Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor was delighted with the “great” contributions of his bench players after they helped the Irish province overturn a 12-point first-half deficit to beat Wasps in Champions Cup Pool Two at the RDS.
Second half-tries from Darragh Fanning and Dominic Ryan saw Leinster prevail 25-20 in the end and O’Connor felt it was an encouraging performance against a tough Wasps team – albeit that they failed to score a bonus point try in the final 20 minutes.
O’Connor said: “The reality is you’ve got to win. If you are good enough to get a (bonus) point, we would have taken that, but (it’s) pleasing to get the result.
“It’s got to be good when it is a five-point game. They are a dangerous side, we knew their threats (and) apart from the two soft ones in the first half I thought we defended pretty well.”
With Mike Ross and Rob Kearney the latest to join a lengthy injury list, O’Connor admitted that the lack of continuity in selection has meant players are not 100 per cent with on-field combinations just yet.
However, he hailed the impact of his side’s replacements in downing Wasps.
“It was a tough game of footy. There are blokes coming in and out of that group who probably haven’t had the luxury of building the combinations as strongly as we would have liked due to a number of reasons,” he said.
“We are down a few combinations and that leads to errors but the resolve in the group was really positive. The bench were great for us. I think they added a lot and it was a pleasing result.”
O’Connor felt that the two tries Leinster conceded to go 20-8 behind were “soft”, the first of them seeing Alapati Leiua run in a long-range intercept score and then Christian Wade produced some individual brilliance along the right touchline for the second.
“That’s the way Wasps play. It’s in their DNA. They play for those opportunities. They are very, very clinical. When they get those opportunities more often than not they take them. That is the game, you have to deal with them.
“We didn’t deal with them in the first half. We were significantly better in the second half and we controlled large parts of the game which I thought was important.”
The three-try victory puts Leinster top of Pool Two with a trip to Castres to come next Sunday, with O’Connor adding: “It’s another tough assignment next week. We have to make sure we rest up physically and mentally and we arrive at Castres understanding what we have to do to get the result down there.”
Meanwhile, Wasps boss Dai Young had no complaints as his charges battled for a losing bonus point in the end. The otherwise accurate Andy Goode, who kicked 10 points, missed a penalty early in the second half that might have derailed Leinster’s comeback.
“In fairness, we knew obviously going into half-time we hadn’t done enough to sit back and think we had done enough to win that game,” said Young, whose team benefited from a first-half wind advantage.
“Certainly the first 10-15 minutes (of the second half) were going to be huge. We had opportunities in that first 10 to 15 minutes to pile a bit more pressure on Leinster.
“We weren’t quite accurate enough in that first 10-15 minutes and ended up giving Leinster the ball and once they gained momentum, it’s very difficult to turn that momentum back in your favour and we ended up defending pretty much for the last 30 of that second half.”
Looking ahead to next Sunday’s showdown with Harlequins at Adams Park, Young added: “There is a lot of rugby to be played. We have lost the battle today, but we haven’t lost the war.
“At the end of the day it is important we get a win next week (against Harlequins), that is the important thing for us to focus on. If we sit in at the end of next week with one win and one bonus point loss, we are still in there fighting and we still have a chance.”