Leinster head coach Leo Cullen was delighted to see his side making every point count in their 52-3 demolition of Wasps on the opening night of the Heineken Champions Cup at the RDS.
While the former Ireland international admitted the 40th-minute sin-binning of Lima Sopoaga helped to alter the course of the game, he was happy to see the defending champions improve on their recent performances in the Guinness PRO14.
All Black fly-half Sopoaga’s deliberate knock-on was punished with tries from Luke McGrath and man-of-the-match James Lowe, adding to Sean Cronin’s fifth-minute opener.
Showing their ruthless streak, Leinster turned a 14-3 half-time lead into a record European defeat for Wasps with further tries from McGrath, Lowe, Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw and replacement Jack McGrath.
“We talked a lot in the past about every point counting,” admitted Cullen afterwards. “It was good to keep playing until the very end.
“Big moments obviously just on half-time, when they lose a player to the bin and we go on to score just before half-time (through Luke McGrath). Then score two minutes into the second half.
“We managed to hold onto the ball a bit better than we probably did last week against Munster (in the PRO14). We coughed up a lot of ball last Saturday and had very little possession. It was nice to be on the other side of the possession stats today.”
The emphatic nature of Leinster’s performance will raise anticipation levels around the possibility of back-to-back European titles.
Cullen claimed successive European Cups as a captain in 2011 and 2012, but was eager for his charges to remain grounded in advance of upcoming fixtures against Toulouse and Bath.
“We just need to be careful that we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We’ve played one game and no one else has played yet in Europe. There’s a lot of very good teams in Europe at the moment,” he added.
“Sometimes in Europe, you only need to be a little bit off and you come unstuck. Sometimes then the score can get out of control.
“We know that ourselves, because we got beaten by Wasps 51-10 in the Ricoh a number of years ago and we got pretty heavily beaten here as well. It can be a little bit misleading at times.”
Whereas Cullen pinpointed Leinster’s ball retention skills as a key part of their success, Wasps director of rugby Dai Young feels this is an aspect of their game that needs addressing. Sopoaga kicked a first-half penalty for their lone score.
“Our biggest issue tonight was obviously us in possession,” conceded Young. “When we had opportunities to keep hold of the ball, we just kept on turning it over.
“When you play a team like Leinster and you keep turning the ball over, keep giving them opportunities to attack, at some point you’re going to run out of juice. That was pretty much the case.
“They’ve too good a team to think you can defend against them for long periods. At some point the dam was going to burst.”