Leinster coach Joe Schmidt believes full-back Luke Fitzgerald’s comeback from injury was one of few shining lights in the RaboDirect PRO12 leaders’ limp victory at bottom side Aironi on Friday.
Fitzgerald made his first start for the European champions following a seven-week lay-off with a neck and back injury but failed to inspire Leinster at the Stadio Zaffanella.
Instead, Schmidt’s men were just 9-6 up with just 20 minutes to go before fly-half Ian Madigan grabbed two late penalties and replacement Noel Reid sealed the only try of the game after Aironi were reduced to 14 men.
Fitzgerald spurned an excellent chance to make a try-scoring return in the first-half, failing to hold onto the ball after excellent work from Adam D’Arcy but he did make an excellent last-ditch tackle to deny Aironi a try of their own.
And Schmidt, who saw his side equal the RaboDirect PRO12 record of 14 consecutive matches without defeat, took heart from his full-back’s performance.
“We were keen to put him through 80 minutes, and he was probably good for about 60 of them," Schmidt told the Irish Independent.
“But considering he had been out for seven weeks, it was just good to see him playing again, and hopefully he will come into contention for future games."
Schmidt also brushed off suggestions his side were lacking energy, instead claiming inaccuracy was his side’s main problem.
“Of course we would want better from ourselves, but I wouldn't agree that we were lethargic," he added.
“The slow ball never allowed us to play with the tempo that we like to play with.
“The work was being done; it was just our inaccuracy that cost us on a couple of occasions.”