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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 18 May 2021
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LEINSTER PLAYED HOST to Cardiff Blues at the Aviva Stadium in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup. As always, we would love to hear your thoughts on the action and incidents that unfolded.

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Full-time: Leinster 34-3 Cardiff

Good early-evening from a brisk Aviva Stadium. A gentle breeze is rippling across the West Stand Upper and Neil Francis is chatting amiably to Tom McGurk.

No changes to the line-ups, which I will post … post-haste.

25 minutes to kick-off so feel free to make some scoreline predictions. You can tweet me @patmccarry and I’ll do my best to borrow your insights and rework them as my own.

Line-ups to follow shortly …

LEINSTER: R Kearney; I Nacewa, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), B Thorn, K McLaughlin, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.

CARDIFF: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, C Laulala, G Evans, C Czekaj; D Parks, L Williams; G Jenkins (capt), R Tyrell, S Andrews, B Davies, J Down, M Paterson, M Williams, X Rush.

Referee: Dave Pearson (England)

Good to see Kevin McLaughlin getting the nod for this match – a season hampered by injuries but a dogged performer that complements O’Brien and Heaslip in the back-row. He will be content to provide back-up to O’Brien if the Tullow man gets the inclination to have a barnstormer.

Edinburgh have already kicked the wheels off the apple-cart – can Cardiff upset the favourites and cup holders?

The Aviva is slowly filling up and, when it does, it will be packed out with Leinster fans. Rumour has it that the Welsh club only requested 500 of its allotted 12,000 seats. The rest were returned to the province for dispersal to supporters from New Ross to Carlingford and everywhere in between.

Brian O’Driscoll is back, Isa Nacewa and Rob Kearney have been in the most purple of patches and a certain Brad Thorn – aged 37 – is minutes away from his Heineken Cup debut. Get your teeth into that!

To ramp up the atmosphere even more, Shane Horgan has just been brought on to wave farewell to the Leinster faithful … gets a lovely vase too.

KICK-OFF: “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses belts out and the blues flags flutter. Dan Parks kicks us off …

LEINSTER 0-3 CARDIFF: We’ve seen this before. Leigh Halfpenny with a coolly converted penalty. The Cardiff full-back made a break on halfway and Jamie Heaslip did not release him. First blood to the Welsh.

LEINSTER 3-3 CARDIFF: Leinster scrum on 5 minutes and Cian Healy lays down a marker. Jonny Sexton kicks for the line but Richardt Strauss’ throw is snatched and Dan Parks clears … to the flying Rob Kearney.

Halfpenny is the culprit at the breakdown and Sexton has the chance to level matters. His penalty from the 10-metre line (in the Cardiff half) soars over.

For all you Connacht supporters out there – Dan Parks attempted a drop goal from 30 metres out but pulled it wide left. Kearney claims another towering up and under. Healy and Sexton drive Leinster forward.

LEINSTER 10-3 CARDIFF – Try Nacewa.

Sexton at the forefront again. His dummy breaks up the Cardiff backline and Kearney has the simple task of feeding Isa Nacewa to dive over in the corner.

Sexton nails his conversion and Parks kicks the ball over the endline after a 60-metre hoof. Scrum on Cardiff’s 10-metre line. Mike Ross gets the pats on the head this time and Sexton has a penalty straight in front of the posts. 17 minutes gone an the home team are exerting their influence.

No joy for Jonny as he misses the relatively simple attempt. Looks like he pulled his kick.

LEINSTER 13-3 CARDIFF: Sexton redeems himself when Cardiff concede a penalty off the back of a haphazard line-out. The out-half connects solidly from out on the left flank, some 35 metres out.

Luke Fitzgerald takes a great high ball and Nacewa somehow avoids going into touch during an excellent break. Leigh Halfpenny tries to spark his team before O’Driscoll grabs and rag dolls him into touch. The centre’s defensive game has been a joy to behold over the past decade.

15 minutes remain in the half and it’s time to reset the scrums. Thankfully, the match has not been a repeat of the grind at Thomond Park last weekend.

LEINSTER 18-3 CARDIFF: Rob Kearney picks and sprints over unopposed from 5 metres out after a great snipe from 40 metres out by Eoin Reddan

LEINSTER 20-3 CARDIFF: Sexton slots over from right in front of the posts.

