15-11 to Leinster was the half-time score in Dublin on Saturday, and the game was finely-balanced. But Leinster produced a second half of utter brilliance to hammer Wasps 41-11, taking a bonus point and a decisive step in the direction of the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
This was Heineken Cup rugby at its best. The two sides combined to produce a first half of intense quality and pulse-quickening ebb and flow, and then in the second half one of the sides cranked it all up just one tiny notch further, with their opponents unable to respond. Leinster ran in four unanswered second-half tries, in utter defiance of anyone who said that Edinburgh made them look good last week. They are good, no question.
Right from the kick-off, it was on. Paul Sackey took the first phase off the restart, pinned back his ears, and set off down the blind side, chipping ahead and then taking Girvan Dempsey into the in-goal area for a 5m scrum. Two phases off the scrum, and Jamie Heaslip enacted a textbook steal at the tackle. Thrust and counter-thrust.
Five minutes later, Leinster had the lead. Tom Palmer, covering as some form of extra full-back, dropped a high ball. From the scrum, Felipe Contempomi grubbered through, Rob Kearney side-footed the ball with Fernando Torres-like coolness, and Brian O'Driscoll was on hand to dot down his second try in as many games after a long lean spell.
Danny Cipriani answered with a penalty, but there was no answer to O'Driscoll's next act. The man who would be Lions captain took the ball outside, beat his man, chipped the next man, chipped the extra cover on the fly, and regathered before touching down.
Wasps upped the pressure, and spent a good six minutes camped in Leinster's 22, but perhaps the intensity of Leinster's tackling and rucking in thsi period could have hinted at what was to come. One memorable hit by Luke Fitzgerald will be remembered by all but perhaps the recipient Riki Flutey.
At the end of the six minutes Wasps had a kickable penalty. They opted for the corner, had the ball manhandled off them, and then conceded two penalties of their own.
Cipriani was a lone star for Wasps at this time, but even his star faded when he opted to try and run through his backs in his own 22 but let the ball slip as he passed. Cue more Leinster pressure, cue another Leinster penalty, and cue a yellow card for an unimpressed Phil Vickery. Cue also a 15-3 lead, courtesy of Contempomi's boot.
Cipriani replied in kind after Leinster's defence had rushed up a little too enthusiastically, and made a magnificent break from the restart, with his supporting runners rather letting him down. He made two more breaks in the next two minutes, and eventually Jeremy Staunton capitalised on one of them to make it 15-11.
O'Driscoll did not emerge for the second half, and neither did Leinster captain Leo Cullen. Leinster under pressure? Their two leaders gone? Not a bit of it.
It took three minutes for Fitzgerald to register the opening score of the second half, three minutes in which Wasps were just blown away. They were muscled off every ball, smashed back at every contact, the backs ran lines, defenders were beaten or run over... Fitzgerald's finish was as easy as could be, there was nothing left of the shredded defence.
Jonathan Sexton had come on for O'Drsicoll, and as a result, Felipe Contempomi had moved to inside centre. What a lease of life it gave the Argentinian! Once he made a terrific break, and then flung too hard a pass out for Kearney. Two other times his breaks' results were thwarted only by desperate defence. So he took matters into his own hands, charging down Flutey's clearance and dotting down the bonus point try.
Leinster's forwards got in on the act, bulldozing their way through their opposite numbers, and after one particularly effective Bernard Jackman surge, Rocky Elsom picked and drove over the line.
The defence hustled the ball off Wasps for the sixth try, with Malcolm O' Kelly seizing on the spilled ball and galloping down the field before being hauled down short by Cipriani. Horgan was thwarted, but out the ball went to Kearney who strolled over with the Wasps defenders too demoralized and tired to retreat once more.
Man of the match: Shane Jennings made an astonishing 18 tackles during the match, and his fellow back-rowers got in on the act too. But Wasps had aimed up the middle, and in Luke Fitzgerald, they found an impreganble wall.
Tries: O'Driscoll 2, Fitzgerald, Contempomi, Elsom, Kearney
Cons: Contempomi 4
Pens: Cipriani 2
Yellow card: Vickery (30, Wasps, killing the ball), Toner (78, Leinster, late tackle)
Leinster: 15 Girvan Dempsey, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Luke Fitzgerald, 11 Rob Kearney, 10 Felipe Contepomi, 9 Chris Whitaker, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Malcolm O'Kelly, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 CJ Van Der Linde, 2 Bernard Jackman 1 Stan Wright.
Replacements: 16 John Fogarty, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Devin Toner, 19 Stephen Keogh, 20 Chris Keane, 21 Johnny Sexton, 22 Gary Brown.
Wasps: 15 Jeremy Staunton, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Josh Lewsey, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Tom Voyce, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Joe Worsley, 7 Tom Rees, 6 James Haskell, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Raphael Ibanez (C), 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber 17 Pat Barnard, 18 Richard Birkett, 19 Serge Betsen, 20 Mark Robinson, 21 Mark Van Gisbergen, 22 John Hart.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch judges: Neil Ballard (Wales), Jonathan Mason (Wales)