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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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One province has gone out of Europe, one province stayed in by the skin of Andrew Conway’s pearly whites. Can Leinster keep the dream of an All-Ireland Champions Cup final alive?

Standing in the way of the tournament favourites at the Aviva Stadium are the reigning champions.

Saracens have been the standard bearer in this tournament in the past two years, but they’ve come to Dublin a little wounded and Leinster are relishing the chance to have a cut off them.

Racing 92 have seen off Clermont in a thriller in Clermont. Here’s the match report if you fancy a catch-up on that, but it’s past time we had a run through the team-sheets.

Leinster:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Isa Nacewa
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Luke McGrath

1. Cian Healy
2. Seán Cronin
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. James Ryan
6. Scott Fardy
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jordi Murphy

Replacements:

16. James Tracy
17. Jack McGrath
18. Andrew Porter
19. Rhys Ruddock
20. Max Deegan
21. Nick McCarthy
22. Joey Carbery
23. Rory O’Loughlin

Saracens:

15. Alex Goode
14. Liam Williams
13. Marcelo Bosch
12. Brad Barritt
11. Sean Maitland
10. Owen Farrell
9. Richard Wigglesworth

1. Mako Vunipola
2. Jamie George
3. Juan Figallo
4. Maro Itoje
5. George Kruis
6. Nick Isiekwe
7. Schalk Burger
8. Jackson Wray

Replacements:

16. Schalk Brits
17. Richard Barrington
18. Titi Lamositele
19. Dominic Day
20. Blair Cowan
21. Ben Spencer
22. Alex Lozowski
23. Chris Wyles

After a bit of travel trouble, Jamie Heaslip made it to the Aviva before kick-off for an on-field presentation.

It’s days like this that his retirement will really hit home.

KICK-OFF: Farrell gets us underway and James Ryan gets his hands on the ball nice and early.

James Lowe kicks clear, but it’s out on the full. Instant pressure.

Stunning try from Leinster.

They go wide left and get the rewards as James Lowe breaks a tackle and unleashes Isa who hands the pill back inside for the Ringer with Luke McGrath lurking just in case.

Easy conversion for Sexton after carving apart the Sarries D.

Leinster 7 Saracens 0 

Leinster in full big-game mode. Solid maul after the restart and they go wide again with Ringrose again in plenty of space before he sets Kearney away. Only down side is Kearney’s kick for territory is poor.

A bit of Saracens pressure makes all the difference. Despite Leinster forcing a turnover on their own 22, there’s a smidge of panic as a poor McGrath pass forces Nacewa to kick fairly lateral, midway between territory and a contestable. Platform for the visitors to come again.

PENALTY! Leinster 7 Saracens 3 (Farrell ’12)

Good defensive effort from Leinster to thwart Sarries for another long set of phases, but they go offside and allow Farrell to get the champions on the board.

Flag

Sarries have owned the ball since Kearney’s poor kick on the counter attack. Leinster pinged again and Farrell reduces the deficit to one.

PENALTY! Leinster 7 Saracens 6 (Farrell ’15)

Sexton shipped a blow from Maro Itoje there, gives us the mandatory first-half fitness scare, but he’ll be alright.

The first scrum of the game comes after almost 18 full minutes and Leinster play their way into opposition territory.

Sexton is hit by a lock again, this time Kruis, but he’s up to knock over a penalty.

PENALTY! Leinster 10 Saracens 6 (Sexton ’21)

With just over a quarter gone, Saracens have had 70% possession and 75% territory, that means some huge tackle counts going in already.

11 up for Furlong, 9 for Dan Leavy and 7 from James Ryan.

LOOOOONNNNG way to go.

This bionic man can’t be stopped.

PENALTY! Leinster 10 Saracens 9 (Farrell ’25)

Saracen’s command of the ball in attack is being undermined by their commitment to hurting Johnny Sexton.

After a half break from Kearney, Leinster advance and Wigglesworth is the fourth man to connect with Sexton.  He’s the second one penalised, but given that it’s a flying shoulder into the 10 he’s fortunate there’s no card involved.