Cardiff need a score of any size to get back into this match. Casey Laulala tries to drive up the centre but the determined Leinster defence is not allowing an inch. Turnover ball and penalty given for Sexton to clear.

LEINSTER 27-3 CARDIFF: A stupendous reverse pass from Sexton puts Fitzgerald clear. He hares forward and finds O’Driscoll on his shoulder. He scampers over and touches down under the posts. Massive cheers erupt from all corners of the ground. Sexton converts.

Isa Nacewa races in for Leinster’s first try. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

HALF-TIME

LEINSTER 27-3 CARDIFF: The Welsh side will need to score early in the second-half if they are to have any hope of avoiding a resounding defeat.

What can Cardiff to to retrieve the dreadful situation they find themselves in? Not much on their bench, apart from Tom James and John Yapp.

James O’Reilly from Dragon’s Den (the guy who cried) is on the pitch to launch the new Leinster watch. Now five lads in Leinster jerseys are doing an acapella version of Coldplay’s Every Teardrop is a Waterfall. Sounds better than it reads!

Fiona Gallagher has called it right. Sexton is pulling the strings and Nacewa and Kearney are running amok.

Must not forget that the 5 crooners are accompanied by a guitarist with a skunk/Boca Juniors streak in his hair.

The second half is moments away …

Second half is underway. No changes on either side. Sexton to restart.

TRY! LEINSTER 34-3 CARDIFF: Remember when Martin Kaymer skipped his tee shot off a lake and landed an amazing hole-in-one? This is what it feels like now for Leinster as they are trying new tricks and watching as they pay off.

Cian Healy destroys Michael Paterson at the start of the half and Leinster pile forward soon after on the left wing. Healy goes close before O’Driscoll’s excellent pass puts Kearney through for his second try.

LEINSTER 34-3 CARDIFF: Sexton’s conversion strikes the post but sneaks over.

Nathan ‘Wagga’ Hines liking what he sees. Sean Cronin is on for Strauss and Shane Jennings has replaced McLaughlin.

Cardiff are trying to mount a comeback to gain, at the very least, some respectability on the scoresheet. Great defensive tackles by Fitzgerald and Brad Thorn put them on their heels before O’Driscoll knocks forward in contact on the right flank.

More Leinster subs as Fergus McFadden replaces Fitzgerald and Devin Toner comes on for Thorn. Maybe they saw the substitutes’ board before they delivered those crunching tackles.

Isaac Boss replaces Reddan as Cian Healy gets some treatment.

50,340 in attendance at Ye Olde Lansdowne Road this evening. They’ve been treated to a stunning display of running rugby.

Gavin Evans is denied a certain try when Mike Ross makes it to the left-hand corner to wrap him up. Martyn Williams picks and dives from two metres out and we have a TMO …

No try given. Williams looked convinced but he never had real control on the stretch.

Heinke van der Merwe replaces Healy. Still 15 minutes remaining.

Sean O’Brien, where have you been? Carlow’s favourite rugby son gallops 40 metres up the centre, from inside the Leinster ’22, before being eventually hauled down. Sexton then drops the shoulder and feints left before kicking clear.

Half a standing ovation for O’Driscoll as he is replaced by Ian Madigan.

Nathan White comes on for Ross and that is the bench well and truly cleared now. The splinter will be getting lonely.

Into the last eight minutes and all that remains on this feel-good day would be a Kearney hat-trick or a try for Gordon D’Arcy – his last one came against Glasgow Warriors back in November.

Substitute Ceri Sweeney has a chance to reduce the arrears for Cardiff but knocks on with the tryline beckoning.

Cian Healy tries to play it cool after being named the Heineken Man-of-the-Match but can’t contain the joy and flashes a toothy grin.

Nacewa bursts clear on the right and feeds McFadden, who is taken down in the Cardiff ’22. Cronin and van der Merwe try their luck on the opposite flank but come up short and the ball is turned over.

Yellow card for Tom James as Leinster push for a final score.

FULL-TIME: LEINSTER 34-3 CARDIFF

An emphatic quarter-final win for Leinster and they will face the winners of Clermont and Saracens’ match tomorrow. Kearney and Nacewa were immense again but the defence must get a mention – with O’Brien, Healy and co. battling throughout to deny Cardiff a try.

Leinster have been a pleasure to watch and you’ve been wonderful company.

Please continue to make your comments and observations on the match and how Joe Schmidt’s men will fare in the latter stages of the cup.

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