Tuesday 20 March 2018

Injury-hit Leinster stroll into home semi-final

Leinster 50 Treviso 19

Jonathan Sexton is congratulated by his Leinster team-mates Rob Kearney, right, and Garry Ringrose, left, after scoring his side's first try. Photo: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton is congratulated by his Leinster team-mates Rob Kearney, right, and Garry Ringrose, left, after scoring his side's first try. Photo: Sportsfile
Noel Reid goes over to score his side's seventh try. Photo: Sportsfile
Isa Nacewa makes a break. Photo: Sportsfile
Richardt Strauss scores his side's third try of the game. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The permutations were simple for Leinster and in the end so too was the ease at which they cruised to the bonus point victory that sealed them a home semi-final against Ulster.

Leinster were much improved after last weekend's poor showing against Ulster but they never really had to get out of second gear against a woeful Treviso outfit.

The defeat for the Italians coupled with Zebre's bonus point win over the Dragons means that Treviso will not play in the Champions Cup next season but for Leinster all eyes now turn to a semi-final at the RDS on May 20.

It was about as routine as victories come at this level but injuries to Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney will have dampened the mood.

Sexton shipped a big hit six minutes into the second half and after receiving treatment to his head/neck area, he was replaced. Kearney went off after just 24 minutes with an ankle problem and is a major doubt for their last four clash.

Three first-half tries, two from Richardt Strauss set Leinster on their way and with Garry Ringrose picking holes, it was only a matter of time before the hosts grabbed the bonus point.

That duly arrived courtesy of Jack McGrath after 46 minutes as the attention quickly turned to the play-off.

The opening try after nine minutes was a classic Sexton power play that has worked so often in an Ireland jersey.

He brilliantly linked with Isa Nacewa in midfield and after the ball went through the hands of both Kearney brothers, the ball eventually made its way back to Sexton who finished in style.

Strauss' two tries were less glamorous but equally as effective. The hooker twice got over from close range as Leinster led 17-0 at the break.

McGrath sealed the bonus point but while doing so, Sexton was in a heap on the turf and was replaced. Thankfully he was able to walk off the pitch.

Four further second-half tries from Nacewa, Reid, Ringrose and Mick Kearney (shoulder) who joined Sexton and Rob Kearney on the casualty list while Devin Toner was also a late withdrawal through illness.

Leinster took their foot off the pedal and inexplicably allowed Treviso in for three tries through replacements Marco Lazzaroni, Matteo Muccignat and Enrico Bacchin. Leo Cullen's side did have the final say however when Ringrose's fine performance was capped with an eighth try in injury-time.

Leinster won't be getting carried away as a much more difficult test lies ahead against Ulster. Instead, their main concern now will be over the fitness of Sexton and Rob Kearney.

Scorers - Leinster: Nacewa try, 4 cons, Strauss 2 tries, Sexton try, con, J McGrath, J Murphy, Reid, Ringrose try. Benetton Treviso: Lazzaroni, Muccignat, Bacchin try each; Hayward 2 cons.

Leinster: R Kearney (N Reid 24); I Nacewa (capt), G Ringrose, B Te'o, D Kearney; J Sexton (C Marsh 47), E Reddan (L McGrath 68); J McGrath (P Dooley 55), R Strauss (S Cronin 52), M Ross (T Furlong 52); R Molony, M Kearney (H Triggs 58); R Ruddock, J Murphy (D Ryan 54, J Heaslip.

Benetton Treviso: J Hayward; L Nitoglia, T Iannone (E Bacchin h-t), A Sgarbi, A Esposito; L McLean, E Gori (A Lucchese 42); M Zanusso (M Muccignat 67), O Gega (L Bigi 54), S Ferrari (S Manu 55); M Fuser, F Paulo; F Minto (A De March 67), A Zanni (capt) (M Lazzaroni h-t), A Steyn.

Referee: B Whitehouse (WRU)

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