Leinster open title defence with dominant victory

Date published: October 12 2018

Leinster began the defence of their Champions Cup title with an outstanding display after they thrashed Wasps 52-3 at the RDS Arena.

The Irish province had to remain patient in the first-half but they did manage to go 14-3 up at the break through Sean Cronin and Luke McGrath tries.

Lima Sopoaga provided the Premiership team’s response from the tee, but they were outclassed for the whole 80 minutes and conceded six more times via James Lowe (twice), McGrath, Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw and Jack McGrath.

Following their triumph last season, this was a hugely impressive way to start the new European season and they look well set to challenge in 2018/19.

It was always going to be difficult for the injury-stricken visitors, who were without several key players, and they lacked the quality to compete with the defending champions.

As is Leinster’s wont, they took the ball through the phases and, although the English outfit held firm early on, Cronin spotted a gaping hole in the opposition rearguard.

Although Wasps had a case for a penalty, with only one of the hooker’s feet behind the ball, it wasn’t given by referee Romain Poite and the Ireland international showed superb pace to finish.

Dai Young’s men responded via Sopoaga’s penalty but they were creating little and it was the Irishmen who were doing all of the attacking.

Robbie Henshaw and Lowe both caused problems for the visitors but, despite making several incursions, Wasps’ goal-line defence was holding out.

They had reached the 40-minute mark having limited the hosts to just one try but that was to change following a yellow card for Sopoaga for a deliberate knock-on.

With their opponents down to 14 men, Leinster scored two tries either side of the interval. The first came from the forwards’ hard work, who barrelled their way towards the whitewash, but it was scrum-half McGrath that finished it off from close range.

After the break, matters worsened for Young’s charges when Johnny Sexton’s inside ball found Lowe and the flyer brilliantly weaved his way past two would-be tacklers to touch down.

Even at that point, the match was effectively won and, as a result, they went in search of the bonus-point. They had played some excellent rugby all evening and the hosts produced the move of the contest to claim the full five.

When the Irish province had spotted space on the outside, tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong showed his adept skills to take an outside break and offload to Lowe. The wing then had the simple job of finding McGrath on the inside and the scrum-half did the rest.

Leo Cullen’s men were rampant and they added to the scoreboard as Sexton’s Carlos Spencer-esque through-the-legs pass found Henshaw and the centre fed Lowe to score.

It had been an outstanding performance by Leinster and they rounded off a superb outing by going over three more times through Larmour, Henshaw and prop McGrath.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Cronin, L McGrath 2, Lowe 2, Larmour, Henshaw, J McGrath
Cons: Sexton 5, Byrne

For Wasps:
Pen: Sopoaga
Yellow Card: Sopoaga

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (c), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Scott Fardy, 20 Seán O’Brien, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Joe Tomane

Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Josh Bassett, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Elliot Daly (c), 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Zurabi Zhvania
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Rob Miller

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Cyril Lafon (France), Stéphane Boyer (France)
TMO: Denis Grenouillet (France)