Nacewa hits heights to orchestrate Leinster rout
LEINSTER 42 TREVISO 8
IT'S on nights like this that you wish Isa Nacewa was Irish.
The New Zealander won one cap for Fiji in the 2003 World Cup and has not played international rugby since.
The global game's loss is Leinster's gain as the European champions can rely on the Aucklander to lead the team in style during the periods when their frontliners are away on Six Nations duty.
Reverting to full-back in the absence of Rob Kearney, Nacewa was central to everything the hosts did well on a night when they scored five tries and collected a Pro12 bonus point against an understrength, but game, Treviso side.
Leinster have installed a new, electric blue scoreboard at the RDS and the players started as if under orders to give it a workout. The tries might not have flowed until towards the end, but the intent was there from the off.
Nacewa opened the scoring with an early penalty and then created a sublime opening up the left, only for Benjamin de Jager to spoil his fun with a last-gasp tackle as he looked to get his final pass away.
Alberto di Bernardo levelled with a drop-goal, but it was Leinster who finally got the try their play deserved as the match moved into its second quarter. Ian Madigan -- who had another excellent outing at fly-half -- took Leo Auva'a's pass and stepped inside Ezio Galon's tackle to cross.
Nacewa missed the conversion, but added a penalty to leave the gap at eight points at half-time.
Di Bernardo missed an attempt to close that gap, allowing Nacewa to extend it, but the Italians hit back after a spell of concerted pressure as props Pedro di Santo and Matteo Muccignat combined to fool Heinke van der Merwe and Muccignat managed to get his 20-stone frame over the line in the corner.
Stunned into action, Leinster responded instantly. Joe Schmidt sent Rhys Ruddock, released from the Ireland squad yesterday morning, and Jamie Hagan into the fray and Fionn Carr made the break that created a second try.
The winger scythed through the defence, returning a poor kick before being halted in the '22'. Brendan Macken and Ruddock both drove Leinster forward, before Richardt Strauss powered past Ezio Galon and over.
Treviso's will was broken and Nacewa got the try his play deserved soon after. Spotting some forwards on the blindside, he attacked at pace and fed Dave Kearney -- another replacement released from Ireland duty.
The winger skipped outside his man and returned the ball to Nacewa, who touched down and then converted his own try.
He wasn't finished there, with youngster John Cooney the recipient of another masterclass. Madigan slickly looped with Kevin McLaughlin before sending it wide to the fullback. Nacewa dummied to Kearney before feeding the replacement scrum-half who crossed for his first senior try.
Again Nacewa converted and he exited the pitch to enjoy yet another Man of the Match award. His replacement, Carr, who had earlier been substituted, was on hand to collect a perfectly executed Madigan cross-kick and score. The Italians' minds had, by that stage, already drifted towards the plane home. Their resilience had been broken long ago by an, at times, devastating display.
Schmidt will still want improvements for next week's clash with the Scarlets and after delivering such a strong showing on their first outing, few would bet against the second string improving.
It doesn't matter who they put on the pitch, it seems, Leinster are still formidable -- as long as Nacewa is part of their line-up. They lead the league by 14 points and they will take some stopping.
LEINSTER -- I Nacewa; D Hudson, B Macken, C O'Shea, F Carr; I Madigan, I Boss; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, N White; D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, L Auva'a.
TREVISO -- N Ludovico; B de Jager, G Ezio, A Pratichetti, B Williams; A di Bernardo, A Chillon; M Muccignat, E Ceccato, I Fernandez Rouyet; F Minto, V Bernabo; G Padro, B Vermaak, M Filippucci.
REF -- L Hodges (WRU).