JIMMY GOPPERTH ANSWERED any lingering questions about his place in Leinster’s starting XV as he inspired his team to a comeback victory over Castres.
At different junctures of the first-half, Leinster found themselves 14-0 and 17-7 behind but rallied impressively in the second-half to claim four vital points. The 29-22 triumph for Matt O’Connor’s side means they need a solitary point to advance as winners of Pool 1.
Gopperth scored two tries in the first-half, showing great footwork and strength for both scores. He also kicked three penalties and a conversion. Ian Madigan, who started on the bench, played a late cameo role in Jordi Murphy’s try but the win was all down to his out-half rival and a Leinster forward pack that recovered after an opening 30 minutes to forget.
“We didn’t get the greatest start but I thought our belief in our game once we got the ball… we just had to chase the ball and look after it,” Gopperth told Sky Sports. “In those first few minutes we just gave away ball too easy and they’re a great attacking side.
“Our set-piece took a bit of a hard knock in the first spurt but [the forwards] got themselves into gear and we really got some forward ball, and looked after it in the second-half. That’s when we created opportunities and we finished them well.”
Gopperth reflects on another dogged Leinster victory. Pic: Sky Sports
Leinster’s pressing defence was infiltrated on several occasions — with Remi Lamerat and Seremaia Bai to the forefront — but they gradually got a handle on the Castres runners and earned their stripes with vital breakdown scrambling in their own 22.
Gopperth reflected, “We were a little bit disappointed at missing a couple of first-up tackles that got us into those situations but that’s just the belief [we have] and wanting to work hard for each other… we did that because we want to be in the top eight.”
The Kiwi’s performance ensured that a point of any manner would confirm Leinster as Pool 1 winners. A bonus point win at the RDS, over Ospreys, next Friday could clinch the three-time cup winners a vital home quarter final.
“Of course we want a home quarter final,” said Gopperth, “but we’ve got to make sure we get the points on the board early and that we win first. We can let the game take care of itself after that and we’ll see what the outcome is at the end.”
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