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Leinster take Bath to the cleaners as they march into European knock-outs

Jimmy O’Brien scored four tries as Leo Cullen’s side enjoyed a dominant victory.

Bath 7

Leinster 64

NO ONE CAN say Leinster didn’t keep up their side of the bargain.

A cancelled game and 28-0 scoreline in the favour of Montpellier last month left Leo Cullen’s men frustrated but they have blitzed the three pool games they have got to play in Europe, concluding with a third bonus-point win against Bath at The Rec.

15 from 15 available match points and 30 tries along the way make for good reading and Leinster have their knock-out place secured, this dominant 10-try victory over Bath lifting them to second in Pool A for now.

andrew-porter-and-jimmy-obrien-celebrate-with-try-scorer-josh-van-der-flier Andrew Porter, Josh van der Flier, and Jimmy O'Brien celebrate. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It remains to be seen exactly where Leinster finish in the pool, with Ulster to host Clermont [KO 5.30pm] and La Rochelle to visit Glasgow [KO 8pm] later today, while Exeter take on Montpellier tomorrow [KO 5.30pm]. 

Ulster, La Rochelle, and even Exeter could still finish above Leinster – and the higher the ranking the better, possibly bringing home advantage in the quarter-final and semi-finals.

But Leo Cullen’s men march on into the knock-out stages and the Pool B clubs will certainly be keen to avoid them in the round-of-16, which will be played on a home-and-away basis in April.

In front of a 13,761 crowd at The Rec, Leinster played some beautiful rugby against a mismatched Bath team, who will need to be transformed by the incoming Johann van Graan next season.

Captain Johnny Sexton pulled the strings in typically creative fashion, Robbie Henshaw was dynamic in midfield, while Hugo Keenan provided constant input and influence from fullback. Ireland boss Andy Farrell will have been pleased ahead of the Six Nations.

Meanwhile, player of the match Jimmy O’Brien bagged four tries from the left wing – a first for a Leinster in Europe – while Josh van der Flier, Jordan Larmour, Ciarán Frawley, Andrew Porter, Hugo Keenan, Dan Sheehan all dotted down too.

Up front, the likes of Ross Molony, Jack Conan, and Porter provided more than enough punch to keep on top of a very poor Bath team who had a handful of exciting moments but couldn’t make this a contest for Leinster.

jimmy-obrien-scores-his-sides-first-try Jimmy O'Brien on his way to a Leinster try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Their attention shifts back to the United Rugby Championship with a visit to Cardiff next weekend, yet the Champions Cup will never be far from their minds over the coming months. Cullen and co. have strong, realistic ambitions of ending up top of the European pile come the final in May.

Leinster’s early indiscipline gave Bath access to the visitors’ 22 in the opening minutes but the English side couldn’t take advantage as a turnover tackle from Rónan Kelleher, lineout steal from Ross Molony, and a counter-ruck turnover by Caelan Doris lifted the pressure.

Cullen’s men went down the other end and very nearly scored on their first attempt, a possible try for Jimmy O’Brien chalked off when the TMO review showed that Larmour had pulled Bath centre Max Clark back on the ground during a scramble for the ball.

The Premiership outfit lost back rows Josh Bayliss and Sam Underhill to head injuries in the space of 60 seconds, then conceded the opening try with 17 minutes on the clock. Conan, Josh Murphy, and Kelleher carried strongly off a scrum before sharp passes from Sexton and Keenan allowed O’Brien to cross out on the left.

Sexton hit the post with his conversion attempt but was able to add to the extras to Leinster’s second try eight minutes later, van der Flier surging through the Bath defence off a precise, perceptive pass from Henshaw.

