REPORT: Leinster 42 Bath 15
REPORT: Leinster 42 Bath 15
December 15, 2018 / Dave Mervyn
Leinster Rugby raised plenty of festive cheer at the Aviva Stadium where their 42-15 bonus point dismissal of Bath saw them keep pace with Heineken Champions Cup Pool 1 leaders Toulouse.
Toulouse are still two points clear but the defending champions will have a chance to pass them out when they meet in a crunch January 12 clash at the RDS. Bath’s resistance was broken by half-time, Adam Byrne bagging the bonus point at 28-10 to add to earlier tries from Jack Conan, Heineken Man of the Match Rory O’Loughlin and James Lowe.
Sam Underhill joined Francois Louw in crossing the whitewash, but the Bath back row duo were unable to influence the breakdown as they had done at the Rec last week. Their traditional pre-Christmas outing at Irish Rugby HQ continues to spark some of Leinster’s best form and they book-ended the second half with tries from Dan Leavy and replacement Jamison Gibson-Park.
Bath boss Todd Blackadder promised the ‘full metal jacket’ in this return fixture and James Wilson’s second-minute penalty – punishing Byrne for getting isolated at the breakdown – got them off the mark. However, the first cracks appeared when Jamie Roberts’ tackle was shrugged off by number 8 Conan who powered over for his try, wide on the left.
Leinster were 14-3 ahead by the 13th minute, a trademark Johnny Sexton loop move providing the platform to spring Jordan Larmour through and he passed for centre O’Loughlin to go over unopposed. Sexton landed both conversions but Bath entered the second quarter just four points down.
Wilson found some space in the home defence, offloading for prop Jacques van Rooyen to drive up close before Louw managed to burrow over for a seven-pointer. Leo Cullen’s men then regained control with ever-alert winger Lowe proving unstoppable from a quick tap penalty in the 25th minute.
The bonus point came into view with Byrne threatening from a Sexton grubber and the same two players combined for the eventual try, two minutes from the break. Sexton hung up a beautiful cross-field kick which the athletic winger won above Darren Atkins to run in from the left corner.
James Ryan, the man of the match from the Round 3 game, made a big carry in advance of his forward colleague Leavy’s try four minutes after the restart. Sexton landed his fifth successful conversion of the night for a 35-10 advantage, but Underhill led Bath’s swift response, showing impressive strength to get past two defenders and register his first European try.
Wilson was unable to convert from 39 metres out, and although Bath dug their heels in to deny the Leinster forwards from a subsequent penalty kicked to the corner, fresh legs from the bench kept the province on the front foot.
Twelve minutes from time, good work from Andrew Porter and Lowe sent Gibson-Park over for his try from the 22-metre line. Fellow replacement Ross Byrne swerved the conversion over in the difficult wind, completing the 27-point winning margin.
Giving his reaction afterwards, Leinster head coach Cullen said: “We knew about the threats Bath have in their team going into last week. It’s one thing knowing about it, but then it’s how do we deal with it? We didn’t deal with it particularly well at times last week. I thought we were better around the contact area (tonight), even though we gave away a penalty and three points at the very start of the game.
“Overall, I thought we played with a bit more attacking intent and were able to move Bath around a bit more. I though the guys were very clinical in terms of taking some of the opportunities when they came along. Particularly in the first half (to make it 28-10 at the break).
“We probably don’t make a great read on the lineout (for the first try) and then we find ourselves defending a series of attacks from Bath. I thought they came with a very direct focus in terms of the way they tried to attack us.
“They’re a team that have got a tonne of resources behind them and they’ve got so much quality. For us, there was maybe a couple of times in the first half where we don’t quite connect defensively. There’s definitely lots of things we can get better at.”
Leinster Rugby are back in action at the RDS Arena next Saturday against Connacht in the Guinness PRO14. Get your tickets and join the roar.