelle’s defense was remarkable in that it was able to systematically slow down Jamison Gibson-Park’s balls. In his editorial, Bernard Jackman explained that as a coach, he made sure his players learned to control their runs, movement and speed according to their lunges, while Leinster and Gibson-Park were unable to adapt and change their strategy. Worse. Their inaccuracy in the passes did not allow Jimmy O’Brien and James Lowe to comment and put La Rochelle’s defense in danger. Where, on the other hand, Dillyn Leyds and Raymond Rhule managed to weigh in the game.
The edge is so thin at the highest level. But this morning in the match analysis it will be very difficult to see that Leinster’s technical level and performance left during the most important meeting of the season.
The scrum broke again, the touch was wrong, the defense of the ball suffered, while the physical level of La Rochelle could not be maintained by Leinster.
In a nutshell. Stunning facts for Leinster, who will find it difficult to recover. Especially since almost all final winners this summer will challenge New Zealand with XV of Clover. Another huge challenge.
If the duel between Leinster and La Rochelle had the European Cup prize, another topic was played. Ronan O’Gara and Leo Cullen, two Irish coaches on their teams, may have been confronted about Ireland’s future coaching position. And La Rochelle’s victory necessarily gave ideas to reporters who would see O’Gar entering the service in Munster, even in the selection. “The exciting team that La Rochelle has to play is the first to win“, Comments the Irish Examiner, who saw in O’Gar the coach who managed the transfer of the club after the departure of Patrice Collaz and Jono Gibbs.
O’Gara tactically understood that the key to the final was the Russians. The Independent underlined how the Rochelais attackers targeted this sector of the game and played like no other team that had clashed with Leinster this season. Bernard Jackman, still in his editorial of the same newspaper, assured that “La Rochelle struck where it hurt the most“Twice in a row, Leiner’s winner, his lifelong rival when he was in Munster, O’Gara nevertheless did the team a great deal, to put it the Irish Times, which concluded his analysis as follows:
Before the meeting, Stuart Lancaster (assistant coach Leinster editor’s note) emphasized that La Rochelle would tell his team what to improve. It is much easier to learn from your defeats than from victory, even if this hurts.