Leicester Tigers produced a spirited display but it was still nowhere near enough against an outstanding Leinster side, who claimed a 55-24 triumph in their Champions Cup quarter-final on Friday.
The English outfit were resilient in the first half, especially after the hosts went 17-3 ahead following Garry Ringrose’s brace. Anthony Watson’s score kept the Tigers in the contest at the interval, giving them a puncher’s chance, but they simply could not maintain their pace and intensity in the second period.
Leo Cullen’s men played with such tempo and physicality that Leicester eventually wilted, leading to a one-sided final 40 minutes.
The Tigers were forced to name a makeshift midfield, with usual winger Harry Potter named alongside injury-returnee Dan Kelly, and Leinster continually exploited their indecision at centre.
Jamison Gibson-Park and a penalty try took them out of the visitors’ reach before Scott Penny, Jimmy O’Brien and John McKee scores rubberstamped the Irishmen’s passage into the Champions Cup semi-finals, despite consolation efforts from Olly Cracknell and Potter.
A dozen phases after Hugo Keenan had gathered Ross Byrne’s kick-off, player of the match Ringrose nipped inside Kelly with a classy dummy and burst in behind the posts.
Byrne’s simple conversion – his first kick of an 18-point haul – was cancelled out by a Handre Pollard penalty. The visitors also forced an early scrum penalty.
Nonetheless, from a scrum on the right, a crisp Leinster move put O’Brien motoring through the middle and he fed Ringrose for a simple finish and a 14-3 lead.
Ryan Baird (shoulder) was desperately unlucky to go off injured, and despite a Byrne penalty, Leinster were unable to shake off their quarter-final opponents, who defended powerfully through captain Julian Montoya and Jasper Wiese.
From a late attacking surge, Mike Brown’s quick tap injected pace and then Watson acrobatically scored from a Jack van Poortvliet pass. Pollard nailed the conversion to restore the seven-point differential.
Despite losing Montoya (HIA) permanently, Tigers continued to frustrate the home side and when Wiese was caught high by Doris, the Leinster flanker was sin-binned.
However, the seven-man pack eased the tension among the home crowd with a scrum penalty, slotted over by Byrne, and Leinster had breathing space just two minutes later.
Robbie Henshaw’s nicely-delayed delivery put Ringrose through a gap and his inside pass released Gibson-Park to coast home. His half-back partner Byrne converted.
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An unlikely turnover penalty, won by Byrne, led to Tigers pulling down a dominant Leinster maul for the penalty try and replacement hooker Charlie Clare’s yellow.
Replacement Penny broke through a maul and handed off Van Poortvliet for his 61st-minute try, converted by Byrne, before Tigers rallied. Cracknell burrowed over and Potter ran in a 60-metre intercept try.
Yet, Leinster replied to both scores, taking advantage of Brown’s absence for a high tackle. Harry Byrne released O’Brien for the line and McKee was on the end of a snaking forwards dive.