Sunday 18 March 2018

Johnny Sexton returns for clinical Leinster in bonus-point victory

Treviso 3 Leinster 27

Treviso's Edoardo Gori clears under pressure from Jordi Murphy during the Guinness PRO12 Round 6 clash
Treviso's Edoardo Gori clears under pressure from Jordi Murphy during the Guinness PRO12 Round 6 clash
Leinster's Cian Healy is tackled by Edoardo Gori during the Guinness PRO12 Round 6 clash with Treviso
Ben Te'o, Leinster, off-loads to Jonathan Sexton, after being tackled by Treviso's Marco Fuser
Leinster's Jack McGrath is tackled by Treviso's Luke McLean, Treviso Newsdesk Newsdesk

Johnny Sexton played 51 minutes on his return for Leinster on what was a mixed afternoon for him personally in Treviso.

The out-half was deservedly sin-binned 10 minutes into his second Leinster debut for cynically pulling back Andrea Patichetti after he had kicked the ball ahead of him.

By that stage, Sexton had already converted Jack McGrath's third minute try but the 30-year-old was soon taken off kicking duties after he went down and needed treatment on the groin injury that ruled him out of Ireland's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina.

He would continue to play on until the 51st minute, but not before he had a significant part in Leinster's expansive game plan - most notably in his contribution for Isa Nacewa's wonderful try in first half stoppage-time.

Leinster arrived in Italy knowing they had struggled at the same venue last season, barely escaping with a draw, but this time they were ruthlessly clinical in their approach.

Leo Cullen will be hoping the crucial bonus-point victory didn't come at a cost however, as he lost both Luke Fitzgerald (shoulder) and Sean Cronin to injury. A further update will be provided later today on the severity of their knocks, while Sexton's fitness will also be clarified.

McGrath got the visitors off to an ideal start when he benefited from a trademark bulldozing run from Cronin. Sexton added the extras but Jayden Hayward responded with a penalty shortly after.

To their credit, Leinster coped admirably when down to 14 players in a 10 minute spell that Treviso dominated and but for a solid defensive wall, the first half may have taken on a completely different complexion.

A strong Nacewa tackle forced a knock-on from Luke McClean while Dave Kearney also forced a crucial turnover penalty to allow his side relieve some of the pressure.

Fergus McFadden took over the place-kicking duties from Sexton and he added a penalty five minutes from half-time before a bit of Leinster magic unlocked the Italian defence for a second time.

Sexton put over a towering cross-field kick that Kearney brilliantly gathered and off-loaded for the newly appointed captain Nacewa to dot down for a 15-3 lead at the break.


Two tries in four second-half minutes sealed the bonus-point victory for the Blues for whom recent recruit Hayden Triggs made his debut.

Noel Reid had replaced the injured Fitzgerald and he showed great hands to release Jordi Murphy, who passed to Nacewa and he in turn fed Jack Conan to scamper over the whitewash.

McFadden was wide with the conversion but he soon made amends when Ben Te'o crossed for the all- important fourth try. The powerful Australian Rugby League convert is really starting to settle into his new code and he was again hugely impressive for Leinster.

Ludovico Nitoglia was then shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on and, unlike Treviso in the first half with Sexton in the bin, Leinster made their numerical advantage count.

Te'o found a gap in the Italians' tiring defence to score and McFadden put the gloss on what was, in the end, a comfortable 24 point win.

Leinster are now just six points off league leaders Scarlets and they welcome the Welsh side to the RDS on Friday night.

BENETTON TREVISO - J Hayward; L Nitoglia, A Pratichetti (E Bacchin h/t), S Christie, S Ragusi; L McLean, E Gori (C Smylie 6p); M Zanusso (A De Marchi 51), D Giazzon (L Bigi 53), R Harden (S Ferrari 51); M Fuser (JF Montauriol 58), T Paulo; F Minto (R Barbieri 58), A Zanni (capt), A Steyn

Leinster - I Nacewa (capt); F McFadden, B Te'o, L Fitzgerald (N Reid 28), D Kearney; J Sexton (C Marsh 64), E Reddan (L McGrath 64); J McGrath (C Healy 50), S Cronin (R Strauss 50), T Furlong (M Moore 50); H Triggs (J van der Flier 67), M McCarthy (D Toner 64); R Ruddock, J Murphy, J Conan.

Ref - A Brace (IRFU).

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