Leo Cullen: We used the space Saracens left when they 'played Johnny late off the ball'

Leo Cullen: We used the space Saracens left when they 'played Johnny late off the ball'

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has insisted his side - and particularly their rampaging openside Dan Leavy - benefited from what he felt was a deliberate tactic by Saracens to target Johnny Sexton yesterday.

Saracens trailed 13-12 at half-time but a flurry of 10 points, underpinned by Dan Leavy's marauding 46th-minute try, ultimately swept the tournament favourites out of sight to their 30-19 victory in Sunday's quarter-final in Dublin.

"There was definitely space on some of the short sides. Saracens defended very hard on Johnny, particularly in the first half," Cullen said.

"They were playing him ... which is the best way to describe it. They were going aggressively at him, so there was going to be space for somebody else."

Sexton conceded a petulant penalty by kicking the ball away when they were due to take a restart, but Cullen refused to condemn his fly-half.

"It's tough on Johnny because he was played off the ball a few times during the first half. It's hard for him to not get frustrated," Cullen said.

"I'll have a look back at the game, but there are three or four instances when he's been hit, played late off the ball.

"I will have to see how that unfolds because it's important to take that in the context of the game."

The Champions Cup holders must now switch attention to regaining the Aviva Premiership crown lost to Exeter last season.

Winning successive European titles has secured Saracens a place among the continent's heavyweights, but for McCall the pain of a conclusive defeat at the Aviva Stadium casts a cloud over past achievements.

"It's such a difficult competition that it's hard enough to get out of your pool," director of rugby McCall said.

"For us to go two years and 20 games in a row unbeaten in the competition is something that we should be rightly proud of.

"But you want to forget about the past and move on with the present, so it's been a very mixed campaign for us.

"In the pool stages we've had a lot of stuff to contend with injury wise, but no excuses against Leinster, we were beaten by the better side.

"We're a good club and a good side and hopefully we can bounce back from this."

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