Cullen delight at Healy and Ross return in Leinster rout
Leinster 52 Zebre 0
Published 13/02/2016 | 02:30
A good night all round at the RDS. Leinster got their Pro12 campaign back on track with a record win over Zebre, while in the greater scheme of things the likes of Cian Healy and Mike Ross chalked up some valuable game-time to give Joe Schmidt some options for England in two weeks.
Zebre will host Leinster on that weekend and will not look forward to the rematch. They struggle at the best of times but are devastated with a dozen players away on Six Nations duty.
Leo Cullen said that both Healy and Ross came through in flying form, with both being withdrawn in the second half after good displays.
"Mike's been out for the guts of eight weeks, Cian a little less but decent enough stints out so it's great to have them back, bit of experience as well especially with so many young lads out there," said Cullen.
Leinster had the bonus point in the bag by half-time after shredding the Italians with some impressive rugby.
It was Leinster's seventh win in seven Pro12 meetings with Zebre and surpassed their record 37-7 win over the Italians three seasons ago.
Both sides were decimated because of the Six Nations but Leinster showed they have more in reserve as they dominated proceedings from start to finish at the RDS.
Winger Adam Byrne and Kiwi lock Hayden Triggs crossed for their first Leinster tries in a dominant opening half, while Cian Kelleher also got his first try for the province late in the game.
Triggs got over after a superb break by Garry Ringrose and when the impressive out-half Cathal Marsh was held up, Triggs was on hand to deliver the score.
Isa Nacewa converted and then added the extras to his own try when he scored in the left after Leinster worked the ball through the hands at pace.
That made it 14-0 after 18 minutes with the Italians offering little or nothing going forward.
It was no surprise then when Luke McGrath, on for the injured Isaac Boss, darted home through a sleepy defence five minutes from the break.
Nacewa again converted and the bonus point was wrapped up just before the interval when Marsh created the opening down the right which led to Byrne getting over for his first Leinster try.
Nacewa was unable to land the touchline conversion but Leinster still led 26-0 at half-time.
Inevitably, the pace of the game dropped after the restart but Leinster finally extended their lead after 59 minutes.
A succession of penalties to the left corner yielded nothing but Leinster kept up the pressure and a great break by Noel Reid cracked the visitors' defence for Jordi Murphy to score and make it 31-0 going into the final quarter. Zane Kirchner and Reid were the instigators of the sixth try with replacement hooker Sean Cronin barging over and Marsh adding the conversion from the right wing.
Ringrose became the seventh try-scorer for Leinster when he dashed over down the right seven minutes from time, with Marsh again adding the difficult conversion.
And the rout was completed when Kelleher grabbed his first try for Leinster as Cullen's men finished in style.