MICHAEL CHEIKA described yesterday’s European quarter-final win as the province’s most important in his almost four years in charge.
This is the second time that Leinster have reached the last four under the Australian’s watch but the manner in which they achieved it could hardly have been more different to the 41-35 victory in Toulouse three years ago.
“Very important,” said Cheika when asked about the magnitude of this win for the management and staff.
“We won the Magners League last year and we really want to try and win the Heineken Cup and we knew this was the next step along the way. Now that we have done this we will try and polish ourselves up a little bit and prepare for what is going to be a massive challenge against the best team in Europe.”
“It is important to treat it like any other game,” said Rob Kearney.“Given what happened to us last week and what happened to us in the RDS (in the 18-0 defeat last September), it is important that we make a real statement. There is obviously a lot of hurt over the last two games but, at the same time, it is important to treat it like just another game.”
Brian O’Driscoll’s shoulder was again a cause for concern at half-time but Cheika sounded confident about the long-term effects, but the Irish skipper may be wrapped in cotton wool in the weeks ahead.
Continued Cheika: “It was obviously a pretty tough game, wasn’t it? They are broken in there in the dressing room because it was very physical and we had to do a lot of defending in the second-half. It wasn’t just the physical pressure but the mental pressure, trying to defend that lead and being pinned down in your own territory for so long and they showed a lot of character. Maybe not the accuracy that we had hoped for but they definitely showed a lot of character against a quality side.”
The toughest spell was undoubtedly the ten minutes in the second-half which Felipe Contepomi spent on the touchline having been shown a yellow card and Kearney accepted that it was all hands to the pump.
“There wasn’t an element of fear at all but, at the same time, it was important for us to dig deep. All 14 men on the field had to stand up and I think they did that.”
Harlequins coach Dean Richards was magnanimous in defeat for the most part.
“It’s been a lovely journey for us but it has come to and end. We will have to accept that. They boys will take away a lot of fond memories. We have to draw a line under it; it’s done and dusted and now it is time to move on. We are disappointed but we’re proud of the guys as they tried their hardest.
“It’s never easy to get as far as we have and lose by one point whereby we also missed eight points from kicks at goal. That’s life and you have to move on from it. We have no regrets.”
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