Leinster gave a struggling Bath side a harsh lesson in Heineken Cup rugby on Saturday as they strolled to a 52-27 win at Aviva Stadium.
Leinster gave a struggling Bath side a harsh lesson in Heineken Cup rugby on Saturday as they demolished their visitors 52-27 at the Aviva Stadium.
It was a showing that sounded a warning to title rivals Toulouse and Saracens that Leinster are gunning for back-to-back crowns in Europe.
Fine tries from Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald (2), Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan, Rhys Ruddock and Ian Madigan saw them on their way to all five points in front of more than 40,000 supporters in Dublin that takes them six points clear of nearest Pool challenger Glasgow, who drew at Montpol.
The European champions did not take long to get into their stride and after Sexton hit the post with a penalty shot, good work from the forwards gave full-back Kearney the chance to crash over.
A contentious infringement at the scrum allowed Olly Barkley to register Bath's first points but Sexton restored the seven point advantage moments later with a 40-metre drop-goal.
After Barkley added another penalty, Leinster were reduced to fourteen men with Leo Cullen sent to the sin-bin and for a few minutes it looked like Bath may be able to take advantage.
The Irishmen hit back though and, after a Bath handling error, Kearney launched a terrific counter attack before slipping the ball to the impressive Fitzgerald to score under the posts.
Still a man down, Leinster were playing expansive rugby and after Fitzgerald was released to sprint up the left wing he had the presence of mind to look inside and find Sexton, who scored the third try of the game to make it 24-6. Bath looked streets behind their hosts.
Going into the second half, Leinster needed just one more try to secure the bonus point and they had to wait just 30 seconds to get it. Straight from the kick-off Kearney and Fitzgerald combined again to attack from deep and the Ireland winger raced down the left wing again before stepping inside to finish off one of the best tries of the Heineken Cup season so far.
Ten minutes later and Bath, having failed to cope with the hosts with fifteen men, were reduced to fourteen as Sam Vesty received a yellow card for an infringement at a ruck.
Leinster showed no mercy and after the forwards hammered away at the try-line, the busy Reddan sniped from the base of a ruck and was rewarded with the fifth try of the night.
The referee was in no mood to sympathise with Bath either as he sent hooker Chris Biller to the bin as well, reducing them to thirteen. Inevitably, Leinster capitalised on the two-man advantage and after more slick handling, replacement Rhys Ruddock scored in the corner.
World Cup winning fly-half Stephen Donald and lock Dave Attwood grabbed late consolation tries for the visitors before another replacement, Madigan, took the hosts past fifty points with a well-taken finish after some heavy pressure.
Ben Williams added another consolation for Bath with the last attack of the game but this was a crushing defeat which leaves the English with almost no hope of qualification at all.
The reigning Heineken Cup champions march on though and it would be a brave man to back agains Joe Schmidt's outfit retaining their crown in May after such a clinical showing.
Tries: Kearney, Fitzgerald 2, Sexton, Reddan, Ruddock, Madigan
Con: Sexton 6, Nacewa
Tries: Donald, Attwood, Williams
Con: Barkley 2
Pen: Barkley 2
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Isa Nacewa, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke Van Der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Nathan White, 19 Kevin McLaughlin, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Gordon D'Arcy.
Bath: 15 Sam Vesty, 14 Jack Cuthbert, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Nick Abendanon, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Francois Louw (c), 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 David Wilson, 2 Chris Biller, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Andy Beattie, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Ben Williams.
Referee: Romain Poite