Leinster Rugby will advance to the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals as number one seeds after claiming a hard-earned 18-0 win over Benetton Rugby in Treviso.

Second half tries from Caelan Doris (59 minutes) and replacement James Tracy (64) sealed the result on a heavy and wet Stadio di Monigo pitch, as Benetton’s bright start was overshadowed by an improved second half showing from the visitors.

Ross Byrne kicked the other points, including a 34th-minute penalty for a 3-0 half-time lead. Leinster managed to keep the Italians scoreless during number 8 Doris’ sin-bin period, and the Pool 1 winners crossed twice in quick succession on the hour mark.

With captain Luke McGrath in man-of-the-match form, Leinster have guaranteed themselves a home quarter-final in early April, and potentially a home semi-final too. Today marked their 16th straight victory of the season, eclipsing their previous best run of 15 games from 2001/02.

It is the second time in three years that Leinster have gone six-from-six in the pool stages – they also completed a clean sweep of group wins in 2004/05 and 2017/18. Their 28-point tally is their highest ever for a Champions Cup pool, just one short of the tournament record held by Biarritz Olympique (29 – 2006/07).

Leinster’s defence stood firm under fierce pressure during a closely-fought first half. Benetton had the bit between their teeth early on, twice kicking to the corner after infringements by the fit-again James Ryan and Max Deegan.

The visitors’ pack dug in at the mauls, holding the Italians at bay and surviving a barnstorming break by Toa Halafihi. Leinster’s first attacking opportunity came from a James Lowe kick through, but Tito Tebaldi was there to cover the danger ahead of Jordan Larmour.

Towards the end of the first quarter, Benetton pressed again on the back of a series of penalties. They came within inches of a try and Doris paid the price for pulling down a maul with ten minutes in the bin.

Sean Cronin came up trumps with a turnover penalty to relieve the pressure, and by the time Doris had returned, Leinster were on the front foot. Scrum half and stand-in skipper McGrath gobbled up the metres on a sniping run, and Deegan followed up with a powerful carry.

Solid set piece work and ball retention paved the way for Byrne to land a straightforward penalty for the opening points, and despite some further promising play from the forwards, it remained a one-score game at a end of a very physical opening 40 minutes.

Benetton lock Irne Herbst’s deliberate infringement earned him a yellow just two minutes after the break, but an Andrew Porter fumble halted Leinster’s momentum. That was until the young tighthead helped to force a scrum penalty, and Byrne’s thumping kick from distance cleared the crossbar for 6-0.

Leo Cullen’s charges showed their clinical edge either side of the hour mark with those tries. McGrath, Larmour and Lowe combined on a superb kick chase to make Monty Ioane concede a five-metre scrum. It took a slick team move, which included a no-look pass from Garry Ringrose, to unlock the defence and Doris’ footwork and strength took him over the line.

It was a second try in three Champions Cup matches for the 21-year-old back rower, who celebrated just a few days on from his Ireland Six Nations squad call-up. Byrne was wide with the conversion at 11-0 but got the second one with the aid of the woodwork.

The margin was pushed out to 18 points after Devin Toner led a lineout drive and hooker Tracy plunged over for his first European try. Just as importantly, Leinster allowed no consolation scores as they turned around a somewhat laboured performance and finished the game much the stronger.