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Leinster the team to beat in Europe and more talking points from the RDS

Plus, the impact Scott Fardy and James Lowe have made as the province book their place in the quarters.

LEINSTER SECURED HOME advantage in the Champions Cup quarter-finals with a bonus-point victory over Glasgow Warriors this afternoon. Read our report from the RDS here, while below we take a look at some of the talking points from the game.

Leinster’s exhibition performance

Scott Fardy scores a try Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

In running in eight tries and booking a serene passage through to the quarter-finals of this competition, Leinster pretty much ticked all the boxes with this afternoon’s work.

Once Glasgow’s early resistance had been broken, Leinster ran riot as they dispatched a feeble performance from the visitors to maintain their 100% record in Pool 3 and add further weight to the claims they are serious contenders in Europe this season.

The bonus point was safely sealed before the interval and now a tricky six-day turnaround to face the heavyweights of Montpellier comes with everything already decided and Leinster in great shape heading into the business end of the season.

It’s important not to get too giddy about one performance and result, particularly when you take Glasgow’s ‘lifeless’ first-half defensive effort into account, but Leinster are building up a head of steam and they’re going to be very difficult to stop.

Leo Cullen said afterwards that his side were a bit inaccurate in the first half and while it did take them a bit of time to fully get going, they were purposeful and clinical right to the death to entertain the natives with another exhibition display of rugby.

Lowe’s impact

James Lowe with Huw Jones Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

There were so many eye-catching performances throughout the 80 minutes, and Luke McGrath was the sponsor’s man of the match, but any number of Leinster players could have been selected for the award.

Robbie Henshaw produced an all-action display until he was called ashore early in the second half and not only was he a constant threat with ball in hand, the centre was energetic and hungry to make big hits.

Scott Fardy, who scored two tries to open his Leinster account, was a talismanic presence all over the pitch while Sean Cronin was typically dynamic and enterprising.

But again it was James Lowe who had the RDS crowd on their edge of their seat, and leaning forward in anticipation every time he got ball in hand — and the Kiwi didn’t disappoint.

There were moments where he would have had the coaches pulling their hair out with a couple of lapses in concentration or fitful decisions when Leinster were defending but overall he was a menace.

His ability to offload in the tackle, most notably here when he set Johnny Sexton free for his try with a deft one-handed pass inside, is a huge asset and time and time again, he was at the heart of everything Leinster did.

Cullen’s men the team to beat

Rob Kearney and Jordan Larmour celebrate Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Such has been Leinster’s rich vein of form and the excitement building around their performances on a weekly basis, the management have been keen to avoid an avalanche of complimentary reporting so to keep things on the ground, but there was more persuasive evidence here to verify the claims they are now the frontrunner for this competition.

Granted Glasgow had nothing to play for today and were feeble and passive in the first half, in particular, but the way Leinster have seized complete control of this pool from the first weekend against Montpellier to this point is incredibly impressive.

There will be stiffer challenges to come, no doubt, but Leinster have blitzed everyone who has crossed their path and are the first and only team to have secured their place in the last eight ahead of the final weekend.

Cullen was quick to downplay their credentials afterwards and certainly it’s important to remind ourselves that it is only January, but this Leinster side has the strength in depth and the clout to go along way in the competition.

The quarter-final date is a long way down the road in April, but whether it’s here or across the way at the Aviva Stadium, it will take something special to come to Dublin and halt this Leinster juggernaut.

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

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Ryan Bailey

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