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Heaslip drives Leinster to Champions Cup victory over plucky Wasps

Matt O’Connor’s side picked up all four points at the RDS as Darragh Fanning scored two tries.

Darragh Fanning dives over for his second try.
Darragh Fanning dives over for his second try.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Leinster 25

Wasps 20

MATT O’CONNOR’S LEINSTER made a winning start to Pool 2 of the Champions Cup, as Darragh Fanning scored two tries in a 25-20 win.

Muscular performances from man of the match Jamie Heaslip and his fellow back rows Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan were at the heart of the effort from Leinster.

The Irish province join Harlequins on four points at the top of the group, with Conor O’Shea’s men having beaten Castres on Friday evening. Leinster’s next assignment sees them travel to France.

Wasps were highly competitive for 60 minutes or so, holding the advantage on the scoreboard until Dominic Ryan stretched out to dot down to the left of the posts and send Leinster into a lead they never relinquished.

There were nervy moments throughout for Leinster in what was not as polished a performance as they would have hoped to deliver, but O’Connor will be content simply to have secured all four points.

Ian Madigan and Andy Goode exchanged penalties in the opening minutes, before Wasps took control of the scoreboard with a quarter of the game gone. Goode struck a 21st-minute penalty, before the elusive Alapati Leiua pounced for the first try of the evening.

It came from a Leinster error, as the Samoan international picked off Noel Reid’s intended inside pass and had the pace to streak clear from 60 metres out. Goode’s conversion brought Wasps to a 13-3 advantage.

Alapati Leiua  runs in a try supported by teammate Sailosi Tagicakibau Alapati Leiua streaks clear for Wasps' first try. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Stung into action, Leinster responded by crossing the whitewash themselves just three minutes later. Heaslip made huge metres in midfield, before Jimmy Gopperth grubbered in behind Christian Wade wide on the left.

Fanning – on the left wing for Leinster – streaked onto the ball from 25 metres out, benefiting as it slowed up just beyond the tryline and he dotted down with little fuss. Madigan was wide with his conversion.

That score should have settled Leinster’s previously jittery handling, but another frustrating error led to the line-out from which Wade eventually scored a magnificent individual try.

The England international took a pass from Elliot Daly wide on the right, before standing up and rounding Madigan masterfully, then scorching past the despairing Fanning and beating Zane Kirchner to the corner.

Referee Leighton Hodges confirmed the score with his TMO and Goode confidently slotted the touchline conversion for a 20-8 Wasps lead.

Leinster did hammer the English side’s tryline just before the break, with Sean Cronin held up over the tryline, but they had to settle for a Madigan penalty in the end.

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Darragh Fanning scores a try Fanning slides in for a first-half try for Matt O'Connor's side. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Wasps continued to probe the fringes of Leinster’s ruck defence after the break, making big gains in that area, but Leinster scrambled well, denying Simpson bigger yardage on one occasion.

Having weathered that flurry, Leinster battered their way back into the Wasps’ 22, eventually crossing through Fanning, who danced inside a tackle to the right of the posts for his second try. Madigan’s conversion brought Leinster back to within two points.

Seven minutes later, O’Connor’s men grabbed hold of the lead after Dominic Ryan stretched over to score, confirmed by the TMO. That try originated from a huge Cronin linebreak, the hooker released by a clever Reddan pass.

Madigan’s conversion saw Leinster into a 25-20 advantage.

With O’Connor and Dai Young sending in reinforcements late on, there was no further scoring. Leinster managed to camp out in the Wasps half for long periods in the closing stages, although there was a major scare when Sailosi Tagicakibau streaked clear.

Hodges called play back for a forward pass from Joe Launchbury, though, and Leinster fans breathed again, as replacement scrum-half Isaac Boss oversaw the running down of the clock.

Leinster scorers:

Tries: D Fanning [2], D Ryan

Conversions: I Madigan [2 from 3]

Penalties: I Madigan [2 from 2]

Wasps scorers:

Tries: A Leiua, C Wade

Conversions: A Goode [2 from 2]

Penalties: A Goode [2 from 3]

LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; Zane Kirchner, Gordon D’Arcy, Noel Reid, Darragh Fanning; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan (Isaac Boss ’63; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin (Richardt Strauss ’65), Michael Bent (Tadhg Furlong ’65); Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy (Kane Douglas ’48); Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip (capt.).

Replacements not used: Ed Byrne, Jack Conan, Mick McGrath, Luke Fitzgerald.

WASPS: Andrea Masi (Rob Miller ’21 – ’27, permanent ’29); Christian Wade, Elliott Daly, Alapati Leiua, Sailosi Tagicakibau; Andy Goode (Chris Bell ’45 – ’49, permanent ’64), Joe Simpson; Matt Mullan (capt.) (Simon McIntyre ’73), Carlo Festuccia (Tom Lindsay ’76), Lorenzo Cittadini (Jake Cooper-Woolley ’63); Joe Launchbury, Bradley Davies (James Gaskell ’64); Ashley Johnson, Guy Thompson (Sam Jones ’42), Nathan Hughes.

Replacements not used: Charlie Davies.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales).

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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