Thursday 22 March 2018

Leinster show character to stamp authority on Europe

Leinster 25 Montpelier 3

Rob Kearney on the way to scoring Leinster's second try
Rob Kearney on the way to scoring Leinster's second try


If anyone wondered whether Leinster had the requisite desire and grit to successfully defend their European title, they surely don't any more.

They proved their resolve remains steadfast during a remarkable 13 minutes of rugby mid-way through the first half when they were camped on their own try-line and faced charge after charge of the not-so-light Montpellier Brigade.

Man-mountains like Mamuka Gorgodze, Alex Tulou and Hendrikus Hancke kept throwing themselves with naked ferocity at the thin blue line, but the Leinster defenders were in no mood to buckle.

From the 19th to the 32nd minute they made tackle after desperate tackle, surviving Damien Browne's sin-binning, until they eventually turned over the ball and Ian Madigan booted it down the field to throaty roars from the Leinster supporters.

It was heartbreaking stuff for the visitors, and from that moment you could see they no longer find a way back into the contest. At that point they were already trailing by 17-0 after Leinster scored two early tries through Sean O'Brien and the in-form Rob Kearney.

When their best efforts didn't put a dent in that deficit, it was only going to end one way. "I thought the guys really showed their character during that 15-minute spell when we defended on our line," said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt after the match.

"We played a good mix of the flasher stuff at times, but that was real roll-your-sleeves-up rugby."

Fergus McFadden added insult to Montpellier's injury when he clipped over a penalty earned after Leinster's first serious foray into the French team's half for a good 20 minutes and gave his team a 20-0 half-time lead.

They started the second half with the same sort of purpose they did the first, and when Isa Nacewa took off on one of those trademark swivel-hipped runs that left defenders looking slow and awkward, the field position had been established for Leinster's killer third try.

When the ball was recycled it was moved across the field with great speed and purpose, until it eventually came to Cian Healy who barged his way over the French line with the brawny help of some of his mates in the Leinster pack.

Leinster didn't add the bonus-point fourth try, but they'll hardly mind. This win secured the all-important home quarter-final, and they'll go into the knock-out stages as deserving tournament favourites.

Leinster: R Kearney (F Carr 64); F McFadden, E O'Malley, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; I Madigan, I Boss (E Reddan 57); C Healy (H Van Der Merwe 48), R Strauss (S Cronin 57), J Hagan (M Ross h-t); L Cullen (D Toner 58), D Browne; R Ruddock, S O'Brien (S Jennings 58), J Heaslip.

Montpellier: JB Peyras (T Combezou 54); T Nagusa, Y Audrin, P Bosch, M Bustos Moyano; F Trinh Duc (S Fernandez 57), J Tomas; N Leleimalefaga (JG Figallo 59) , A Creevy (E Van Vuuren 54), G Jgenti (M Bustos 54); H Hancke, J Tuineau (M DeMarco 57); F Quedraogo, M Gorgodze, A Tulou (V Bost 70).

Referee: N Paterson (SRU)

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