Friday 23 March 2018

Madigan kicks on to end run of defeats for depleted Blues

Leinster 25 Bath 11

Leinster's Ian Madigan kicks a penalty. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Leinster's Ian Madigan kicks a penalty. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Paul Rees

Leinster punished a limp Bath performance to end a dismal run in Europe for the three-times champions who had lost their five previous Champions Cup matches, their worst run in European competition.

With no chance of qualification, coach Leo Cullen fielded a number of reserves but they were more than good enough for a one-dimensional Bath side who produced little despite knowing that defeat would also see them out of Europe. Bath produced some slick set moves from lineouts but Leinster looked by far the more threatening side.

Early on, Ben Te'o's break took play from the Leinster 22 to Bath's with the help of Zane Kirchner, but the home side had to be content with an Ian Madigan penalty to open the scoring after wasting an overlap. Kirchner and Isa Nacewa were causing Bath problems out wide, Matt Banahan once suckered into vacating space on his wing as James Tracy received the ball and passed in one movement, and a difference between the sides was Leinster's quicker relations in broken play.

Bath came armed with a kicking strategy but executed it as if feet were in the wrong boots. Chris Cook put a chip straight out of play, George Ford missed touch with a penalty and Banahan wasted a move by hoofing the ball tamely to Nacewa. Leinster's 12-3 lead at the break should have been greater.

They threatened Bath's line four times, Tracy getting the nearest to it with a section of the crowd mistaking his head-strapping for the ball and cheering what they thought was a score, but it was the visitors who came the closest to a try when Te'o's break was squandered by Kirchner. Jonathan Joseph picked up the loose ball and kicked diagonally to the line.

Leroy Houston looked as if he would be the first player to reach it, but the angle of the kick worked in the favour of Dave Kearney, who came off his wing to touch the ball down at the same time as Houston. The try was ruled out on review and Bath, whose squeezed lineout undermined their kicking strategy, had to be satisfied with Ford's 30th-minute penalty that levelled the scores before Madigan kicked three in seven minutes to put the home side firmly in control.

Garry Ringrose was twice involved in an early breakout in the second half. His second run saw him glide on the outside before being flattened by Banahan and the way he moved, with a subtle change of pace, challenged Bath's far more experienced midfield all evening.

Leinster had Ringrose while Bath looked ring rusty. Luke McGrath's counter-attack yielded three points when, after Ford had tackled Nacewa short of the line, Henry Thomas went off his feet at the subsequent ruck; Madigan's fifth penalty followed.

Bath hauled themselves back as Leroy Houston scored from close range, but within two minutes replacement hooker Sean Cronin got the try that finished off Bath whose only response was a Rhys Priestland penalty that Madigan matched to give him 20 points. Observer

Scorers - Leinster: Cronin try; Madigan 6 pens, 1 con. Bath: Houston try; Ford pen, Priestland pen.

Leinster: Kirchner (Reid 67); Nacewa (Sexton 74), Ringrose, Te'o, D. Kearney; Madigan, L. McGrath (Reddan 66) , Dooley (J McGrath 46), Tracy (Cronin 46), Furlong (Moore 46), Molony, M. McCarthy (Denton 46), Ruddock, van der Flier, Murphy (O'Brien 59).

Bath: Watson (Homer 64), Rokoduguni, Joseph, K. Eastmond, Banahan, Ford, Cook, Lahiff (Auterac 50), Webber (Batty 41), Wilson (Thomas 41), Hooper, Day (Ewels 53), Garvey, Louw (Denton 41), Houston.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)

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