Isaac Boss has doffed his hat to Ulster and warned that Leinster will need to improve on Sunday’s Heineken Cup semi-final display against Clermont Auvergne if they are to deny his former teammates a first title in 13 years.
The Irish international scrum-half spent five years at Ravenhill and his bond with the northern province is strengthened due to the fact that his maternal grandmother’s family, the McAllisters, hail from the tiny village of Glenarm in Antrim.
He is still in touch with a number of the players he campaigned with in Belfast so he had a greater interest than most of those Leinster players who sat down in the team’s Regent Hotel in Bordeaux on Saturday to watch the province’s defeat of Edinburgh.
“They’ve come a long way in this competition. They had a tough pool as well and to get to the final from there is a good effort by them. We’ll keep in touch with them in the next few weeks and I’m sure there’ll be a bit of banter going on amongst us all.”
His back story offers one unusual subplot to the first all-Irish European final, especially given the fact that he has spoken in times past about how difficult it was to make the break and move down the M1 in the summer of 2010.
“No doubt it’s going to be a special occasion for me. I saw the emotion on all the Ulster boys’ faces on Saturday after their match. That’s going to bring something into it. We haven’t had a chance to think about that yet. We have to regroup after this one before we even start contemplating Ulster.
“We have another couple of weeks’ matches to get through. We’re fighting for the league and that’s important to us as a group. There’s a lot of rugby to be played. None of our teams will look far ahead. We’ll focus on performing week in, week out because we all want to make that final team.”
The reaction to Sunday’s final whistle would certainly suggest that there were few Leinster players all that satisfied with their performance as individuals or a team. It may well have been their finest hour to date but the absence of smiles and back slaps afterwards was all too obvious.
Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings, Rob Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll all spoke about their disappointment with aspects of the 80 minutes. Boss, too, mentioned the setpiece problems and the volume of penalties conceded among other areas of concern.
“Of course we’re happy about the win but we know that there’s a long way to go yet. We haven’t really achieved anything. We’ve just made the final, that’s all. We didn’t do it the pretty way either. To be honest, it was more relief in the end.
“We held out so well and revealed a lot of character in the team. We know that there are a lot of parts of our game that were a bit scrappy as well. That probably happens in big games like this but we could have played a lot better. I’m very happy to be in the final.”
So he should be.
It says everything about this Leinster team that they could sack what was effectively a home-from-home for Clermont without bringing their ‘A’ game. As with all great sides, they have discovered the knack for doing what they need when they need it most.
Cian Healy’s try just after the break was the epitome of that. Down by six points at the break and under the cosh for the last 25 minutes of the first half, Leinster stunned Clermont with 10 points in no time and that burst saw them home.
“It set us back on track. A couple of boys at half-time said a few things. It was awkward because we’d had a very good opening 20-25 minutes and then it was like we didn’t really feature after that. It felt like then game was passing us by a little bit.
“We needed someone to take the bull by the horns. And different guys in different positions stepped up. We managed to hold on and that try proved to be so crucial, because it was the difference in the end.”
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