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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
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Conan power, Isa magic and a red card see Leinster cruise past Montpellier into 1/4 finals

14 mad first-half minutes set Leinster on the way to an eight-try rout and sealed a quarter-final.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Leinster 57

Montpellier 3

– Sean Farrell reports from the RDS

THIS WASN’T SUPPOSED to be another comfortable home win for Leinster.

Long before Frans Steyn aimed a swinging arm at Johnny Sexton’s head to take a 25th minute red card, this was billed as Leinster’s toughest game of the season.

They attacked it as though it was too. And a little sprinkling of Isa Nacewa magic had them well on the way to the bonus point victory even before one 10 cemented the other.

“The equation is simple,” said head coach Leo Cullen pre-match. Win the game and a quarter-final was secure. But it was far from safe, cup rugby the home side set out to play. From the off, they ran penalties out of their own 22 and the invited high pressure from Montpellier brought about one or two heart-stopping moments when passes didn’t quite stick.

It wasn’t long before the hosts set the pulse racing at the other end though.

Nacewa first latched on to Garry Ringrose’s offload on a beautiful angle through the defensive line. The breach bred confidence and Rory O’Loughlin was next to have a cut. This time, the scrambling defence was not enough for the visitors and the blue shirts fanned out right to give Sexton a number of targets to fire a long skip pass at.

Nacewa was the fitting recipient to carry the first score over the try-line, but his finest moment was yet to come. With 23 minutes on the clock, the Aucklander chipped the ball up the left touchline, leapt to catch the bouncing pill and fired a pass back inside under pressure before his feet came back to earth. Jack Conan was the try-scorer, but the RDS where only shouting one man’s name. “Isa…”

Johnny Sexton down injured Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Sexton was striking difficult conversions cleanly to leave his side with a 14 -3 advantage and thirst for more when all hope was lost for Jake White’s side. The onslaught was all too much for Steyn to handle and the Springbok unleashed a high hit on his opposite number to leave Sexton crumpled on the ground. A guaranteed red card since the rules were underlined on 3 January.

Ross Byrne was on the field as Sexton left for a HIA and Nacewa booted the resulting penalty. Leinster were in a swagger.

Adam Byrne scores his sides third try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Adam Byrne broke free down the right, bouncing a pass to Conan who returned an offload to let the wing dot down.

Three tries in the space of 14 minutes and Sexton back on the field, but the RDS had to wait until the second half for the bonus point to be guaranteed.

When Nacewa departed the fray minutes after the start of the second half with the score still 24 – 3 – hopefully as a precaution against the biting cold January air - Byrne dutifully picked up the game-igniting baton. Despite the Kildare man’s hunger for work, it was Conan’s raw power than brought about Leinster’s fourth.

Jack Conan Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Job done, Sexton withdrawn and time to worry about the margin of victory which may come in to play as to break ties in the chase for a home quarter-final.

This was a night when the old Leinster killer instinct was on full display. Having gone into the game hoping for a win of any shape or margin, they ended up easing past the 50 mark, Montpellier wilting as tries were gleefully eaten up by Luke McGrath, Cian Healy and then Garry Ringrose after the completion of Conan’s hat-trick.

With a 54-point margin of victory, the equation is now an even simpler one for Leinster: win in Castres, and there will be a Champions Cup quarter-final in the Aviva Stadium come April.

Scorers

Leinster

Tries: I Nacewa, J Conan (3), A Byrne, L McGrath, C Healy, G Ringrose

Conversions: J Sexton (3/3) R Byrne (4/5)

Penalties: I Nacewa (1/1)

Montpellier

Penalty: F Steyn (1/2)

Cards: F Steyn (Red, 26 minutes)

Leinster:

Isa Nacewa (Rob Kearney ’42); Adam Byrne, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw (Dan Leavy ’68), Rory O’Loughlin; Johnny Sexton (Ross Byrne ’55), Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson-Park ’65):

Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’51), James Tracy (Richardt Strauss ’55), Tadhg Furlong (Michael Bent ’55); Devin Toner, Hayden Triggs (Ross Molony ’63); Jack Conan, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip

Montpellier:

Joffrey Michel, Timoci Nagusa, Vincent Martin (Jesse Mogg ’71), Joe Tomane, Nemani Nadolo; François Steyn, Nic White (Tomás O’Leary ’60):

Mikheil Nariashvili (Yvan Watremez ’52), Shalva Mamukashvili (Charles Geli ’40), Jannie Du Plessis (Davit Kubriashvili ’52); Paul Willemse, Konstantine Mikautadze (Antoine Battut ’40); Fulgence Ouedraogo (Kelian Galletier ’63), Akapusi Quera (Henry Immelman ’26), Pierre Spies.

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As it happened: Leinster v Montpellier, Champions Cup

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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