Sexton kicks the penalty to touch.

Terrific maul from Leo Cullen’s pack, pushing the Premiership side back 10 metres and forcing another penalty.

Leinster go for another maul, but Itoje rides over the top of the maul, clamps on the ball and the maul collapses.

Sensational counter-ruck led by Dan Leavy gives Leinster a foothold and the pressure eventually yields a penalty. meat and drink for Sexton.

Flag

Oof. Not the sort of coach-killing penalty off a restart we’re used to, Sexton pinged for kicking the ball away from Liam Williams and Marcelo Bosch will get the driver out from halfway.

PENALTY: Leinster 13 Saracens 9 (Bosch ’35)

Flag

Saracens go to the corner to give a statement of intent, but they meet a feisty Scott Fardy on line-out defence.

HALF-TIME: Leinster 13 Saracens 12

Flag

Early penalty chance for Sexton after the start to the second half, comes after a fine aerial take from Kearney, good tempo in Leinster’s attack and then a Kearney break.

PENALTY! Leinster 16 Saracens 12 (Sexton ’42)

Brilliant long-range penalty from the Grand Slam-winning 10. All of 48 metres.

Garry Ringrose has got it all. The crowd’s roar to greet his excellent grubber down field to relieve pressure is almost as loud as the one that greeted his early try.

It all started with a lovely offload out the back from the openside and Leinster bulldoze their way 10 more metres forward before James Ryan gratefully accepts contact while popping a pass up to his flanker.

Excellent try under the posts.

Leinster 23 Saracens 12 

Big Tadhg hits Mako in the side and forces the spill. The BT commentators roll out the Jukebox nickname, but add the Chinese Whisper that he likes to refer to himself by the name.

Dan Leavy is home and hosed as the man of the match.  He adds another line-break to his immense contribution to this game allowing Leinster mount a siege to the Saracens line.

Leinster get through a long set of 22 phases, but credit Saracens, they don’t wilt and the pressure ends with a Kearney knock on.

Sexton and Ringrose combine down the left to break into the 22, the pass back to Jack McGrath slows the move down and drains momentum. But this Leinster pack, like Ireland, don’t mind being a slow bully when they need to. They crash it up and James Lowe makes a half break, gets held by Itoje for a second until the cavalry come to drive the Lion backwards and give Lowe room to wriggle a right hand over the try-line.

Leinster  30 Saracens 12

A dangerous attack from Saracens is emphatically shut down by a hit from big Bob Kearney on Williams.. TMO will have a check on it.

Just a pen against Kearney, but Saracens make Leinster pay from the resulting maul as Blair Cowan gets the ball down after a rumble over the line.

Leinster 30 Saracens 19

15 minutes to go and Sarries aren’t going to let go of this tournament easily.

That’s the end of the day for Johnny Sexton. Joey Carbery is on to close this one out.

Fergus McFadden takes a whack on the head as Saracens roll forward. Rory O’Loughlin will come on to join the resistance.

Meanwhile, Dan Leavy’s breakdown brilliance continues, only a wayward kick keeping Sarries coming back and building pressure.

This is how champions exit.

Reverse everything in that last message (aside from the crack on McFadden’s head) the wing is still on the field and Joey Carbery drillis a brilliant kick downfield to relieve pressure after a big Jordi carry.

Saracens set up shop within five metres after Toner’s departure, but first they knock on… and later a Farrell forward pass takes even more wind out of their sails.

With all that, we can start planning for the semi-finals.

We knew this afternoon that Munster would go to Bordeaux to face Racing. Now, a semi-final in the Aviva Stadium is assured. Scarlets will come calling hoping to inflict the kind of upset they managed with 14 men in last season’s Pro12 semi-final at the RDS.

Oh, and the dream of an All-Ireland final in Bilbao is still alive.

Leo lets the boys play

Oh, and it feels like this was confirmed an hour ago too, but Dan Leavy has been named man of the match.

Nobody has made Sean O’Brien’s place look this vulnerable.

Flag

FULL-TIME: Leinster 30 Saracens 19

The champions are out, the favourites march on to a home semi-final.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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