Leinster 35 Cell C Sharks 5

The possibility of a glorious double was maintained by Leinster in the BKT United Rugby Championship quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.

Coach Leo Cullen opted for nine changes to his starting lineup from the Champions Cup semi-final defeat of Toulouse for a huge physical examination.

The forwards began with direct carries and the backs used slick offloads on the left to create space for Jordan Larmout to threaten on the right.

The active hands of Tadhg Furlong forced a knock-on for the first scrum which the Sharks used to squeeze a penalty.

The speed of Grant Williams on the fringes was too much for the forwards, the scrum-half gassing outside Dave Kearney for the opening try in the seventh minute.

For the second time, Luke McGrath’s kicking took Leinster into the right area. Again, the South Africans dealt well with it.

Ciarán Frawley was next to send the ball long, Dave Kearney sparking a counter through perseverance to force a penalty which Harry Byrne angled to the corner.

Dan Sheehan and Ryan Baird delivered at the lineout and Caelan Doris pounded in a try, Makazole Mapimpi binned for his attempted tackle as Byrne’s conversion edged Leinster ahead in the 15th minute.

The pressure caused by the competing Larmour produced a platform from a lineout after Byrne’s ball to the sky.

In fact, they channeled a second try through a subsequent lineout and a 5-metre penalty driven up by Sheehan for prop Michael Milne to ground the ball, Byrne’s extras making it 14-5 in the 22nd minute.

The confidence to go from deep opened a hole for Frawley and Hugo Keenan to make serious ground, Byrne nudging a crossfield kick for Larmour to collect a try, converted by Byrne.

A second scrum penalty convinced the Sharks to go to the corner. They were battered backwards at a maul and eventually lost patience through James Venter’s double movement on the floor.

The strength of Jason Jenkins and Milne turned Venter’s carry into a maul only for the officials to spot Jenkins’s arm around the neck as a penalty.

Again, Sharks looked to the set-piece for gains where there were none, Boeta Chamberlain even missing a penalty on the half-time whistle.,

Byrne’s rising confidence was impressive. Keenan plucked a ball out of the air to start a movement from deep. Larmour claimed a high one under pressure.

An intelligent kick by Charlie Ngatai established a platform for Leinster to go through the phases.

The work rate of the players to get into position created an overlap through simple passing for Kearney to send Max Deegan strolling over on the left, Byrne tagging on the conversion in the 52nd minute.

The perception of Frawley to intercept and kick ahead forced the Sharks to backpedal. Ngatai went close on the left. Baird stole Bongi Mbonambi’s throw.

A lacerating line from Caelan Doris was the basis for Deegan to go even closer than Ngatai.

All the while, Leinster were dominating the territorial battle, Ross Byrne arriving as a second playmaker beside his brother and Frawley nailing Lukhanyo Am in the tackle.

The scrum remained the Sharks sharpest weapon, no matter the front row changes. Leinster retained the integrity in their defence to force a fumble from Aphelele Fassi.

Leinster were able to turn the tables at a scrum for the Byrnes to drive them forward, Liam Turner being held up over the line by Mapimpi.

Joe McCarthy sampled match minutes for the first time since January as the Blues scrum struck for one against the head.

Still, there was always the menace of scrum-half Williams to worry about, slipping an offload to Rohan Janse van Rensburg for a try which was rubbed out when Venter was binned for a shoulder to the head in the build-up.

It was their last shot at a miracle, Leinster coming clear for McCarthy to initiate a swift, cohesive raid up the left for Jamison Gibson-Park to collect Kearney’s grubber, Ross Byrne converting this time.