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Dublin: 17 °C Monday 22 April, 2019
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European disaster for Leinster as Cullen's men go down to Wasps at the RDS

The Irish province were shockingly poor against Dai Youngs’ energetic side.

Leinster 6

Wasps 33

LEINSTER’S CHAMPIONS CUP campaign got off to a disastrous start as they failed to take a single match point in a 33-6 defeat to an impressive Wasps outfit at the RDS.

Leo Cullen’s men face an away trip to Bath next Saturday with their European season hanging in the balance already, after they delivered a massively worrying display on home soil.

Joe Simpson celebrates scoring their second try Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With the likes of Nathan Hughes and Charles Piutau providing spark for the visitors, Leinster utterly failed to get over the gainline on a consistent basis. Their attacking control around the rucks was poor and their passing sloppy.

The malaise on the pitch from Leinster spread into the stands at a hushed RDS, as their supporters realised that another testing season lies ahead. Unless Leinster can do something special at The Rec in six days time, it’s a campaign that won’t involve a Champions Cup knock-out tie.

Leinster lacked leadership throughout, despite the presence of a number of Ireland internationals including captain Jamie Heaslip, who was handed the armband after Isa Nacewa’s late injury-enforced withdrawal.

Johnny Sexton was error-prone in his kicking game, while scrum-half Eoin Reddan passed poorly. Up front, the likes of Devin Toner and Jordi Murphy struggled to provide the big carries that were so badly needed.

Leinster lacked any hint of aggression – Fergus McFadden aside – and that jarred in opposition to the energy and hunger of Dai Young’s ambitious Wasps, who were a joy to watch with the ball.

A scrum penalty allowed Ruaridh Jackson to give the English side a fourth-minute lead from the tee, but Sexton replied shortly after as Cullen’s men applied pressure.

The Ireland out-half should have had another three points with 13 minutes played, but missed a kickable penalty after Nathan Hughes infringed at the breakdown. Sexton made no mistake with his third attempt, punishing Carlo Festuccia’s failure to release in the tackle.

A clever chip out of the Leinster 22 was recovered by McFadden minutes later, but Noel Reid was then penalised for hands in the subsequent ruck as he looked to resist a ferocious Wasps’ counter-ruck. Jackson’s penalty crept over the cross bar.

Christian Wade celebrates his try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster struggled for gainline progress, despite some nice touches from Reid and Ian Madigan. Future Ulsterman Piutau was electric in the 15 shirt for Wasps, as Hughes carried well and the entire English team defended aggressively.

A high tackle by Mike Ross on Elliot Daly with 24 minutes elapsed resulted in the Wasps midfielder slamming over a 42-metre penalty, before disaster struck for Leinster on the half-hour mark.

Joe Simpson’s exiting box kick flew high over the head of Dave Kearney on Leinster’s left wing, the Ireland international appearing not to realise that Christian Wade was in hot pursuit.

The ball bounced once before Kearney finally glanced over his shoulder to note Wade in worryingly close proximity. The second bounce was lethal. Kearney attempted to gather the ball in, but it nightmarishly slipped beyond his grasp as he lost his footing. Wade gratefully gathered it in to step over the tryline and score.

Jackson converted for 16-6. Leinster searched for an immediate response but Reddan’s passing and marshalling around the rucks was sloppy, leading to several knock-ons and a generally stilted attacking effort.

Leinster also lost Sean O’Brien to head injury just before the break – having already seen Richardt Strauss depart with a head injury – and Wasps left another try-scoring chance untaken with the final action.

Hughes and the impressive Sam Jones fed the ball to Piutau but his pass to Wade on the outside edge was poor. The ball flew into touch with space beckoning in front of Wade, an escape for Leinster.

That miss didn’t deter Wasps in the slightest, their attacking energy remaining undimmed after the interval. Piutau broke out of his 22 with his first touch of the second half, throwing a sublime offload as he went to ground soon after.

Joe Simpson scores their second try Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Wasps’ second try was a peach. Ben Jacobs slipped a clever inside pass to the rampaging Frank Halai, the All Black wing then adding finesse with an offload to the supporting Simpson.

The scrum-half just about escaped the despairing grasp of replacement Hayden Triggs – on after Mike McCarthy’s head injury – and turned on his pace to finish. Jackson’s conversion had Wasps 23-6 in front with 48 minutes gone.

Sexton was a shadow of his former self in Leinster’s 10 jersey, kicking the restart straight out on the full and then kicking the ball dead behind the tryline with a crucial penalty on the 53 minute mark.

Young’s men began to hammer the Leinster scrum after Cullen sent on Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong, Daly missing two long-range penalties from big wins in that department.

The second of those misses provided a shambolic moment that encapsulated Leinster’s performance. Daly’s penalty shot was wide but Kearney knocked on as he attempted to catch it, only for Jack Conan – O’Brien’s replacement – to scoop it up in an offside position. Penalty and 26-6.

Garry Ringrose was sprung from the bench in the hope of providing a late spark, but it was Wasps who finished on the attack.

Replacement wing Sailosi Tagicakibau almost crossed in the right corner after another sweeping attack, his right arm coming up just short but the ball bounced ideally for Wasps again to allow Piutau gather and top off his man-of-the-match performance with a try.

A depressing afternoon for Leinster.

Leinster scorers:

Penalties: Johnny Sexton (2 from 3)

Wasps scorers:

Tries: Christian Wade, Joe Simpson, Charles Piutau

Conversions: Ruaridh Jackson (2 from 2), Alex Lozowski (1 from 1)

Penalties: Ruaridh Jackson (3 from 3), Elliot Daly (1 from 1)

LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; Zane Kirchner, Fergus McFadden, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney (Garry Ringrose ’71); Johnny Sexton, Eoin Reddan (Luke McGrath ’49); Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’49), Richardt Strauss (Sean Cronin ’26), Mike Ross (Tadhg Furlong ’49); Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy (HIA - Hayden Triggs ’42); Jordi Murphy, Sean O’Brien (Jack Conan ’40), Jamie Heaslip (capt.).

Replacements not used: Cathal Marsh.

WASPS: Charles Piutau; Christian Wade (Sailosi Tagicakibau ’71), Elliot Daly, Ben Jacobs, Frank Halai, Ruaridh Jackson (Alex Lozowski ’73), Joe Simpson (Dan Robson ’56); Matt Mullan (capt.) (Simon McIntyre ’64), Carlo Festuccia (Ashley Johnson ’56), Jake Cooper-Woolley (Phil Swainston ’64); Joe Launchbury, Bradley Davies (James Gaskell ’67); Sam Jones, George Smith, Nathan Hughes (Guy Thompson ’73).

Referee: Mathieu Raynal.

Attendance: 16,791.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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