Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Schmidt hails season-best display

Joe Schmidt was impressed by his side's 'little bits of perfection'
Joe Schmidt was impressed by his side's 'little bits of perfection'

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt felt that his side delivered one of their best displays of the year as they booked their place in the Amlin Challenge Cup final with a 44-16 romp over defending champions Biarritz.

Schmidt's men ran out comfortable five-try winners at a sold-out RDS, where the province will host Stade Francais in the May 17 final.

"It was definitely up there," said Schmidt of the performance. "I do think Biarritz dropped off a bit. If we are allowed to play we really enjoyed playing, I think that was demonstrated on the field."

"I do think we missed a few things in the middle of the first half. We missed a couple of lineouts and a five-metre scrum which we got free-kicked. They were frustrating platforms to lose at that stage, 10-3 up, we should really have been trying to get that space on the scoreboard that you need against a good side.

"It was not perfect, but there were some little bits of perfection that you would really like to see."

Two tries from man-of-the-match Jamie Heaslip book-ended an evenly-balanced first half, with Leinster's precise passing and finishing being the difference at the break.

Dimitri Yachvili's third penalty in the 37th minute left Biarritz just 10-9 behind, only for Leinster to dazzle in the Dublin sunshine with two late tries.

Jonathan Sexton and Heaslip went over in a blockbusting three-minute burst, the former adding the conversions for a sudden 24-9 interval advantage. The sin-binning of Takudzwa Ngwenya, early in the second period, signalled the death knell for Biarritz who will miss out on Heineken Cup rugby next year.

Isa Nacewa and Brian O'Driscoll added two more tries for the runaway winners of this semi-final, with Arnaud Heguy's consolation score cutting the margin to 28 points.

"The first try from Jamie, I thought, was top drawer. You work a long time on those ones to try and get them dead right," added Schmidt. "The second try was really good as well. It was a nice short pass from Rob Kearney to Brian O'Driscoll, who was strong in the tackle. I just felt today was a big game and the big-game players really did stand up."

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