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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 25 February, 2020
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Kearney double helps Leinster sweep aside Lyon

Leo Cullen’s side scored six tries as they moved one step closer to securing top seed for the quarter-finals.

Leinster 42

Lyon 14

THE BLUE WAVE continues to sweep all before it.

Another Leinster bonus point-win means they go into the final round of the Heineken Champions Cup pool phase as the top seed. And it’s fair to say they still have plenty left beneath the surface.

Today’s win didn’t come as easily as the bookmaker’s spreads – or the lay of the land after 14 minutes – suggested. But with three disallowed scores on top of tries for Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan, Sean Cronin, Andrew Porter and a Dave Kearney double, it was another strong statement that the eastern province are a cut above.

james-tracey-celebrates-as-josh-van-der-flier-scores-a-try James Tracy celebrates as Josh van der Flier gets over the try-line. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Leo Cullen will certainly find nits to pick and issues to rouse his men going into a round six trip to Treviso. In recent weeks, with so few other faults to highlight, the head coach has been pushing his players to show more ruthless intent to run up the score. Not enough that they have been burning off challengers inside 20 minutes, he demands that they sustain the pace and the rate of scoring.

So after comfortable wins like the successes over Ulster and Connacht, Cullen trained a focus on the need to rack up a points difference when it came to the Champions Cup, with its unforgiving ranking system for the quarter-finals.

The head coach might well have penned the words ‘deja vu’ into his trusty notebook during the first half of the win over Lyon. His side having gone from untouchable en route to a 14-0 lead before becoming embroiled in scrap once they had a cushion on the scoreboard.  There were no such scrapes in the second half as they kept the French side scoreless.

james-lowe-offloads-to-dave-kearney-as-he-is-tackled-by-etienne-oosthuizen Lowe offloads towards Dave Kearney Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Though their interest in the tournament was arguably ended by the loss to Leinster in round two, Lyon did not show up to the RDS with just the espoirs in two. Though you would be forgiven for assuming as much in the opening 15 minutes.

Targetting the left wing of Noa Nakaitaci, Stuart Lancaster’s attack carved their way through twice in the opening five minutes. Both occasions were let-offs for the visitors as, first, Luke McGrath sneaked ahead of Kearney’s kick and the TMO ruled out the would-be 46-second score.

James Lowe’s chase of Kearney’s second chip ahead was good, but the bounce evaded the Kiwi and he knocked on five metres out.

The same duo soon made a telling connection. After more concerted pressure yielded a penalty, Ross Byrne shaped to kick for touch, but pivoted to unleash a pin-point cross-field kick to Lowe and he popped the simple pass inside for Kearney to ground the opener.

dave-kearney-scores-a-try Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Even at 10 minutes it felt overdue. Fortunately for the expectant home support, Van der Flier latched on to another McGrath snipe three minutes later to improve the frequency.

To Lyon’s credit, they summoned a gutsy will to make a stand in south Dublin rather than be rolled over timidly. Virgile Bruni picked off a loose pass from Byrne to Rhys Ruddock and showed good pace to return it under the posts.

Though a second disallowed try for Leinster followed – Scott Fardy harshly denied for a knock-on on the ground – Pierre Mignoni’s defence showed some steel to make Leinster work for their third try.

It wasn’t enough, of course. Leinster’s faults are minor ones and they boasted too much pace, power and precision to ever make defeat feel a real possibility today. While the Top14′s second-placed team provided robust resistance up front, Leinster could still find joy out wide and Kearney got in for his second thanks to another assist pass from Lowe.

The tortoise and the hare parable came to mind as Lyon pared their approach back with Ethan Dumotier in the bin and still succeeded in closing the gap, a powerful maul setting the platform for pick-and-go phases that ended with Hendrik Roodt forcing his way over the whitewash.

The hare stood firm to repel one last attack before the break to enter the interval 21-14 ahead. A margin that felt completely at odds with what had unfolded over the course of 40 minutes.

cian-healy-and-josh-van-der-flier-tackle-toby-arnold Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

One try away from completing their primary task, Cullen’s pack moved to tighten their grip on the contest in the second period and early pressure mounted resulted in a sin-bin for Felix Lambey and Max Deegan made sure to find the hole he left to crash through for Leinster’s fourth.

Lyon would ultimately spend 30 minutes down a man. 30 minutes too long to have any chance of matching Leinster in this form. The visitors’ excellent application during the first short-handed period was long forgotten by the time Sean Cronin crossed the whitewash with Xavier Mignot still making his way to the sin-bin. And before he could make his way out of it, Andrew Porter had shoved over for a sixth.

A 15th win from 15 outings in Leinster’s season and a 17th straight win since defeat to Saracens in the Champions Cup final. Leinster look in remarkably good shape as they push their way back to the final.

Top seeds approaching the final round on 24 points, they are two better off than Exeter and Clermont, while Racing can join that chasing pack if they can see off Munster this  afternoon.

Scorers

Leinster

Tries: D Kearney (2), J Van Der Flier, M Deegan, S Cronin, A Porter

Conversions: R Byrne (5/5) C Frawley (1/1)

Lyon

Tries: V Bruni, H Roodt

Conversions: J Pelissie (2/2)

Leinster: Jordan Larmour (Rob Kearney ’63), Dave Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Ross Byrne (Ciaran Frawley ’67), Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson-Park ’53): Cian Healy (Peter Dooley ’53), James Tracy (Sean Cronin’ 53), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’53), Devin Toner, Scott Fardy, Rhys Ruddock (Caelan Doris ’53), Josh van der Flier (Ross Molony ’65), Max Deegan.

Lyon: Toby Arnold (Joris Moura ’73), Xavier Mignot, Ethan Dumortier, Thibaut Regard (Josua Tuisova ’62), Noa Nakaitaci, Jean-Marcellin Buttin, Jonathan Pélissié (Sam Hidalgo-Clyne ’54): Hamza Kaabèche (Raphael Chaume ’54), Badri Alkhazashvili (Jeremie Maurouard ’60), Francisco Gomez Kodela (Kévin Yaméogo ’54), Martial Rolland, Hendrik Roodt (Tanginoa Halaifonua ’65), Killian Geraci (Felix Lambey ’2), Etienne Oosthuizen, Virgile Bruni.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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