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Leinster into Champions Cup quarters after hanging on for draw at Wasps

Matt O’Connor’s men top Pool 2, but their second-half display was worrying.

Wasps 20

Leinster 20

Murray Kinsella reports from the Ricoh Arena

LEINSTER SURVIVED A late scare in Coventry to secure the 20-20 draw that sees them top Pool 2 of the Champions Cup and advance into the quarter-finals of the European competition.

Luke Fitzgerald tackled by Joe Simpson Luke Fitzgerland was busy at outside centre in the Ricoh Arena. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Second-half collapse saw Leinster give up a 20-6 lead, but Andy Goode’s last-gasp drop goal attempt to win the encounter for Wasps sailed wide of the posts to ensure Matt O’Connor’s men survived.

Ian Madigan had a 77th-minute opportunity to push Leinster in front from a long-range penalty, but the inside centre’s poor day with the boot [two penalties from six attempts] continued.

O’Connor’s men had looked back to somewhere near their best in an excellent first-half display, but the lack of composure and leadership when Wasps turned up the heat after the interval was worrying.

Despite the dramatic ending, a draw means Leinster are not yet out of the running for a home quarter-final. Bonus point wins for Bath at home against Glasgow [with a 14-point winning margin] or Toulouse away to Montpellier would mean O’Connor’s men having to travel for their knock-out tie.

Wasps made a disastrous start to the game when wild-haired flanker Ashley Johnson recklessly ran through Dave Kearney as the Leinster wing rose to gather the opening kick-off. Referee Jérôme Garcès paused briefly to check with his TMO before sending Johnson to the bin with just 24 seconds on the clock.

Leinster didn’t hang around in turning their numerical advantage into points as sustained period of pressure in the Wasps 22 ended with superb hands from Jamie Heaslip, Ian Madigan and Rob Kearney freeing Fergus McFadden to dive over in the right corner.

Fergus McFadden scores the first try of the game McFadden dives over for his early score. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Madigan’s touchline conversion sent O’Connor’s men 7-0 in front in just the fourth minute of play, but Wasps hit back immediately when Sean Cronin was unluckily caught offside after a spilled ball and Andy Goode slotted the penalty.

Leinster looked hugely threatening as their scrum and line-out provided some high-quality first-phase possession, but two misses off the tee from Madigan – the second of them very kickable – meant they could not extend their lead.

However, another dashing attacking from the backline on an old-school Leinster loop play allowed Rob Kearney to burst back into Wasps’ 22 shortly after, with Madigan darting close to the tryline before his forwards hammered the home side’s defence.

Wasps were penalised for stepping offside and Madigan made amends for his earlier misses to put Leinster 10-3 up with 21 minutes on the clock.

Leinster continued to surge forward despite losing Eoin Reddan to injury, with Jordi Murphy influencing proceedings notably. The openside flanker burst through in midfield to lay the foundation for Leinster’s next score, taking Gopperth’s short pass and scything 30 metres upfield.

Luke Fitzgerald carried next, but Wasps tighthead Lorenzo Cittadini failed to roll awy and Garcès lost patience, sending the Italian to the sin bin. With Madigan receiving treatment, Gopperth slotted the penalty for a 13-3 lead.

Cronin was again the route of Wasps’ second score, judging the ball to be out of the ruck and racing to grab it from under the nose of Joe Simpson, but Garcès had other ideas.

Goode made it 13-6 heading for the break, although Leinster weren’t finished just yet.

Jordi Murphy makes a break Jordi Murphy was in sensational form for Matt O'Connor's side. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A powerful surge from McFadden from more clean line-out possession got Leinster on the front foot, before another loop play brought them towards the tryline. Cronin was held up short, and Isaac Boss – on for Reddan – scooped the pill of the floor and dotted down.

Play actually moved away to the right, where Gopperth thought he had scored, but TMO Herve Dubes ruled that Boss had indeed grounded the ball legally. Madigan converted for the second time.

There was time for more action before the interval, as Kane Douglas saw yellow for a shoulder up arond Johnson’s face off the ball. The Leinster lock got 10 minutes to cool off, but Goode missed an easy shot at goal to leave the visitors 20-6 to the good at the break.

O’Connor’s side had an early second-half chance to put themselves in an even more dominant position as they burst into Wasps’ 22, but crossing from Devin Toner in front of Michael Bent halted the promising passage.

Wasps took encouragement from that survival and built into the game, Johnson and number eight Nathan Hughes making the hard yards as the likes of Christian Wade and Elliot Daly saw more of the ball in the wider channels.

Tom Varndell had a try ruled out after 49 minutes, with Hughes penalised for crassing as Leinster looked to scramble across and tackle the Wasps wing into touch.

Indeeed, Leinster defended manfully, with McFadden making a number of smashing tackles. But Dai Young’s side had the scent of a comeback in their nostrils and came in waves at the Leinster tryline.

Rob Kearney was pinged for not supporting his body weight as he jackled inthe 60th minute, allowing Goode to kick into the corner. The Wasps maul went close, before prop Matt Mullan burrowed over from close range, although the grounding looked dubious.

Tom Varndell scores a try that was disallowed Varndell had a try disallowed in the second half. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

Goode slotted the extra two points to draw the English side to 20-13 and suddenly Leinster suddently appeared to be utterly lacking in mental steel. Kicks out on the full, a new-found bluntness in attack and forward passes conspired to heap the pressure on.

Wasps worked their way back into the left-hand corner with 69 minutes gone, where a clever shift maul brought them to within a metre. Hughes took responsiblity and cleverly dived over to score.

Goode’s first conversion attemp struck the post, but Darragh Fanning had led an early blockdown attempt, meaning Garcès allowed the Wasps’ 10 a second chance. The former England international made no mistake to level the score and send us into the frenetic endgame.

Wasps scorers:

Tries: Matt Mullan, Nathan Hughes

Conversions: Andy Goode [2 from 2]

Penalties: Andy Goode [2 from 3]

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Fergus McFadden, Isaac Boss

Conversions: Ian Madigan [2 from 2]

Penalties: Ian Madigan [2 from 6], Jimmy Gopperth [1 from 1]

WASPS: Rob Miller (Andrea Masi ’61); Christian Wade, Elliot Daly, Ben Jacobs (Alex Lozowski ’77), Tom Varndell; Andy Goode, Joe Simpson; Matt Mullan (Simon McIntyre ’73), Edd Shervington (Carlo Festuccia ’57), Lorenzo Cittadini (yellow card ’30 to ’40); Bradley Davies, James Gaskell (Kearnan Myall ’58); Ashley Johnson (yellow card ’1 to ’12) (Jake Cooper-Woolley ’49), James Haskell (capt.), Nathan Hughes (Jake Cooper-Woolley ’36 to ’40).

Replacements not used: Guy Thompson, Ed Jackson.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden (Darragh Fanning ’5), Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan (Isaac Boss ’27); Michael Bent, Sean Cronin (Richardt Strauss ’63), Marty Moore (Tadhg Furlong ’63); Devin Toner, Kane Douglas (yellow card ’40 to ’50) (Mike McCarthy ’72); Dominic Ryan, Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip (capt.) (Jack Conan ’65).

Replacements not used: Jamie Hagan, Gordon D’Arcy.

Referee: Jérôme Garcès.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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