Wasps’ scoring power was too much for Leinster to handle in the second half as the English side ran in seven tries to qualify for the European Champions Cup quarter-finals as Pool 5 winners…
Leo Cullen’s men leaked 36 unanswered points after the break, with touchdowns from Elliot Daly, Frank Halai, Charles Piatau and Ashley Johnson, along with a penalty try, condemning Leinster to their heaviest ever European defeat.
The visitors were well in the hunt at half-time, trailing just 15-10 after Zane Kirchner and Eoin Reddan had registered tries and former Leinster out-half Jimmy Gopperth and England lock Joe Launchbury both crossed for Wasps.
However, injuries to captain-for-the-day Jonathan Sexton early on and Martin Moore (hamstring), who limped off in a one-sided second period, hampered the province’s hopes of ending their European campaign on a positive note.
With a home quarter-final to aim for, Wasps showed their title credentials with some impressive finishing, including a tremendous individual effort from man-of-the-match Daly in the 45th minute. The penalty try from a close-in maul sealed the bonus point before further efforts from Halai, Piatau and Johnson rubbed salt in Leinster’s wounds.
Cullen’s side had opened the scoring at the Ricoh Arena with a superb second minute try. From a quickly-taken penalty, Noel Reid’s well-weighted grubber kick was gobbled up by Luke Fitzgerald who linked with Dave Kearney, bringing the visitors up to the five-metre line.
Possession was retained and quickly moved out to the right, slick passing from Sexton, Rob Kearney and Fitzgerald allowing winger Kirchner to finish crisply in the right corner. Sexton sent the conversion wide.
Wasps built some pressure up front in response, using their lineout maul to good effect before Gopperth exploited some space on a diagonal run to score from close range. The New Zealander added the extras for 7-5.
Leinster blew an opportunity to hit back, kicking a penalty towards the corner before the heavily-involved Sean Cronin knocked on. A Daly kick gave Wasps good field position and following a blindside surge from George Smith, Dan Robson got his pass away for Launchbury to gallop over for an unconverted effort.
With a head injury sidelining Sexton, Champions Cup debutant Cathal Marsh settled in swiftly at out-half and a direct run and offload from Cronin saw Jordi Murphy bring Leinster back up to the hosts’ 22. Fitzgerald also threatened on a couple of midfield charges, albeit that the Wasps defence at ruck time was particularly solid.
With half an hour gone, Fitzgerald also set up Leinster’s second try for Dave Kearney. The busy centre swooped on a loose offload from Smith and Wasps prop Lorenzo Cittadini saw yellow for kicking the ball away in an offside position after Kearney was hauled down short of the line.
From a reset five-metre scrum, Leinster attacked the blindside and a terrific pass back inside from winger Kearney just before he was bundled into touch gave the ever-alert Reddan a tidy finish by the left corner flag.
Marsh was unable to convert and Dai Young’s charges did well up to the break, attacking in and around the Leinster 22 and a Gopperth thre-pointer punished Jamie Heaslip for not rolling away.
Into the second stanza, a snipe from replacement scrum half Robson paved the way for a central penalty which saw Gopperth widen the margin to eight points.
Leinster fell further behind just minutes later, an excellent break from Daly off a Robson feed seeing the England prospect dart a full 40 metres to the right corner, outpacing both Rob Kearney and Kirchner in sight of the line.
Gopperth swung over the conversion and despite a purposeful run from Dave Kearney, Leinster were unable to fully break down a very resilient and well-organised Wasps defence.
The home pack, willed on by captain James Haskell and Smith, earned a 53rd minute penalty try with two powerful mauls in quick succession as Leinster struggled to keep their discipline.
The scores kept coming for the hosts, winger Halai going over from a pinpoint long pass from Daly and with Marsh and Fitzgerald guilty of loose play in midfield, full-back Piatau swept up posession to run in a breakaway try with 70 minutes on the clock.
Handling errors and poor decision-making continued to let Leinster down and Wasps added their seventh and final try in the closing stages, powerful replacement Johnson burrowing over from close range to get his team beyond the half-century.
WASPS SCORERS: J. Gopperth (1 try, 4 conversions and 2 penalties), J. Launchbury (1 try), E. Daly (1 try), Penalty try, F. Halai (1 try), C. Piatau (1 try), A. Johnson (1 try)
LEINSTER SCORERS: Z. Kirchner (1 try), E. Reddan (1 try)
WASPS: Charles Piutau; Josh Bassett, Elliot Daly, Brendan Macken, Frank Halai; Jimmy Gopperth, Joe Simpson; Matt Mullan, Edd Shervington, Lorenzo Cittadini, Joe Launchbury, Bradley Davies, James Haskell CAPTAIN, George Smith, Sam Jones.
REPLACEMENTS: Ashley Johnson, Tom Bristow, Jake Cooper-Woolley, James Gaskell, Nathan Hughes, Dan Robson, Ruaridh Jackson, Rob Miller.
15. Rob Kearney
14. Zane Kirchner
13. Luke Fitzgerald
12. Noel Reid (Ben Te’o, 62)
11. Dave Kearney
10. Jonathan Sexton CAPTAIN (Cathal Marsh, 9)
9 . Eoin Reddan (Isaac Boss, 76)
1. Jack McGrath (Michael Bent, 57)
2. Sean Cronin (Richardt Strauss, 52)
3. Martin Moore (Peter Dooley, 62)
4. Devin Toner
5. Rhys Ruddock
6. Dominic Ryan (Ross Molony, 71)
7. Jordi Murphy (Josh van der Flier, half-time)
8. Jamie Heaslip
REFEREE: Mathieu Raynal (France); ASSISTANT REFEREES: Sebastien Minery, Thomas Dejean (both France); TMO: Eric Gauzins (France); CITING COMMISSIONER: John Montgomery (Scotland).