Prolific Ross Byrne adds lustre to Leinster points tally against vanquished La Rochelle

‘They’re very important moments … it’s pretty swirly in the Aviva. Thankfully they went over today’

Leinster’s Ross Byrne wouldn’t have been alone in his desire to lay a few ghosts to rest almost 11 months on from last May’s heartbreaking final against La Rochelle. As much as anyone, he did so with a polished all-round performance which resolved any lingering debate about who should be the boss at the helm.

Byrne pulled the strings confidently, opting when to launch targets flat to the line or picking when to pull the trigger. His delayed pass for Josh van der Flier’s carry in the build-up to putting width on the ball for Dan Sheehan’s try was a case in point, so too when taking Caelan Doris’s pullback and popping the ball virtually one-handed in setting up James Lowe for the breakthrough score.

“I was just trying to get it out of my hands without getting melted,” he maintained afterwards with both typical modesty and dryness, having been “melted” a couple of phases previously.

“It’s just trying to do my job, which is trying to navigate the team around the pitch. Just get back in and do my job as best you can. You probably don’t have too much time to think. You just trust your instinct and, hopefully, it comes off.”


Leinster sprinted out of the blocks with three tries inside the first dozen minutes last May, all scored in the right corner, and Byrne narrowly missed two of the three touchline conversions.

Here, despite the swirling breeze, he landed three first-half penalties from a Byrne triangle circa 46/47m out to the left of the posts and also his first three conversions, including two from each touchline, for a 15-point haul.

“They’re very important moments. It was pretty tricky all right. We were warming up into the other end and they were all over the place. It’s pretty swirly in the Aviva. Thankfully they went over today.”

His one miss, also from the touchline, rebounded from the upright, which — you’d have thought — must also be one of his best days off the T.

“No, I still missed one,” Byrne maintained, and although it was said with a smile, ever since he was a youngster he’s always been a perfectionist about his goal-kicking.

Now he, and Leinster, need to again scale the heights of this quarter-final in three weeks. “We’re going to have to if we want to win. Northampton, everyone’s seeing what they’re doing. We’re going to have to be at our best.”

While Leinster will forfeit familiarity with the Aviva, a semi-final at such an iconic stadium as Croke Park could be inspiring as well.

“It’s pretty special … Hopefully we can get an incredible crowd and hopefully it’s another special day,” said Byrne, who wasn’t at the 2009 semi-final when Leinster beat Munster, although he was at the final in Murrayfield when the win over Leicester secured the first of their four Champions Cups.

He’s been there supporting Dublin. “I go to a few Dublin games. It’s probably one of the premier stadiums in Europe.”

Ever stood on the Hill?

“I was never in the Hill, no,” he said, smiling before he added, self-mockingly: “Prawn sandwich brigade.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times