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Eight-try Leinster flex their European muscle to book home quarter-final in style

Leo Cullen’s side made light work of Glasgow as they put in another big performance at the RDS.

Nacewa scored twice as Leinster ran riot at the RDS.
Nacewa scored twice as Leinster ran riot at the RDS.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Leinster 55

Glasgow Warriors 19

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS

ANOTHER PERFORMANCE OF considerable style and substance not only yields the maximum return and the ultimate reward of a home quarter-final, but provides more persuasive evidence of the considerable European clout this Leinster side carries.

A fifth win from five Pool 3 outings, and an eighth-straight victory since the start of November, Leo Cullen’s side never looked like fluffing their lines as they ran in eight tries against a passive and depleted Glasgow Warriors side.

Such is their rich vein of form and the excitement surrounding the province’s start to the campaign, the management have been keen to avoid an avalanche of complimentary reporting but again there was substantial proof here to back-up the assertions that they are the team to beat in Europe this year.

Let’s not get too giddy about one result, particularly when you add in the context of Glasgow’s performance — described as ‘lifeless’ by Dave Rennie — but something big is building around these parts again.

The incentive of a home quarter was always going to prove enough to see off a struggling Glasgow outfit whose interest in this competition has long been over, and once Leinster broke the visitors’ early resistance, it was a straightforward task for Cullen’s men.

The bonus-point was sealed before the break courtesy of tries from Jordi Murphy, Isa Nacewa, Sean Cronin, Scott Fardy and Johnny Sexton, with Leinster’s energy and free-flowing and fluid style of play a joy to watch.

There was a brief moment of concern over Sexton’s fitness when he crossed for Leinster’s fifth just before the interval after he was clattered in the head, but the out-half returned for the second period to end any suggestion he was concussed.

There were big Leinster performances all over the park. Robbie Henshaw was outstanding, as was the fit-again Nacewa and that combination in midfield gives Leinster real strength there even in Garry Ringrose’s absence. Luke McGrath was named man of the match while James Lowe marked his European debut with another all-action display which ended with his third try for the province.

The Kiwi was at the heart of everything Leinster did, but the same could be said for a number of players, as the final try count stood at eight to three. Job done, and the pool won.

Leinster now head to Montpellier for the final pool outing with everything already decided, which is a great place to be and a real marker laid down by the province heading into the business end of the season.

The hosts showed their purpose from early on. Having latched onto Murphy’s fumbled from the kick-off, Nikola Matawalu then juggled and grounded Sexton’s towering up-and-under and Glasgow, scrambling back, conceded the penalty, for Leinster to strike.

Jordi Murphy celebrates scoring a try Murphy celebrates his try. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Cronin peeled off the back of the maul, Nacewa carried into contact and McGrath’s pop pass fed a beautifully timed run from Murphy, who burst through two tackles to dive in under the posts, only for the flanker to be sent to the bin less than 60 seconds later.

Again, Leinster didn’t deal with the kick off and when Ali Price darted for the line having taken a quick tap penalty, Murphy was shown yellow by Marius Mitrea for not retreating 10 metres as he hauled the scrum-half down and stopped a certain try.

“What is he supposed to do?” Sexton asked the Italian official, and although the Leinster defence withstood the initial pressure on their line with big tackles from McGrath and Josh van der Flier, Glasgow eventually capitalised out wide.

Lowe filled in at six when Mitrea had pedantically pulled McGrath up for a crooked feed, and that exposed the hosts on the right as Henshaw was forced to make a covering tackle on Horne, only for the visitors to recycle and move it quickly to Matawalu who stepped left, and then right, to beat the covering defenders.

Glasgow level, but parity didn’t last long.

Henshaw tapped Sexton’s kick off back into the arms of Tadhg Furlong and when McGrath caught the Glasgow line flat-footed with a show and go, Leinster were on the front foot again.

Quick ball and soft hands looked to have created the space for Lowe, and although the Kiwi was bundled into touch, Leinster came again through a powerful rolling maul for Sexton to offload inside for Nacewa. He made the finish look easy.

