Champions Cup: Ex-Ireland wing Shane Horgan criticises ‘tight’ Leinster

Colin Newboult

Ireland and Leinster great Shane Horgan believes that Leo Cullen’s men ‘mismanaged’ the second half of the Champions Cup final.

The Irish province struggled to play with their usual rhythm under significant defensive pressure from La Rochelle.

They did, however, find themselves 18-10 ahead with a quarter of the match remaining thanks to the accurate kicking of Johnny Sexton, but their opponents dominated the final 20 minutes.

Leinster’s defeat followed the theme of recent years where they have been outmuscled by the gargantuan Saracens and La Rochelle packs.

Tightened up

“What the danger was, we said before the game, is that Leinster revert to the types of performances we’ve seen in the last couple of years,” Horgan said on Virgin Media TV.

“Particularly last year against La Rochelle in the semi, against Sarries in the quarter and against Sarries in the final, they tighten up a little bit, their shape isn’t as sophisticated.”

Although fellow pundit Rob Kearney disagreed, saying: “But it’s the opposition putting them under that pressure,” Horgan felt that Leinster could have handled it much better.

“It’s definitely part of it, but those two things can coincide,” Horgan said.

“We saw too many times stationary people taking the ball. How often did we see Tadhg Furlong pulling the ball back? How often did we see Ross Molony pulling the ball back?

“Ultimately, La Rochelle didn’t allow them to do it, but they didn’t deliver it either.”

Despite impressive defensive resistance, Leinster eventually folded and La Rochelle deservedly claimed a 24-21 victory in the Champions Cup final.

“Devastation for Leinster. But no doubt La Rochelle deserved to win that game. There was an inevitability to what we saw unfold over the last 10 minutes of that game,” Horgan added.

“No nails left on the fingers here. The tension was huge, all of a sudden it felt like an away-day for Leinster, like a home game for La Rochelle.

“Leinster mismanaged that second half in key periods of it, there’s no doubt, but La Rochelle played the game in the right place, played with all the territory.

“They had all of the possession, especially in the second half, and as I say it felt like an inevitability because they were definitely carrying into those zones time after time, more physical and more physical and grinding Leinster down.

“At one point you have to give out and that’s what Leinster did.”

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