Leinster hammer Northampton to reach quarter-finals

Date published: December 14 2019

Leinster became the first team to reach the knockout stages of this season’s Champions Cup after they thrashed Northampton Saints 50-21 at the Aviva Stadium.

Leo Cullen’s men provided plenty of entertainment as they booked their quarter-final place with two rounds still remaining. Adding to last week’s 43-16 win at Franklin’s Gardens, they are now 10 points clear and guaranteed to finish top of Pool One.

A Garry Ringrose brace inside the opening five minutes set the hosts on their way to a 35th-minute bonus-point. Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kearney also touched down, with the twin threats of man-of-the-match Jordan Larmour and James Lowe consistently posing problems for Saints.

Dan Biggar converted his own try and efforts from Ollie Sleightholme and Ahsee Tuala, but Northampton fell short of their bonus-point aim. Further scores from Lowe, Ringrose and Caelan Doris, with Ross Byrne and Ciaran Frawley kicking 15 points between them, steered Leinster to a half-century of points.

The early momentum was seized by Leinster thanks to Ringrose’s opener from his charge-down of an Andy Symons kick, with a classy conversion fired over by Byrne.

A crisp midfield move off a lineout then saw Lowe expose a gap, with the help of Byrne, and the winger got his hands free to send Ringrose in under the posts. Byrne converted and tagged on a 10th-minute penalty for a 17-0 advantage.

Biggar provided the spark for Northampton with a sprightly break and then his quickly-taken penalty and neat link with Symons saw the Welsh ace squeeze in under the posts. However, those seven points were cancelled out when Furlong crashed over from a lineout maul, on the back of Tuala’s yellow for pulling back Lowe.

The visitors suffered a second sin-binning with skipper Tom Wood adjudged to have infringed at a ruck near his own line. The 13 men secured a hard-earned turnover soon after but Doris and Rhys Ruddock ripped the ball back in a tackle to set the wheels in motion for the bonus point score.

Byrne attacked the blindside and Ringrose’s well-timed pass sent Kearney cutting in past Sleightholme from the right wing, pocketing Leinster’s third bonus of the campaign.

However, Saints hit back before the interval with a well-taken Sleightholme try originating from a Lewis Ludlam interception in his own 22.

Lowe got on the scoresheet inside two minutes of the restart, dotting down from an excellent Byrne grubber, and Ringrose followed up with his third of the night, reacting quickest to loose possession from Taqele Naiyaravoro’s attempted rip. European debutant Frawley, who came on at fly-half, knocked over the conversion to make it 43-14.

There were a couple of near misses from Henshaw and Kearney, who had a try ruled out for an earlier offside, before Northampton enjoyed a purple patch when Samoan full-back Tuala burst clean through from a midfield ruck for a 57th-minute try, raising their hopes of grabbing a bonus-point.

However, a similar effort earned number eight Doris his first European score for Leinster, which Frawley converted to wrap up a comprehensive win for the home side.

Elsewhere, Glasgow Warriors’ qualification hopes took a significant blow after they were beaten by previously winless La Rochelle 12-7.

In atrocious conditions, the French outfit edged the first half, despite going 7-0 in arrears via Fraser Brown’s try, as Jules Favre and Levani Botia touched down.

The Warriors pressed for the winning score in the second period and thought they had it when Scott Cummings crossed the whitewash, but it was pulled back when Matt Fagerson was deemed to have put his forearm into the throat of visiting prop Dany Priso. It resulted in a red card for the Glasgow number eight and ended their chances of claiming the win.