Leinster ran in eight tries to maintain their push for a GUINNESS PRO12 play-off place with a 52-0 bonus point victory over Zebre at the RDS.
New Zealander Hayden Triggs and Academy star Adam Byrne claimed their first tries at senior level for the hosts, and thanks to further efforts from club captain Isa Nacewa and Luke McGrath, Leinster had the bonus point in the bag by half-time, leading 26-0.
Leo Cullen unloaded his bench upon the resumption and Jordi Murphy, Sean Cronin, man-of-the-match Garry Ringrose and Cian Kelleher shared out four more tries as the province comfortably recorded their 10th league triumph of the current campaign.
Leinster were aiming to return to winning ways following their recent defeat at the Newport Gwent Dragons, while Zebre were edged out by Munster in Parma on the same weekend.
Cullen recalled Ireland internationals Cian Healy and Mike Ross to his front row following their recent injury lay-offs, and although Zebre initially held firm, a powerful drive by second row Triggs yielded a ninth minute try.
His former Auckland Blues compatriot Nacewa converted and Zebre’s Maicol Azzolini sent a penalty wide at the other end. The Leinster skipper then claimed a seven-point salvo via a sweeping attacking move on 18 minutes, which included a half break by impressive out-half Cathal Marsh in the build-up.
A third Leinster try arrived through replacement scrum half McGrath, who peeled off the back of a maul to dive over, and with Ireland Sevens international Byrne marking his first home start by muscling over in the right corner in the 38th minute, Leinster brought a seemingly insurmountable 26-0 lead into the second half.
Gianluca Guidi’s visitors, led by their evergreen second row Marco Bortolami, provided a stern resistance for much of the third quarter, before number 8 Murphy followed up on an incisive run by Noel Reid to score just shy of the hour mark.
This lifted the atmosphere around the Ballsbridge venue once again, and at the end of another slick move involving Zane Kirchner and Reid in the 68th minute, replacement hooker Cronin – fresh from his appearance in Ireland’s Six Nations stalemate with Wales – got his name on the scoresheet with a typical burst from close range.
Indeed, thanks to outstanding five-pointers from youngsters Ringrose and Kelleher (racing clear from halfway for very well-taken first senior try) in the dying minutes – as well as three Marsh conversions – Leinster concluded their night’s work in considerable style.
LEINSTER SCORERS: H. Triggs (1 try), I. Nacewa (1 try and 3 conversions), S. Cronin (1 try), J. Murphy (1 try), C. Marsh (3 conversions), L. McGrath (1 try), A. Byrne (1 try), G. Ringrose (1 try), C. Kelleher (1 try)
ZEBRE SCORERS: –
15. Zane Kirchner
14. Adam Byrne
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Ben Te’o (Noel Reid, 47)
11. Isa Nacewa CAPTAIN (Cian Kelleher, 44)
10. Cathal Marsh
9. Isaac Boss (Luke McGrath, 10)
1. Cian Healy (Peter Dooley, 59)
2. James Tracy (Sean Cronin, 42)
3. Mike Ross (Michael Bent, 42)
4. Ross Molony
5. Hayden Triggs (Tom Denton, 58)
6. Dominic Ryan (Dan Leavy, 53)
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jordi Murphy
ZEBRE: Ulrich Beyers; Dion Berryman, Tommaso Boni, Matteo Pratichetti, Kayle van Zyl; Maicol Azzolini, Luke Burgess; Bruno Postiglioni, Oliviero Fabiani, Guillermo Roan, Gideon Koegelenberg, Marco Bortolami CAPTAIN, Emiliano Caffini, Johan Meyer, Jean Cook.
REPLACEMENTS: Emiliano Coria, Andrea de Marchi, Pietro Ceccarelli, Federico Ruzza, Filippo Cristiano, Giulio Toniolatti, Mils Muliaina, Abou Souare.
REFEREE: Ben Whitehouse (WRU); ASSISTANT REFEREES: Leo Colgan, Mark Connolly (both IRFU); CITING COMMISSIONER: John Cole (IRFU)