IN THE BUILD-UP to last weekend’s meeting with Exeter Chiefs, Leinster attempted to draw a parallel with the clash, 12 months previous, against Montpelier.
Both Montpelier and Exeter were making their Heineken Cup debuts, and both were fiercely proud clubs who announced their arrival to the big stage with a roar.
But whereas Jonathan Sexton’s late penalty kick secured a draw in France, this year, Leinster were let off the hook by Ignacio Mieres’ misdirected long-range penalty in injury time. One draw saved, invaluably away from home. Another narrowly avoided at the RDS.
Perhaps it was an attempt at positive spin, but this week, Joe Schmidt was comparing the the Chiefs to another game from the archive.
“I guess if you needed something that’s a close comparative,” Schmidt said, “you could consider Bath last year.”
This was another game that was decided by Sexton’s boot. Six times he bisected the posts in an 18-13 win at The Rec when Leinster, who trailed with 10 minutes to go, felt they passed up a number of tr-scoring chances. The following week, the Aviva Stadium was witness to 10 tries, seven of them from the hosts.
“We’d love to turn it around again, but Bath made a lot of errors we felt were uncharacteristic.” Schmidt said looking ahead to the Scarlets. “But you’ve just got to get back and try to refocus and be accurate and that’s what we’ve tried to do this week.”
‘Accuracy’ was the primary criticism used by Schmidt in the wake of the narrow win over Exeter, but there has also been a sense that the flood of injuries has washed away the competition for places which has driven Leinster’s success since the Kiwi took over.
That’s where his most experienced player comes in. Brian O’Driscoll has seen most scenarios in his career. So he, above all others, has the responsibility to impart wisdom to the troops so that they can survivor this speed wobble.
How can they do that? By gritting heir teeth and powering through it.
“I think it’s about understanding (the injury) situation and developing the team.” O’Driscoll said. “Playing for Leinster is a responsibility and I think guys understanding that; every time you pull the jersey on you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing everyone in the organisation.
“When you have bad losses, you have to let that galvanise you and realise that’s not where we are – we haven’t worked like we have over the last five or six years to find ourselves in those situations and those standards will never be accepted.
“It’s about putting that right the next time you get the opportunity, if you’re lucky enough to be given a jersey the following week.”
Consider the law, laid.
Today’s game in Wales will tell us a lot about Leinster. Will they want to forget all about this game? Or will Schmidt be speaking about it wistfully 12 months from now?