Leinster took another step towards reclaiming their Heineken Cup crown on Saturday as they crushed Cardiff Blues 34-3 at Aviva Stadium.
Leinster took another step towards reclaiming their Heineken Cup crown on Saturday as they crushed Cardiff Blues 34-3 in a one-sided fixture.
It was a performance of champions from last year's winners, with their first-half blitz shell-shocking the Welsh region at the home of Irish rugby. They must now wait to see whether they will go to Twickenham or Bordeaux in the semis.
The early sparring saw Leinster enjoy much of the early dominance at scrum-time as they worked over their Welsh opponents, in particular the front-row. That was the platform they used to race into a healthy lead that saw them go in at half-time 27-3 up. A Cardiff comeback looked impossible.
Isa Nacewa, Rob Kearney and Brian O'Driscoll scored the tries in the first 40 minutes, with the latter's effort set to be a nominee for try of the year.
Cardiff Blues were struggling for any pattern, possession and more importantly territory as Leigh Halfpenny's penalty was all they had put on the board. That kick from distance brought false hope for the Blues, who were missing injured duo Sam Warburton and Jamie Roberts.
Their first try took just twelve minutes to arrive when Jonathan Sexton glided into space inside the Blues half and then fed Kearney who straightened well before pushing the ball out to wing Nacewa. Sexton's conversion was the start of the reigning champions' surge.
With the score 10-3, Leinster were keen to add to their advantage and did just that when Eoin Reddan's scamper up the middle of the field led to full-back Kearney cruising over.
Three minutes later and it was the turn of O'Driscoll in what was a special try in front of the supporters at Aviva Stadium. A beautiful no-look pass from Sexton off quick line-out ball put Luke Fitzgerald through a gap and with O'Driscoll on his shoulder, it was a simple run-in.
Floodgates well-and-truly open one would think with not even 35 minutes on the clock.
Leinster did start the second-half the same way they finished the first and were over for their fourth try on 46 minutes when O'Driscoll's inside pass allowed Kearney to get his brace. The rugby was another level up from the national side who had recently played at the venue.
The procession would not continue for Joe Schmidt's side though as greater resolve from the Blues saw them keep Leinster from scoring in the final 33 minutes. In fact, they thought they had scored themselves when veteran openside flanker Martyn Williams went over on the hour mar, but the Television Match Official ruled he had failed to ground the ball.
The quarter-final was long gone in truth as Leinster replaced the likes of short-term signing Brad Thorn and O'Driscoll and cruised into a last four clash with Saracens or Clermont.
Tries: Nacewa, Kearney 2, O'Driscoll
Con: Sexton 4
Pen: Sexton 2
For Cardiff Blues:
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Isa Nacewa, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Brad Thorn, 4 Leo Cullen (capt), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Nathan White, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Shane Jennings, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Tom James, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Xavier Rush (capt), 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 James Down, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Marc Breeze, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 John Yapp, 18 Sam Hobbs, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Maama Molitika, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Gavin Evans.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzere (France), David Changleng (Scotland)