Leo Cullen says Leinster lacked sharpness in tight win over Bath

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Leo Cullen admitted that holders Leinster “got a little bit fortunate” with their winning try after they sunk Heineken Champions Cup opponents Bath 17-10.

Wing Jordan Larmour claimed a 50-metre interception score early in the second half to keep Leinster firmly on track for another quarter-final appearance.

But Leinster head coach Cullen said: “We do get a little bit lucky.

“The lineout (throw) goes crooked, Bath play for the advantage, the referee calls advantage over and within the next two seconds they throw a pass and we are suddenly scoring at the other end of the field.

“It was a big moment in the game, for sure. We got a little bit fortunate there.”

Bath delivered arguably their most impressive display of a disappointing season so far, but they were undone after taking the lead through prop Henry Thomas’ 22nd-minute try that James Wilson converted, with Wilson adding a late penalty to secure a losing bonus point.

Hooker Sean Cronin hauled Leinster level just before the interval, and with world player of the year Johnny Sexton converting both tries and Ross Byrne kicking a late penalty, Leinster went top of Pool One.

Bath, though, are drifting towards an early exit, having failed to win any of their first three European games and facing a testing return encounter against Leinster in Dublin next weekend.

Cullen added: “We lacked a little bit of punch in the collision part of the game and we probably didn’t generate enough momentum in attack.

“It was a little bit mixed in terms of the performance and we are pleased to get the win.

“There are a hell of a lot of things we can get better at. We just lacked that little bit of sharpness in the first 20 or 30 minutes of the game. We need to make sure we understand what gets us into trouble and what makes us good.”

Sexton limped off near the end of the game due to a suspected calf muscle issue, although Cullen reported that he does not think it is serious.

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Cardiff Blues relishing underdogs tag against Saracens

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Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe believes Cardiff Blues will relish being underdogs in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup clash against Saracens.

The Blues face a huge test at Allianz Park, taking on a team unbeaten in 14 games in all competitions this season.

Even though Saracens are without the likes of England forwards Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Billy Vunipola, they will start as red-hot favourites to keep that sequence going.

And while Anscombe acknowledges how big a task the Blues face, he is ready to accept the challenge.

“It’s a big challenge for us as a team and we will have to be on our mettle,” he told the Blues’ official website.

“We know we are underdogs, and that’s fine by us.

“We can sit here and talk all day long about how good Saracens are – undefeated, a team full of England internationals and five or six Lions – but at the end of the day they are 15 men with two arms and two legs, and they have their off-days as well.

“We have talked about making sure we throw a few punches out there and aren’t afraid to have a good crack.

“If we play to our potential we are certainly capable of getting a result, and that is the belief we have within the group.”

Anscombe lines up in a back division that sees fly-half Jarrod Evans moved to inside centre, with scrum-half Tomos Williams and flanker Ellis Jenkins among the Blues’ absentees.

Blues head coach John Mulvihill added: “We are right in the mix in Pool Three, and these back-to-back matches against Saracens will be decisive.

“We have to rise to the occasion, and we have already demonstrated we can step up in Europe with a great win in Lyon.

“Saracens are at the top of their game at the moment, so we are well aware of what is coming at us on Sunday.”

Leicester head to Paris in Pool Four on Sunday, where group leaders Racing 92 await them.

The Tigers have lost their last six Premiership and Premiership Cup games, and are without a win since beating Champions Cup opponents the Scarlets on October 19.

Australia internationals Matt Toomua and Tatafu Polota-Nau return to the starting XV, while Ben White features at scrum-half instead of England number nine Ben Youngs and centre Kyle Eastmond is out due to suspension.

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Clinical Ulster boost their Champions Cup hopes with victory over Scarlets

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Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac admitted his team’s Heineken Champions Cup chances had been “hurt” by Ulster following a 25-24 home defeat.

The Scarlets – European semi-finalists last season – are facing an early exit following a third successive Pool Four loss.

Two Steff Evans tries and a late Dan Davis touchdown – plus nine points from the boots of Rhys Patchell and Dan Jones – kept them in contention, but Ulster ultimately prevailed in bonus-point fashion.

“Our defensive inaccuracy in the first half, in particular, and with the try they scored from 60 metres, we fell off some basic one on one tackles, which is unacceptable at this level,” Pivac said.

“They played very well, but we weren’t that accurate defensively on a couple of occasions, and we paid for it. Similarly, on attack, we weren’t clinical enough.

“For us, it is about improving on that performance and keep building and making sure that we get our accuracy back into our game and put teams away when we make these breaks.

“We have got three more games in this competition, starting next week (against Ulster in Belfast), and we want to turn tonight’s result around.

“They hurt us at home tonight and hurt our chances in this competition, so I guess we want to try and repay the debt.

“You can look back and pull games to bits, it’s not going to change the situation we are in. It is frustrating.

“We have got to focus on the positives out of that game and make sure we keep building on our performances, because we have still got a lot to play for this season.”

Ireland star Jacob Stockdale produced another try-scoring performance as Ulster put a huge hole in Scarlets’ European hopes.

Stockdale, whose touchdown helped Ireland beat world champions New Zealand last month, struck in the first half at Parc y Scarlets, while his fellow wing Henry Speight, centre Will Addison and number eight Marcell Coetzee also scored, with scrum-half John Cooney kicking a penalty and conversion.

It left Ulster level on points with Pool Four pace-setters Racing 92 ahead of next Friday’s Scarlets return fixture.

Ulster backs coach and former Scarlets and Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel said: “We had prepared well, and we realised it was a massive game for us.

“The Scarlets have a fantastic home record, so it was a huge challenge for us.

“But we couldn’t have asked for more. We have got some good players in our squad, and they all stood up tonight.

“In this period in Europe, the job is sort of half done. We are delighted with the win, but we know there is going to be a backlash at our place next week.

“We are a work in progress. We are delighted with the win, and our aim is to get better week on week.”

In the other game last night, Edinburgh secured a 31-13 win over Leicester at Murrayfield.

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