LEINSTER COACH MATT O’Connor may not have admitted his relief at avoiding a third consecutive defeat, but he was more than happy to take all four points and leave Ulster with nothing to show for their trip to Dublin.
“It never really enters the mind-frame,” the Australian said of the back-to-back losses to Northampton and Edinburgh which came before last night’s overdue win.
With the possession and territory so heavily weighted in the host’s favour, some Leinster fans left the RDS grumbling that the scoreboard and bonus point column had not reflected their dominance as it might have done.
“Yeah,” agreed O’Connor, “but nobody seems to be able to find them [extra tries] against Ulster, it’s just one of those things.
“They’re incredibly hard at the ball, they make sure you work every phase to break them down.”
Even the referee came in for a bit of praise as the win filled the Australian with festive cheer, but on a night when Jordi Murphy claimed the man-of-the-match gong and the night’s only try with Sean Doyle in the sin bin just before half time.
It was powerful finish that was timely in more sense than one. With Jamie Heaslip’s future facing growing uncertainty, Murphy is another homegrown reason for Leinster fans to be optimistic.
“He’s a class act,” O’Connor says of his second choice number eight. “He showed that last year on the biggest of stages and he’s continued to do that again this year as a valuable member of the group.”
With Sean O’Brien now facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a dislocated shoulder, Murphy’s importance to Leinster’s push on two fronts will only grow in importance. Next up comes another inter-provincial derby in the shape of Connacht, who always relish welcoming Leinster to the Sportsgrounds.
Having watched his side frustrated by Ulster’s breakdown ethic, O’Connor’s New Year wish is for more clinical finishing in the final third to ensure Pat Lam’s side are kept out of striking distance.
“You’ve got to take your chances. You don’t want to be leaving Connacht in the game at the Sportsground. You need to make sure if there are opportunities on offer then you take them and make them tell on the scoreboard.”