Leinster crush Wasps in Coventry to secure crucial home quarter-final
WASPS 19 LEINSTER 37
Leinster secured top spot in Pool A of the Heineken Champions Cup with this routine bonus point win over Wasps and they will face Ulster in the first all-Irish quarter-final since 2012 thanks.
Toulouse failed to secure a bonus point in their win over Bath which means they will travel to Racing 92 in the last eight, with Ulster coming to the Aviva Stadium for a re-match of the 2012 final.
As expected, the champions had too much fire-power for an already-out Wasps side.
Jamison Gibson-Park was outstanding in Luke McGrath's absence, while Joe Schmidt will be heartened by the return of a couple of his Ireland squad members and a relatively clean injury list.
Seán O'Brien was promoted to the Leinster starting line-up from the bench after Jack Conan failed to recover from a shoulder problem in time. The No 8 travelled to England and his problem is not expected to affect his Six Nations.
Operating at No 8, the Tullow Tank was making a timely first appearance since breaking his arm in November and his 56 minute shift will be a big boost to Joe Schmidt ahead of the opening game of Ireland's Championship defence against England, with Robbie Henshaw also making a big impact on his return for 62 minutes.
For the watching Eddie Jones, it was less cheerful as a third English club went down to Irish opposition over the weekend and Joe Launchbury was forced off with a neck injury.
Despite his time out, O'Brien looked razor sharp and two hard carries put Leinster in position for Ross Byrne to kick the first points of the game after the scrambling Wasps defence strayed offside.
The home side simply couldn't get their hands on the ball and when Leinster next visited enemy territory they left with their first try. Dave Kearney was stopped short, but a couple of phase later, Garry Ringrose stepped inside Nathan Hughes and powered through Tom Cruse's tackle to score.
After enduring 15 minutes without the ball, Wasps finally got some possession. Michele Campagnaro made headway through Ringrose, but Charlie Matthews knocked on close to the line.
Instead, Leinster went down the other end and left with another three points as Wasps' discipline cost them again.
Another penalty for not retreating under the high ball gave Byrne the chance to kick to the corner and the champions went to their maul and found little resistance as Sean Cronin touched down.
Byrne converted to make it 20-0 at the interval and the home side looked to bridge that gap after half-time, probing the Leinster line for gaps and looking menacing only for Rhys Ruddock to strip Elliot Daly of possession.
A rare penalty offered them another attacking opportunity but again the England international coughed up possession, this time failing to hold Rob Miller's pass.
Wasps finally got over for their first try through Nathan Hughes as the pressure finally told. Cronin needed a big hit to repel Campagnaro, but the No 8 went through O'Brien to score and Lima Sopoaga converted.
That was O'Brien's last act as Leo Cullen sent on Max Deegan and Wasps' poor discipline cost them once again as Jake Cooper-Woolley was penalised for hands in the ruck.
Again, Leinster went to the corner and again they mauled the ball over for Cronin to score his second try.
Byrne again converted, but Wasps refused to give up and their scrum-half Dan Robson managed a superb individual effort as he sold Andrew Porter a dummy and raced home from outside his '22.
Sopoaga converted before coming off and Leinster secured the bonus point with the try of the game, with a score made in St Michael's as Deegan broke the line, found Rory O'Loughlin on his shoulder and he put Noel Reid over.
Reid converted his own try and, although Marcus Watson managed a late consolation for Wasps and Reid scored a penalty at the death, the result was long gone beyond doubt.
WASPS – R Miller (M Watson 65); J Bassett, M Campagnaro, G Lovobalavu, E Daly; L Sopoaga (B Searle 65), D Robson (C Hampson 71); Z Zhvania (B Harris 56), T Cruse, J Cooper-Woolley (W Stuart 58); J Launchbury (capt) (C Matthews 10), W Rowlands (J Gaskell 72); B Morris, N Carr, N Hughes (A Johnston 60).
LEINSTER – J Larmour; A Byrne, G Ringrose, R Henshaw (R O'Loughlin 62), D Kearney; R Byrne (N Reid 66), J Gibson-Park (H O'Sullivan 74); J McGrath (C Healy 45), S Cronin (J Tracy 66), T Furlong (A Porter 54); D Toner (S Fardy 54), J Ryan; R Ruddock (capt), J an der Flier, S O'Brien (M Deegan 56).
Ref: M Adamson (Scotland)