Leinster were still having scrappy moments like knock-ons and lineout malfunctions but their scoring power was always simmering. Their third try arrived just after the half-hour mark as Henshaw carried up the left before they shifted to the right across three phases for Keenan to tip a short pass on to right wing Larmour, who sprinted clear from 40 metres out.

jordan-larmour-runs-in-a-try Jordan Larmour races clear for a first-half score. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Irish province were cruising, only to briefly let up as one of those inaccurate moments allowed Bath to score – Andrew Porter offloading to Bath skipper Charlie Ewels, who galloped into the 22, was felled from behind by O’Brien, but offloaded to Clark for a try converted by Orlando Bailey.

It only took Leinster two minutes to respond, with Henshaw cutting in off the right touchline near halfway and beating three defenders on a break up to the 22. On the next phase, Sexton calmly and cleverly rolled a grubber in behind the left edge of the Bath defence for O’Brien to gather and dot down his second – Leinster’s bonus-point try.

And the half ended with another Leinster flourish as a Conan breakdown turnover penalty gave them access into Bath territory, where slick handling from Henshaw and Sexton allowed Ciarán Frawley – on for Larmour – to burst over on a direct line.

Sexton’s conversion made it 33-7 to Leinster but the away team’s captain brought his players together for a firm word before they head into the changing room, seemingly keen for the momentum to continue on the other side of the break.

It certainly did, with Bath wing Gabriel Hammer-Webb sent to the bin for a deliberate knock-on of Sexton’s pass wide on the left with O’Brien waiting for the pass. Leinster went into the corner and turned on their power game, with Porter barrelling over on a pick and jam. 

josh-van-der-flier-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try Josh van der Flier was among the Leinster try-scorers. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Leinster were motoring again and Bath were napping. A sweeping attack up the right brought Cullen’s side a penalty in the attacking 22 and then Sexton intelligently cross-kicked it to O’Brien out on the left for his hat-trick as Bath simply watched on.


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The Leinster captain didn’t look happy with that seven-try haul and his deft chip out of his own 22 sparked the next score, O’Brien regathering it and linking to Ringrose. The outside centre has hauled down but Leinster shifted the ball wide to the left and Henshaw offloaded for Keenan to finish.

Sexton departed in frustration after missing the conversion and Leinster then saw replacement back row Max Deegan yellow-carded for taking Bath scrum-half Ben Spencer out cynically after he had chipped in behind the defence.

But Bath couldn’t make the numerical advantage count and Leinster scored immediately after Deegan’s return, with sub hooker Dan Sheehan busting through from a clever lineout play, replacement out-half Ross Byrne tacking on the two additional points.

O’Brien completed his four-try haul in the closing minutes as he won the chase down the right-hand side to dot down before the ball went dead, Byrne converting again.

Bath scorers:

Tries: Max Clark

Conversions: Orlando Bailey [1 from 1]

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Jimmy O’Brien [4], Josh van der Flier, Jordan Larmour, Ciarán Frawley, Andrew Porter, Hugo Keenan, Dan Sheehan

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [5 from 8], Ross Byrne [2 from 2]

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour (Ciarán Frawley ’36 to ‘HT), Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw (Ciarán Frawley ’70), Jimmy O’Brien; Johnny Sexton (captain) (Ross Byrne ’54), Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson-Park ’53); Andrew Porter (Cian Healy ’57), Rónan Kelleher (Dan Sheehan ’57), Michael Ala’alatoa (Vakh Abdaladze ’57); Ross Molony, Josh Murphy (Ryan Baird ’43); Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier (Max Deegan ‘HT (yellow card ’60)), Jack Conan.

BATH: Ruaridh McConnochie (Joe Simpson ’66); Will Butt, Max Clark  (Max Ojomoh ’52), Cameron Redpath (Darren Atkins ’66), Gabriel Hammer-Webb (yellow card ’46); Orlando Bailey, Ben Spencer; Arthur Cordwell (Will Vaughan ’76), Jacques du Toit (Tom Doughty ’53), Will Stuart (Johannes Jonker ’66); Will Spencer, Charlie Ewels (captain); Tom Ellis, Sam Underhill (Josh McNally ’16), Josh Bayliss (Mike Williams ’15) 

Referee: Andrea Piardi [FIR].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from The Rec

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