Champions Cup: Leinster coach Leo Cullen hails James Lowe after try-scoring heroics against Connacht

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Leinster wing James Lowe received plenty of praise from his head coach, Leo Cullen, after he was rewarded with four tries in their 56-20 Champions Cup round-of-16 second-leg triumph against Connacht at the Aviva Stadium on Friday.

Robbie Henshaw (2), Jamison Gibson-Park and Tadhg Furlong also crossed the whitewash for Leinster whose other points came via conversions from Jonathan Sexton (5) and Ross Byrne (2).

Rewarded for hard work

“He put in a good week this week, James,” said Cullen afterwards. “He’s very, very talented as we know. When he really applies himself, he’s as good as anyone who is out there. He worked hard this week and you see the rewards he got off the back of that.

“Some good play for some of his tries, but he brings a different level in terms of the power that he has in contact. It’s a skill that he’s able to manage contact on his terms as well. It was great to see him go well over the last couple of weeks.”

Connacht struggled from the outset and were trailing 28-3 at the interval after Jack Carty opened the scoring with a penalty. Tiernan O’Halloran, Sam Arnold and Abraham Papali’i crossed for tries in the second half and Carty succeeded with one conversion. However, they were always playing catch-up and yellow cards for Bundee Aki and Jack Aungier as well as some injuries meant they played with 13 men at one stage.

Most of Cullen’s career as a player and coach was spent at Leinster although he played for Leicester Tigers between 2005 and 2007. The Tigers could be Leinster’s next opponents in the quarter-finals if they manage to kick on in their second leg round-of-16 clash with Clermont Auvergne after claiming a 29-10 win in their first encounter.

“We’ll see how that game goes,” added Cullen. “Leicester are very much in the driving seat at the minute. We’ll turn our attention, in terms of European attention, to who comes out of that.

“In the short term, we’ve a nice little trip down to South Africa (in the United Rugby Championship) over the next couple of weeks to occupy our minds.”

Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Andy Friend was left frustrated after his side were knocked out of the Champions Cup.

“I thought we had an opening exchange there, which was in the process of giving us a bit of confidence,” said Friend.

“Pretty much the first time Leinster touched the footie, though, they ran 75 metres and scored. All of a sudden, all of that dominance that we had and the pressure we had exerted was just released. They seemed to go from strength to strength from there.

“The message is pretty simple. A game of footie is about tackling, wanting to tackle and wanting to win physical battles. When you don’t do that, it’s very hard to win a game of football.”

READ MORE: Champions Cup: James Lowe scores four as dominant Leinster reach quarter-finals after thrashing Connacht

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