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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 28 May, 2018
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Talking points as Leinster thrash Scarlets to reach Champions Cup final

Leo Cullen’s side dismantled the Pro12 champions and will be a formidable foe for Racing or Munster in Bilbao.

Sean Farrell reports from the Aviva Stadium

LEINSTER TOOK THEIR place in the Champions Cup final with comprehensive five-try hammering of Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium.

You’ll find our match report from the one-side semi-final here, and below are some of our immediate post-match thoughts on the outcome.

Leinster make hay in the sunshine

The poach threats in Scarlets’ pack were well flagged in the build-up and Leinster viciously set about preventing their influence on the breakdown.

From Jordi Murphy’s barnstorming clear-out to keep James Ryan’s try-scoring chance alive, to Cian Healy throwing himself on the ball to save possession in the lead up to his own score, Leinster went after rucks as if there were Champions Cup medals hidden underneath.

Jordi Murphy with John Barclay and Scott Williams Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Leinster’s semi-final record at this venue is poor. Before today, they only managed to beat Toulouse in four semi-final matches on Lansdowne Road. But with the relentless breakdown work nullifying the Scarlets threat, the game became a matter of execution from Leinster’s attack. And they weren’t about to disappoint.

Fantastic Fardy flanked by young talent

While it was a shame that James Lowe had to miss out, there was never any doubt through this week that he, and not Scott Fardy, would be the unlucky party dropping out of the matchday squad with Luke McGrath injured.

Fardy showed why he was such a shoe-in from start to finish today. Barring two over-exuberant tackles, his aggressive hard edge set the tone for all to follow. This was an antipodean impact of the Rocky Elsom and Brad Thorn ilk.

Scott Fardy takes a picture with Jennifer Malone after the game Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The followers will be leaders some day, but the young contingent in this Leinster group continue to defy logic with the level of performance which they manage to consistently deliver. Having already secured a Grand Slam, they will go to a Champions Cup final next month – Leinster’s first since 2012.

You can watch any passage of play to see examples of how seamlessly the experienced heads and the young bucks join together in blue. Take Joey Carbery’s cross-field kick to Isa Nacewa, Garry Ringrose’s terrific long pass to Fergus McFadden in the right-hand corner.

Garry Ringrose and Rob Evans Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The passage which best summed up the synergy between old and new was Fardy’s try: Jordan Larmour wrestled the ball away from Rhys Patchell to set the platform, Johnny Sexton made a line-break, James Ryan (one one of 16 powerful carries) popped up an offload and Fardy was the man who got over the try-line.

Old blue bloods and the new complementing one another in style.

Who’s down with JGP

While it was always clearly a shame that James Lowe would miss the occasion, the big worry in Luke McGrath’s absence was how the back-up scrum-half would fare.

This was by far and away the biggest game Jamison Gibson-Park has played for Leinster and the former Hurricane acquitted himself well as he got a chance to partner Sexton on the big stage.

Jamison Gibson-Park celebrates as his side score a try Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

In general, the Kiwi kept the attacking tempo high, but there were undoubtedly teething issues.

A call to kick a penalty advantage when Sexton and Nacewa had a short-side two on two chance stands out. And the number nine seemed to take the wrong passing option on occasion, at times picking out locks or props who appeared surprised to receive the pass and had to generate their own momentum to get the gainline.

All in all though, this was a good day across the Leinster back-line and valuable experience and confidence for JGP to present a stronger challenge behind McGrath.

Set-piece springboard

Devin Toner wins a line out ball Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

When the subject of Tadhg Beirne was brought up to Leo Cullen yesterday, the head coach briefly mentioned what a nuisance the Kildare man can be when it comes time to maul.

While many looked at Leinster’s pack and felt a tight approach would be to their advantage against the expansive Scarlets, the eastern province worked to minimise their time in line-out formation.

Jonathan Sexton celebrates scoring a try Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Instead, the set-piece was used as a springboard. At least five times during the first-half, a blue jersey took the ball high off the top and immediately set the attack in motion with Robbie Henshaw and Fergus McFadden always willing carriers to create space for Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose to weave follow-up patterns.

Five-star Leinster book their ticket to Bilbao with scintillating victory over Scarlets

As it happened: Leinster v Scarlets, Champions Cup semi-final

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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