Garry Ringrose on why Ross Byrne and Leinster did not kick late penalty
In a game of fine, precious margins, this was a big, big call.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen remains convinced this Leinster side of his will, one season soon, get over the line and win the Champions Cup. Ross Byrne and Garry Ringrose will be hoping that confidence proves accurate.
Leinster let a 17-0 need slip to nine points by half-time. After the break, it was effectively all La Rochelle until they edged 27-26 ahead with eight minutes to play. To make matters tougher, Rónan Kelleher was also sent to the sin-bin.
Somehow, though, Leinster fired up their attack again and forced a penalty from the French side. Centre Jonathan Danty was fortunate to just see yellow after crunching a high shoulder into Caelan Doris. The most important thing, though, was the penalty that came with it.
Ross Byrne spoke with stand-in captain Garry Ringrose [James Ryan was off injured] and opted against going for a penalty kick. He was 45 metres from the posts and off to the left, on the angle. Byrne may have felt the kick, 75 minutes into a fast-paced game, was just outside his range.
It must be noted, though, in kicking for an attacking lineout, Leinster were doing so without a recognised hooker on the pitch. Kelleher was sin-binned and Dan Sheehan was on the sidelines after an epic 68-minute shift.
Van der Flier, at least, did his part. So did the Leinster lineout. They went phase after phase but La Rochelle held strong. They managed to clear their lines once but James Lowe came pegging back and Leinster went close and closer still.
'I have 100% trust' - Garry Ringrose on Ross Byrne
Then came a crucial moment as Michael Ala'alatoa steamed into a breakdown clear-out and sparked out Georges Henri Colombe. As the La Rochelle prop was looked over by medics, on the pitch, the TMO and referee Jaco Peyper came to the conclusion that Ala'alatoa had to go.
La Rochelle held on to win their second Champions Cup with a point to spare. Following the game, Garry Ringrose spoke of the decision of Ross Byrne not to kick that late penalty.
"With regards to Ross, there's always an option there. I'd have 100% trust in his feeling, on the spot. You've seen him in big games get big kicks from there. I trust his gut. We backed ourselves to see if we could make it [with the attacking lineout]."
"I was around in the days we were trying to get one star," Leo Cullen observed.
Cullen spoke about his pride at Leinster that his province has four stars above their crest but acknowledged the search for number five is turning into a stretch.
Asked why he believes they will get that fifth star, sooner than later, Cullen said, "The quality of the people. And these some good young players coming through."
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