No-one knows better than Joe Schmidt how hard it is to chisel out a win at the Marcel Michelin.
Three years under Vern Cotter in Clermont had the Leinster coach – and his team — primed for the task at hand yesterday and his disappointment at falling short was clearly evident.
“I’m devastated, to be honest. You can’t put that much energy and effort into the game and create opportunities that we did and not come away disappointed. It is incredibly disappointing.
“It’s going to be tough to try and forge ahead for next week. We need to get ourselves up. We’ve a fair few bruised bodies in there. It was fairly combative stuff at times and not always on the ball.
Johnny Sexton’s crossfield kick to Fergus McFadden shortly after half-time stood out in a game of great attrition but little inventiveness given he could have opted for orthodoxy and looked to claim three points from the penalty he had just been awarded. That decision was an obvious talking point afterwards given the losing margin but Schmidt stood square behind his onfield general who came even closer to breaching the Clermont line with a similar ploy when Lee Byrne claimed the ball ahead of Isa Nacewa.
Schmidt continued: “You come to Stade Marcel Michelin and you need to go over the line. You can’t just go through the posts and hope to get something here.
“There were a couple of calls that could have gone our way, which could have got us something else over the posts.
“The area where Jonny kicked from was very muddy so it wasn’t a guaranteed three points. We did miss one, they didn’t miss any. That’s how close these games are. It’s unfortunate with those cross-kicks.
“If Isa got his, he could have scored. But Lee Byrne got it and they were off the hook. Fergus got to the ball first but he wasn’t quite able to control it.”
Raw though this was, it was an achievement in itself. Ian Madigan was immense at full-back, a role which is still somewhat alien to him, while Andrew Goodman came through his Heineken Cup baptism at centre though he did, admittedly, miss a number of tackles. All in all, it wasn’t the worst night’s work for a side operating off less than full pelt and the bonus point gained leaves Leinster on course to claim a 21-point mark that would surely be enough to get them over the line.
“Hopefully, 21 is something we’re capable of attaining. We’re on nine points now and we know that definitely isn’t enough. We have to be going better than that, particularly because we’re five points behind Clermont now.
“They have Exeter here and Scarlets away. With Exeter winning in Scarlets, you’d think we have the tougher task going to Sandy Park. But, to be honest, it’s not worth thinking about those points at this stage because we need four next week. If we can get four next week, we know we’re still in the hunt.”
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