Video highlights: Leinster turn on style to stop rot against hapless Treviso
Leinster 62 Treviso 7
Published 19/04/2014 | 02:30
In the cold light of the post-Toulon world, retaining the Pro12 title has taken on a new importance for Leinster and they made short work of a terrible Treviso side to move closer to their goal.
The champions pushed into a position where a win at Ravenhill on Friday week would be enough to keep the table-toppers in Dublin right through to the final.
After the meek submission in France and the disappointing follow-up in Wales against the Ospreys last week, a victory will have had restorative qualities for coach Matt O'Connor, but finishing the job and retaining the league is likely to be the only remedy that can ease the fans' pain of watching Munster contest the semi-final next weekend.
His team started well, but a serious injury to Treviso centre Christian Loamanu broke their stride midway through the first-half . Then, after securing the winning bonus point after just 26 minutes of a game that lasted two hours, they lost their way either side of half-time.
Still, they had more than enough to see off the challenge of the league's second from bottom team, who are in danger of missing out on Europe with Zebre close on their heels.
This was a fun Good Friday run out, but things are likely to be a little more intense in Belfast for a game that should go some way towards sorting out the semi-final line-up.
"I doubt very much that the sun will be shining up there – it never has been when I've been there," O'Connor quipped.
"They're a different proposition and they need to win with their tough run-in. They'll be very, very keen. It's the opening of their stadium, it will be a pretty hostile environment and we'll have to make sure that emotionally and physically we'll be up for it."
After the poor display in France earlier this month, the prospect of retaining the Pro12 is helping to galvanise O'Connor's squad.
"It sharpens the focus, it's something very tangible that's not very far away," he added. "The boys have got pretty good clarity on what needs to be done there. The B&I lads have a trophy that they are desperate to win and the senior boys have been very encouraging.
"It's huge, the guys have worked really hard since July, they've been pretty good. There are certain things that we've made significant progress on and it'd be disappointing, especially if you end up with a home semi-final, not to be in the final. It's knockout rugby.
"Home advantage is huge. We were on the wrong end of it in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
"The boys, to be playing in front of their own fans, family and friends – it's a huge bonus. That's a tangible thing and we have to make sure that we control what happens to us and not leave it to the opposition."
Leinster looked like a team who needed to release some tension in the opening stages when, led by the physical Mike McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy, they tore into Treviso and Jimmy Gopperth kicked a penalty to open the scoring.
Murphy got the try-fest under way when taking Rob Kearney's inside ball and crashing over after strong work by Darragh Fanning initially. Sean Cronin got an early Easter blessing from Treviso's Paul Derbyshire, whose pop from a line-out bounced into the hooker's hands and he sped over.
Then came the sickening clash between Loamanu and Zane Kirchner who were both watching Gopperth's up and under closely when they collided at high speed. It was the Tongan-born Japanese international who came off worst and needed lengthy treatment before being taken to hospital where he was thankfully reported to be back on his feet last night.
Leinster held their focus better than the Italians and got their third try through Cian Healy, who made the most of his 40-minute outing with an abrasive display.
Murphy injured his shoulder in the build-up to that try and was forced off, but the march continued without him as Gopperth took the game to the Italians' defence before sending Kirchner over. Job done, they switched off for the rest of the half as Treviso hit back with a penalty try from a maul that saw Isaac Boss sin-binned for his role in halting their march.
The Ireland international didn't return as Luke McGrath was introduced and helped turn the game with an impressive half an hour in which he scored one try and created two others as Leinster finally roused themselves from their slumber.
"He's a good player, a good kid," O'Connor said of the former Ireland U-20 captain, who upped the tempo, despite Jack McGrath getting a silly yellow card.
Dominic Ryan got the scoring back on track, before McGrath's break saw him send Noel Reid over for a try and the scrum-half then sent Jamie Heaslip over for a score.
He darted over himself, before Reid played a one-two with Heaslip to cap the nine-try rout and complete the job. The tests will get bigger as the run-in continues, but getting back to winning ways was top of the agenda and they'll take it.
Leinster – R Kearney; Z Kirchner (B Macken h-t), B O'Driscoll (B Macken 14-16 blood) (I Madigan 66), N Reid, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; C Healy (J McGrath h-t), S Cronin (R Strauss 57), M Moore (M Bent 54); D Toner (T Denton 57), M McCarthy; R Ruddock (C Healy 65-73), J Murphy (D Ryan 23), J Heaslip (capt).
Treviso – L McLean (J Ambrosini 73); L Nitoglia, M Campagnaro, C Loamanu (B Williams 17), A Esposito; M Berquist, T Botes (F Semenzato 62); M Mucccignat (I Fernandez-Rouyet 60), L Ghiraldini (capt), L Cittadini (P Di Santo 62); M Fuser, V Bernabo; M Filippucci, P Derbyshire (A Pavanello 60), R Barbieri (D Budd 44).
Referee – N Paterson (SRU)