“That’s The Big Thing We Need To Fix For Some Of These Big Games Against The Top Teams.”
Latest posts by Jason Hennessy (see all)
No team is unbeatable and Leinster Rugby learned that the hard way this afternoon as they went crashing out of the Champions Cup at the hands of holders Saracens in front on an empty stadium in Dublin.
The Irish province were overwhelming favourites ahead of kick-off at the Aviva, having gone the entire season unbeaten until today.
But all good things must come to an end and Leinster will now have to pick themselves back up and go again next season as Sarries march on to the semi-final stages with a 25-17 win.
Speaking after the game a defeated Cullen felt his side were “spooked” early on in the game with Saracens bagging a couple of early penalties and felt his side played right in Saracens’ hands in many ways.
“I just thought we got a little bit spooked pretty much from the kick-off, we don’t quite deal with it and Saracens score,” Cullen said after the game.
“We struggled to get ourselves into the game and we played right into their hands in many ways.
“It comes back to that mentality that we know they have – 3, 6, 9, 12 [points] – and we handed them those opportunities. On those long ones, Elliot Daly did well to slot them over from 50-metres-plus. They’re all things we were aware of coming into the match but we couldn’t quite deal with it.
“Saracens, you go through their team and they have a hell of a lot of top-level experience and they probably managed the big occasion better. It’s a big occasion. I know there’s not a crowd here but it’s still a big occasion.
“We’ve had the distraction of the [PRO14] semi-final and final over the last couple of weeks and they had a very singular focus. These games come down to small margins and we didn’t get enough right in the first half and we dug ourselves into a pretty big hole.
“The guys showed character in the second half but we couldn’t do enough to get out of it.”
Cullen added that he feels Saracens have a “power element” to their game, something that Leinster and Ireland in recent seasons have lacked.
“They have a power element to their team and their game, and we couldn’t do enough really, to be honest,” Cullen added.
“That’s the big thing we need to fix for some of these big games against the top teams in Europe.
“We got to the final [last season] and got beaten by Saracens. They’ve had some turnover of players and I think people just assumed that with the turnover of players they wouldn’t be left with much, but you go through their 1 to 15 and they’re still a very strong outfit with a hell of a lot of experience, guys who have been involved in a World Cup final at the start of the season.
“They’re guys who have produced on the biggest stage before.
“We just need to be better. We need to figure out how we can be better.”