MCFADDEN SETS LEINSTER BOUND FOR BILBAO
Leinster Head Coach Leo Cullen praises McFadden’s role in Leinster’s epic semi-final win
By Daire Walsh
AFTER he witnessed his side putting Scarlets to the sword in the Champions Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen pin-pointed the 40th-minute try by Fergus McFadden as the key moment in the game.
The Suncroft man crossed over at the end of a sweeping move to offer the Blues a 24-9 interval advantage, which provided the momentum for a clinical second period display in Lansdowne Road.
“Ferg’s try on half-time was a huge moment I think in the game, but how we managed the second half was important. I thought the guys controlled the game well,” Cullen acknowledged in the post-match press conference.
“They couldn’t really get access to our area of the field. It was a big moment of half-time and how we managed to second half then is important. It’s all done now. It was a great day.”
There was some concern for Cullen in the aftermath of the contest, as McFadden’s collision with Scarlets winger Steff Evans – in the act of scoring his try – brought his afternoon to an abrupt end. With the Champions Cup showdown against Racing 92 in Bilbao just under three weeks away (Leinster’s first final since 2012), the Old Belvedere club man may be in a race against time to regain full fitness.
Cullen was initially unclear on the nature of the injury, but expected a scan to reveal the full extent of the damage caused.
“Ferg has taken a bang. It’s just at the back of his knee. I’m not actually sure if it’s his calf or is it his hamstring. He’ll get a scan. We’ll find out a bit more at the start of the week.”
While McFadden was forced to watch on from the sidelines, Kildare natives James Tracy and Joey Carbery were given run-outs in the closing stages of an accomplished 38-16 success for Leinster.
When their line was eventually breached in the final minute of normal time, it was McFadden’s fellow Clongowes Wood College alumnus – Eadestown’s Tadhg Beirne – who broke through a gap for a consolation try.
The Munster-bound lock has been a revelation during his two seasons in Wales and he identified a lack of ruthlessness as a contributing factor in his side’s eventual downfall.
“I think it was pretty difficult. Look, at the end of the day they kept the ball pretty well and I thought they were pretty exceptional around the ruck. You’ve got to give credit when credit’s due. They held onto the ball well, we didn’t. We weren’t clinical. We talked about coming into this game being clinical,” Beirne explained.
“When we did have the ball, we just made silly mistakes and mistakes we wouldn’t usually do. I think going into half-time especially, as Wayne [Pivac, Scarlets coach] said, when we conceded that late try after being on the front-foot and looking like we could have scored ourselves just before half-time. That was a bit of a knock in the teeth.”