Leinster dug deep to come from 14-0 down after just 20 minutes in their away match against French side Castres Olympique in the Heineken Cup on Sunday before a Jimmy Gopperth-inspired comeback secured a 29-22 win.
Out-half Gopperth rescued the visitors from a second successive defeat with two tries before halftime in a 21 point haul. A Rob Kearney drop goal and a late Jordi Murphy try secured victory.
Kiwi Gopperth admitted afterwards, “We were disappointed with missing a couple of first-up tackles that got us into that situation of being 14-0 down.
“It’s the belief in each other and wanting to work hard for each other. Leinster have always been a great scrambling team and I think we just worked hard for each other because we want to be in the top eight.
“Our set-piece took a bit of a hard knock and they got their act into gear and we really got some go-forward ball and looked after it in the second half. That’s when we created opportunities and we finished well.”
The Irish province are now within touching distance of the quarterfinals ahead of Friday night’s visit of Welsh side Ospreys to the RDS in Dublin.
One point against the Ospreys will seal a quarterfinal place for Leinster, while a win will secure a home draw.
Man of the match Gopperth said, “Of course you want a home quarter and to achieve that we’ve got to win the game next week.
“We’ve just got to make sure we get the points on the board early, make sure we win first and let the game take care of itself after that. Hopefully we’ll get a good outcome from it.”
Leinster coach Jonno Gibbes paid tribute to his players afterwards when he said, “Castres delivered everything we thought they would. They were massively combative, very physical at the breakdown and a good set-piece.
“It took a massive effort from us to score three tries and we almost sniffed out an opportunity for a fourth at the end. To come to a place like this against a well-organized team that haven’t given up a lot of tries at home, it’s a satisfying result and puts a spring in our step for next week.”
Gibbes agreed with Gopperth that the first 20 minutes were far from planned.
“It wasn’t an ideal start. The way they were able to gain access was more about our deficiencies rather than them creating a hell of a lot, but they’re a good team. We gave them a little bit and they took those two tries early,” he said.
“We just felt if we were able to get a little bit of a foothold with possession, particularly at set-piece, that we may be able to put pressure on them later on and it took quite a long time to do that.
“I thought the boys’ resilience and energy and their commitment to keep getting up and running into these big fellas here was first class.”