Rugby Column Number 128: The Kildare Nationalist – October 16 2018


Wasps stung by Leinster demolition

By Daire Walsh

LEINSTER sent out a warning to all and sundry at the RDS on Friday evening – registering a stunning 52-3 triumph over Wasps in their opening game of the new Heineken Champions Cup season.

This is a world away from Leo Cullen’s first campaign as Blues’ supremo, when they suffered home and away losses to the English men on an aggregate score of 84-16.

While the final scoreline might suggest that the hosts were always in line for a routine win, Wasps were well in the frame until they lost fly-half Lima Sopoaga to the sin-bin on the stroke of 40 minutes.

Leinster ruthlessly exploited their numerical advantage either side of the interval, and the deflated visitors had no answer to the adrenaline-fuelled champions – who completed an eighth-try rout in fine style.

After featuring on the right-wing in the province’s PRO14 success against Munster six days earlier, Suncroft’s Fergus McFadden made way for the returning Jordan Larmour. Kill native James Tracy was a second period replacement for Sean Cronin, but it was the starting hooker who got the ball rolling for Leinster with a sixth-minute try.

A Sexton conversion extended their lead to seven, before Sopoaga responded for their opponents via a routine place-kick. They made life difficult for Leinster without necessarily threatening to break over the whitewash – and Dai Young’s charges looked set to remain in the reckoning at the mid-way point.

Sopoaga’s deliberate knock-on left Wasps hamstrung, however, and Luke McGrath touched down to give Leinster a 14-3 cushion heading into the dressing rooms. Before Sopoaga could return to the field of play, the outstanding James Lowe sprinted over for a magnificent try.

This placed the eastern province within range of a bonus point, which inevitably arrived in the shape of Luke McGrath’s second try in the 52nd-minute. There was little Wasps could do to halt Leinster’s relentless pursuit of scores and it proved to be a final-quarter to forget for the Ricoh Arena outfit.

Lowe, Larmour, Robbie Henshaw and Jack McGrath (in the final act of the game) added tries for the rampant Blues, who will embark on an away trip to Toulouse this weekend in a perfect frame of mind.

This encounter came hot on the heels of a Celtic Cup clash between Leinster ‘A’ and Munster ‘A’ at nearby Donnybrook. Kildare men Adam Byrne (Kill) and Jimmy O’Brien (Eadestown) both crossed over, as Leinster booked a spot in the competition’s inaugural decider with a comprehensive 46-25 success.

Meanwhile, another Eadestown native – Tadhg Beirne – joined Athy’s Joey Carbery in the Munster side for their 10-10 draw with Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Carbery’s penalty on 31 minutes broke the deadlock in a fiercely-competitive affair, but Luke Cowan-Dickie’s converted effort gave their English counterparts a 10-3 half-time lead.

Carbery was on hand to convert CJ Stander’s five-pointer on the resumption and this was enough to give Munster two vital points on their journey back to Limerick.

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