REPORT: Leinster 52 Wasps 3
REPORT: Leinster 52 Wasps 3
October 12, 2018 / Dave Mervyn
Luke McGrath and James Lowe’s tries either side of half-time lit the touchpaper for an outstanding Champions Cup performance from Leinster as they handed Wasps a record 52-3 European defeat at the RDS.
All Black Lima Sopoaga’s 40th-minute sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on proved particularly costly for Wasps, as McGrath’s subsequent score sent the defending champions off at half-time with a 14-3 lead, adding to an early seven-pointer from explosively-quick hooker Seán Cronin.
A stunning try from halfway by man-of-the-match Lowe was followed by McGrath’s second to register the province’s bonus point, and as Wasps’ challenge crumbled, Lowe, Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw and replacement Jack McGrath closed out an eight-try rout. Captain Jonathan Sexton kicked five conversions.
An 18,055-strong crowd watched Leinster launch their title defence in their new all-navy European kit. Playing into a stiff breeze, the hosts, who switched Rhys Ruddock in for late withdrawal Dan Leavy, hit the front after just five minutes. Cronin sprung clean through from a ruck outside the Wasps 22 and Willie le Roux’s tap tackle could not stop him from scoring.
Sexton’s conversion was cancelled out by a Sopoaga penalty, which saw him judge the wind nicely following a Jack Conan offside. Wasps’ recovery from their rocky start continued with a Thomas Young turnover and an Elliot Daly break, their defence also tightening up through some energy-sapping phases.
As the pace and intensity increased, livewire winger Lowe just failed to find the supporting Sexton on a break from deep, and Sopoaga’s looping pass went through the fingers of Josh Barrett with Leinster caught narrow for once. The gap remained at four points thanks to a relieving penalty won by flanker Young, and the Coventry side’s workload was typified by Tommy Taylor’s 24 first-half tackles.
However, that defensive workload was unsustainable and Sopoaga’s slap-down of a Cronin pass led to Leinster striking late with scrum-half McGrath sniping over from close range. They were ruthless on the resumption as Henshaw’s inside pass sent Lowe haring through and the Kiwi slickly sidestepped around le Roux and fended off Daly to finish crisply by the posts.
Lowe provided the assist for McGrath’s 51st-minute effort, with prop Tadhg Furlong expertly straightening the attack and popping an offload in the build-up. James Ryan blasted through and then deftly offloaded to send Leinster powering through for try number five, Lowe putting his name to it after Sexton’s instinctive pass through the legs.
Seán O’Brien and the rest of the province’s bench made their presence felt in the closing stages as Larmour (72 minutes), Henshaw (74) and Jack McGrath (79) rattled off further tries, clinically taking advantage of the space afforded to them by tiring Wasps. The prop’s closing score came from a rolling maul.
Giving his post-match reaction, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said: “We talked a lot in the past about every point counting. It was good to keep playing until the very end. Big moments obviously just on half-time, when they lose a player to the bin and we go on to score just before half-time (Luke McGrath’s first try). Then score two minutes into the second half (through James Lowe).
“We managed to hold onto the ball a bit better than we probably did last week against Munster. We coughed up a lot of ball (against Munster) and had very little possession. It was nice to be on the other side of the possession stats today.
“We just need to be careful that we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We’ve played one game and no one else has played yet in Europe. There’s a lot of very good teams in Europe at the moment.
“Sometimes in Europe, you only need to be a little bit off and you come unstuck. Sometimes then the score can get out of control. We know that ourselves because we got beaten by Wasps 51-10 in the Ricoh a number of years ago and we got pretty heavily beaten here as well. It can be a little bit misleading at times.”
Leinster Rugby returns to the RDS Arena to take on Ospreys in the Guinness PRO14 on 23rd November. Tickets are on sale now.