Leinster will host Ulster in a mouth-watering all-Irish GUINNESS PRO12 semi-final after recording a comprehensive eight-try 50-19 win over Benetton Treviso at the RDS…
Leo Cullen’s side topped the PRO12 table thanks to today’s bonus point success, edging clear of both Connacht and Glasgow Warriors and earning home advantage for their May 20 duel with provincial rivals Ulster in Dublin.
Jonathan Sexton’s early try and a brace from industrious hooker Richardt Strauss had Leinster 17-0 clear of the Italians by half-time.
A Jack McGrath score sealed the bonus point for the three-time champions and although Treviso had touchdowns from Marco Lazzaroni, Matteo Muccignat and Enrico Bacchin, further tries from Isa Nacewa, Jordi Murphy, Noel Reid and Garry Ringrose had the hosts well out of reach.
The Blues, who lost heavily to Ulster (30-6) in Belfast last week, broke the deadlock on nine minutes when a sweeping move on the left wing involving Nacewa and both Rob and Dave Kearney was finished over the line by out-half Sexton.
A rolling maul at the end of the first quarter saw Strauss claim a pushover try and he then exploited a gap in the Treviso defence for his second try in the 26th minute. Sexton successfully added the conversion after two previous misses.
It seemed like only a matter of time before Leinster pocketed their bonus point and prop McGrath got it, scoring from close range just five minutes into the second period. Sexton, who picked up a heavy knock in an off-the-ball incident with Treviso replacement Lazzaroni, had to go off, so captain Nacewa slotted the extras.
A superb seven-point salvo from Nacewa – his eighth try of the league campaign – put further daylight between the sides after 51 minutes, his initial grubber kick being gobbled up by Ringrose who linked with Jordi Murphy and Nacewa was up in support to finish off.
Young back row Jordi Murphy followed up with his 15th try in Leinster colours and despite Lazzaroni finally getting Treviso off the mark via a Jayden Hayward pass, a brilliant sidestepping run from replacement Reid kept the scoreboard ticking over for Cullen’s charges.
A resilient Treviso added tries through replacements Muccignat and Bacchin in the 72nd and 77th minutes respectively, and although injuries to Rob Kearney and Sexton will be of concern to Cullen, he would have been pleased to see young centre Ringrose complete a productive afternoon with his third try for the province – by the right corner flag.
Nacewa, who was deservedly named the man-of-the-match, tagged on his fourth conversion as Leinster hit the half-century mark for the second time against Italian opposition this season.
LEINSTER SCORERS: J. Sexton (1 try and 1 conversion), R. Strauss (2 tries), J. McGrath (1 try), I. Nacewa (1 try and 4 conversions), J. Murphy (1 try), N. Reid (1 try), G. Ringrose (1 try)
BENETTON TREVISO SCORERS: M. Lazzaroni (1 try), M. Muccignat (1 try), E. Bacchin (1 try), J. Hayward (2 conversions)
15. Rob Kearney (Noel Reid, 23)
14. Isa Nacewa CAPTAIN
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Ben Te’o
11. Dave Kearney
10. Jonathan Sexton (Cathal Marsh, 46)
9. Eoin Reddan (Luke McGrath, 68)
1. Jack McGrath (Peter Dooley, 54)
2. Richardt Strauss (Sean Cronin, 51)
3. Mike Ross (Tadhg Furlong, 51)
4. Devin Toner
5. Mick Kearney (Hayden Triggs, 57)
6. Rhys Ruddock (Dominic Ryan, 53)
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Jamie Heaslip
BENETTON TREVISO: Jayden Hayward; Ludovico Nitoglia, Tommaso Iannone, Alberto Sgarbi, Angelo Esposito; Luke McLean, Edoardo Gori; Matteo Zanusso, Ornel Gega, Simone Ferrari, Marco Fuser, Filo Paulo, Francesco Minto, Alessandro Zanni CAPTAIN, Braam Steyn.
REPLACEMENTS: Luca Bigi, Matteo Muccignat, Salesi Manu, Marco Lazzaroni, Andrea de Marchi, Alberto Lucchese, James Ambrosini, Enrico Bacchin
REFEREE: Ben Whitehouse (WRU); ASSISTANT REFEREES: Frank Murphy, Joy Neville (both IRFU); CITING COMMISSIONER: John Cole (IRFU).