While Bath Rugby fell to a narrow 18-15 defeat to Leinster in a thrilling European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final, head coach Mike Ford insists his side want no sympathy after first-half indiscipline cost them a famous triumph.
Despite a superb solo try from England fly-half George Ford, the Aviva Premiership Rugby high-flyers trailed 15-5 at the interval as Leinster’s dominant scrum set up Ian Madigan to land five penalties.
Another scything break by Ford after the interval saw him offload for Stuart Hooper to touch down, with Ford converting, only for Madigan to boot his sixth penalty in a flawless display.
Ford’s penalty then set up a dramatic finish but the hosts held firm at the Aviva Stadium and Mike Ford admits his young side need to cut out the errors that left them with too much ground to make up.
“We weren’t good enough at the start, we conceded too many penalties and didn’t control the ball,” he said.
“It could have got away from us but in the second half we fixed one or two things and I thought we played a lot better ball in hand and picked them off a couple of times in attack.
“Everyone will give us a pat on the back because we played away from home and lost by three points but it’s not good enough from us.
“We’ve got to move on – it’s been a great experience for the boys as we’re still a young team but I’m so disappointed because we’re better than that and I don’t want the sympathy vote at all.”
Meanwhile, Northampton Saints boss Jim Mallinder turned his attentions to retaining the Aviva Premiership Rugby title after his side suffered a heavy 37-5 defeat in their quarter-final away to Clermont Auvergne.
The current Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders struggled to cope with the hosts’ attacking flair, trailing 27-0 at half time as Noa Nakaitaci scored a double and fellow France international Wesley Fofana also crossed.
Former Bath full-back Nick Abendanon added a fourth after the restart and although Alex Waller touched down inside the final 15 minutes, it proved to be mere consolation for the visitors at Stade Marcel Michelin.
“The first 40 minutes we just weren’t in any aspect of play, the breakdown, clearout, set-piece – they were just very good,” said Mallinder.
“We came up against a side who hit their peak, particularly in first half, but we didn’t help ourselves, we can be better than that.
“We know we can compete with the best teams but we have to play very well, and now we need to move on quickly.
“We have one focus now, to retain the Premiership trophy and we will do whatever we can to make sure that happens.”
Exeter Chiefs ran in six tries to emphatically see off Newcastle Falcons 48-13 in their European Challenge Cup quarter-final but Rob Baxter says it was Chiefs’ defensive resilience that bodes well for the future.
Dave Ewers’ score and a penalty try helped Exeter into a 17-6 half-time lead at Sandy Park before Thomas Waldrom, Byron McGuigan, Sam Hill and Dean Mumm dotted down after the break.
Chris Harris’ 68th-minute try was as good as it got for the Falcons and with a semi-final against Gloucester secured, Baxter believes competing on multiple fronts this season shows how far the Chiefs have come.
“Things are there for us to play for now which makes things very exciting,” explained the director of rugby.
“If you look at where we are now getting into the final of the LV=Cup, being around the top end of Aviva Premiership Rugby and now through to the semi-final of the European competition, shows that over the course of the season that we have been consistent in the right way.
“The tries were great and were fantastic for everyone to watch but for me what was most pleasing was the defensive performance and the way that we managed to control the game.”
EUROPEAN RUGBY CHAMPIONS CUP
Leinster 18 Bath Rugby 15
Penalties: Madigan 6
Tries: Ford, Hooper
Referee: Jerome Garces
Clermont Auvergne 37 Northampton Saints 5
Tries: Nakaitaci 2, Fofana, Abendanon
Conversions: James 4
Penalties: James 3
Referee: John Lacey
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP
Exeter Chiefs 48 Newcastle Falcons 13
Tries: Ewers, penalty, Waldrom, McGuigan, Hill, Mumm
Conversions: Slade 4, Steenson 2
Penalties: Slade 2
Penalties: Catterick 2
Referee: Marius Mitrea