Henshaw’s energy and crunching hit on Lee Jones forced Glasgow to go off their feet, allowing Sexton to stretch the lead further from the tee, and the bonus-point was within sight before the break when the dynamic Cronin showed his strength to slam it down on the line from close range.

A brilliant piece of work in the air from Henshaw from Sexton’s bomb provided Leinster with the platform again, and even when the maul came down yards from home, Cronin was quickest to react on the deck to hold off the tackle and stretch for the whitewash.
It was easy pickings at this stage.

A loose kick gave Jordan Larmour his first opportunity with ball in hand from broken play and although the space in front of him was quickly closed over, the fullback jinked left, straightened and set Lowe tearing down the left. His one-handed offload inside very nearly released Sexton for the line but Glasgow scrambled, only for McGrath to present a first Leinster try for Fardy on a plate.

There was more to come. Fardy was again involved, this time showing good hands to free the ever-dangerous Lowe, whose gorgeous offload inside sent Sexton away for Leinster’s fifth try, although there was immediate concern for the out-half as he stayed down in that far corner.

Replays showed Sexton being clattered in the head by Matawalu as he fell over the line, and the RDS breathed a collective sigh of relief when he picked himself back up and no HIA was required. No concussion, nothing to see here.

Johnny Sexton receives attention after scoring a try Sexton receives treatment after scoring in the corner. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Sexton returned from the locker room for the second half, and stayed on for another 10 minutes before being called ashore for Ross Byrne. In that time, Leinster had crossed twice but on both occasions were pulled back by the officials.

Henshaw read Glasgow’s attempt to run it out from their own line and intercepted a pass intended for Matt Fagerson, only for Mitrea to chalk it off for a Glasgow penalty on the far side.

Leinster felt aggrieved again shortly after when a sweeping move from deep involving Henshaw, Nacewa, Lowe and Larmour set the latter hurtling into open country and towards the line but the referee had blown for a knock on by Lowe in the build-up.

Not to worry, it was only a matter of time before the next chance came.

Devin Toner gathered from the lineout, McGrath picked Nacewa out for the captain to burst through for his second of the day and then Lowe marked his European debut with a score of his own after Glasgow had taken advantage of Leinster’s defensive re-organisation through Adam Ashe.

Cullen unloaded his bench and Rob Kearney’s introduction for Henshaw saw Larmour play the remaining 25 minutes in the outside centre position, as Fardy’s second try of the game in the closing stages rounded off a fine afternoon for Leinster.

You better start believing the hype; Leinster are on a roll and they’ll take some stopping.

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Jordi Murphy, Isa Nacewa [2], Sean Cronin, Scott Fardy [2], Johnny Sexton, James Lowe
Penalties: Johnny Sexton [1 from 1]
Conversions: Johnny Sexton [3 from 4], Isa Nacewa [0 from 1], Ross Byrne [3 from 3].

Glasgow scorers:Tries: Nikola Matawalu [2], Adam Ashe
Conversions: Peter Horne [1 from 2], Brandon Thomson [1 from 1]

LEINSTER: 15. Jordan Larmour, 14. Fergus McFadden, 13. Robbie Henshaw (Rob Kearney 55’), 12. Isa Nacewa (captain), 11. James Lowe, 10. Johnny Sexton (Ross Byrne 50’), 9. Luke McGrath (Nick McCarthy 67′); 1. Jack McGrath (Cian Healy 50’), 2. Seán Cronin (Bryan Byrne 58’), 3. Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter 58’), 4. Devin Toner (James Ryan 63’), 5. Scott Fardy, 6. Jordi Murphy (Dan Leavy 59’), 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jack Conan.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: 15. Ruaridh Jackson, 14. Lee Jones, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Nick Grigg, 11. Niko Matawalu, 10. Peter Horne, 9. Ali Price (George Horne 46’); 1. Jamie Bhatti (Alex Allan 58’), 2. George Turner, 3. Siosiua Halanukonuka (D’Arcy Rae 59’), 4. Robert Harley, 5. Greg Peterson, 6. Matt Fagerson, 7. Matt Smith, 8. Adam Ashe.

Referee: Marius Mitrea.

Attendance: 15,947.

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Ryan Bailey

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