Sunday 22 July 2018

Magnificent Leinster run in eight tries in exhibition against Glasgow to confirm home quarter-final

Leinster 55 Glasgow Warriors 19

James Lowe of Leinster celebrates with team-mate Isa Nacewa, left, after scoring his side's seventh try
James Lowe of Leinster celebrates with team-mate Isa Nacewa, left, after scoring his side's seventh try
David Kelly

David Kelly

Eight tries for Leinster, a first 50+ points haul against feeble Glasgow and Leo Cullen's men remorseless run towards an April quarter-final here at the RDS maintained its serene passage.

They remain the team to beat in this season's Champions Cup.

Leinster could have lost this by less than seven and still led their pool by a distance.

But their sights are set on bigger things which is why, with the result never in doubt, the only real scare this afternoon in the RDS was when Jonathan Sexton hit his head off the ground after scoring his side's fifth try just before half-time.

He rose, slowly but surely, to resume his station but did not kick the conversion – Isa Nacewa obliged to make it 34-7 at the break – but only played for another ten minutes.

There was little to detain him here.

The half-time minis might have given this pathetic Glasgow side a decent match.

Leinster were guilt of falling asleep in a fitful first quarter, falling off tackles and exiting in slip-shod fasion but they gradually bucked up their ideas.

Scott Fardy of Leinster is congratulated by team mate Tadhg Furlong after scoring his side's fourth try
Scott Fardy of Leinster is congratulated by team mate Tadhg Furlong after scoring his side's fourth try

Despite being held to 7-7 after a horribly scrappy opening quarter after Jordi Murphy and Niko Matawulu exchanged tries, Leinster had secured the bonus-point try and the match just 15 minutes later.

Isa Nacewa, Sean Cronin and Scott Fardy rewarded some typically enterprising play and paper-thin resistance to score before Sexton nabbed a fifth before the half-time whistle, banging his head on the ground as he did so.

From 34-7 at half-time, thereafter it was about accountancy and they added three more tries after the break to their five-try haul from the first 40 minutes.

Perhaps it was the early kick-off but the early knockings were subdued.

Leinster coughed up the restart and Glasgow immediately made hay, creating decent scoring space out wide before being undone by a spillage when they attempted to recycle infield before James Lowe's thunderous left foot cleared the initial danger.

Glasgow, with no expectations at all, had the freedom to have a go from anywhere; Leinter's task was to impose themselves to ensure that the visitors ended up going nowhere.

One side knew they couldn't win; another that they couldn't lose and any intensity was visibly lacking. Not so much a mis-match; but a non-match.

Nevertheless, there was work to be done.

In the eighth minute, they were on their way from their first visit to the opposition half.

A pre-planned move from lineout ball, after a couple of phases, Jordi Murphy came in blind off Luke McGrath's shoulder and scattered the Glasgow defence to open the scoring, Jonathan Sexton converting.

Three minutes later, Murphy was binned, tackling Ali Price who had tapped a quick penalty less than ten metres out; the rule says one the opposition must retreat ten metres but, so close to the line, a try was inevitable without a tackle. It's a dumb rule.

Glasgow maintained the pressure as Leinster's concentration dipped but the Scots spilled the ball whenever they were in range, forcing every move.

They did strike for gold in the 18th minute when Niko Matawalu was allowed to skip through some shambolic defence; Peter Horne's conversion levelled the scores.

Leinster had fallen asleep but were roused from the kick-off; Luke McGrath's wonderful break dragged his side up the field and Lowe was almost put over in the left corner before being shunted across the line by Less Jones.

As the quarter ended, Isa Nacewa swept beneath the posts from a lovely inside switch pass from Sexton; wonderfully executed but nobody laid a glove on the Fjian international.

Sexton added for 14-7 and, just after Murphy trotted back from his stint on the naughty step, Sexton punished a laboured Glasgow exit, adding a penalty for 17-7.

It was entertaining if hardly intensely competitive fare.

Leinster mauled their way to their third try; after Glasgow illegally brought down a couple of shoves, Leinster seemed to collapse their own attempt but Sean Cronin, nonetheless, managed to extend an arm and dot down.

Now 24-7, Leinster could breathe and their exits became more competent and more thrilling; Lowe's marvellous pass set up another break-away with McGrath and Jack Conan off-loading with great cunning.

And, even though they were rudely interrupted by a turnover, they pounced again with Sexton almost getting in before McGrath set up Scott Fardy for the bonus-point try, with still five minutes to go to the half-time oranges. Sexton missed the conversion.

He didn't miss his next chance to score, dotting down in the corner but whacking his head off the turf in the process; he stayed down for a couple of minutes and handed over the kicking duties to his captain.

He re-emerged but, with the game long lacking any spark, Leinster did their best to produce fireworks.

Sexton left in the 50th minute, Leinster slowly emptying their bench as the slick machine entered cruise control for the rest of the journey home.

Jordan Larmour moved to outside centre to accommodate Rob Kearney's inclusion as Leinster fiddled around with the controls, a reminder of the depth of extraordinary talent on display.

Nacewa added a sixth try in the 57th minute, converted by Ross Byrne while Lowe crowned a fine European debut with a score of his own ten minutes later.

Adam Ashe and Matawalu, with his second, added tries for Glasgow who improbably ended the day looking for a bonus-point before Fardy added the final word with his second try, Leinster's eighth of the day.

These thoroughbreds will make their European return here on the first week of April; that promises to be a horse of a different colour.

Leinster - J Larmour; F McFadden, R Henshaw (R Kearney 55), I Nacewa (capt), J Lowe; J Sexton (R Byrne 50), L McGrath (N McCarthy 70); J McGrath (C Healy 50), S Cronin (B Byrne 58), T Furlong (A Porter (58); D Toner (J Ryan 63), S Fardy; J Murphy, J van der Flier, J Conan (D Leavy 55).

Glasgow Warriors - R Jackson; L Jones (H Pyrgos 71), H Jones, N Grigg, N Matawalu; P Thorne (B Thompson 68), A Price (G Horne 46-55; 59); J Bhatti (A Allan 59), G Turner (G Stewart 70), S Halanukonuka (D Rae 60); R Harley (capt), G Peterson (M McDonald 66); M Fagerson, M Smith (C Fusaro 66), A Ashe.

Ref - Marius Mitrea (FIR).

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