Leinster get into festive spirit with win against Bath

Leinster get into festive spirit with win against Bath

Leinster 42 - 15 Bath

Dublin city was awash with Christmas parties tonight but few could have matched Leinster's Heineken Champions Cup knees-up at Bath's expense for intoxicating thrills.

The reigning European champions, no doubt aware that they trailed Toulouse by seven points in Pool One after the French's side's bonus-point win over Wasps earlier in the day, knew they needed a statement of their own before the sides meet in round five next month.

Toulouse have been in scintillating form at home and abroad since bettering Leo Cullen's side by a single point on the continent back in October but the hosts showed here that they have not lost their ability to blow sides out of the water.

Bath had frustrated Leinster for long periods at the Rec a week earlier, their ability to poach at the breakdown and fly out of the defensive line making for a tight and tense affair that the province just about edged 17-10.

It looked like being more of the same here when, with only three minutes played, Francois Louw crouched over the prone Adam Byrne and forced the young winger to hold on too long. James Wilson kicked the resultant penalty.

It would be no indicator of the game to come.

Leinster played with a width they couldn't manage in the wet conditions in Bath first time around. The incessant drizzle here didn't seem to have any effect on their execution levels, which were sky high, and Bath were soon being pulled hither and yon.

Jack Conan claimed the first try after seven minutes, thanks in the main to a crossfield kick by Jonathan Sexton that stretched the defensive line, and some terrible defending from Jamie Roberts and Semesa Rokoduguni.

Leinster get into festive spirit with win against Bath

Five minutes later and Rory O'Loughlin went over. Sexton was the creator again, finding a dog leg in the Bath line and setting Jordan Larmour free into open ground. No better man. The devastating full-back was caught belatedly by a covering tackle but offloaded to O'Loughlin.

Leinster were dominating in all facets now. Possession and territory was all theirs, they were negating bath at the ruck and they were squeezing them in the scrum as well. Bath's first try, claimed at the start of the second quarter, was completely against the run of play.

It was well-worked, coming off a lineout in the Leinster half. Sam Underhill, just back on the field after a HIA, carried it deep. Then James Wilson made a half-break that allowed room for an offload to loosehead Jacques van Rooyen who maintained the momentum.

Francois Louw provided the finish with a pick and go from inches out.

Leinster get into festive spirit with win against Bath

It was a score that the game needed if it was continue as a contest but the champions diluted its worth on 26 minutes when Bath conceded a penalty ten metres out, then switched off as James Lowe, the brilliant and electric Kiwi wing, tapped quickly and ran over.

Bath captain Charlie Ewels and Louw still had their back turned to all this even as Lowe dotted down. It amounted to criminal negligence from professional and experienced players. Particularly so when Leinster had the likes of Lowe and Larmour on the premises.

Still, this was proving to be everything last week's slog fest wasn't and Leinster began to play with an even greater freedom and joie de vivre as they went in search of the four-try bonus point in front of a very decent crowd of 40,261.

A Conan intercept sent Sexton and Sean Cronin surging upfield on an intricate one-two only for a Sexton grubber to dribble over the sideline just before Adam Byrne could collect and provide the finish the move merited.

Shortly after and Larmour was launching another counter which passed through a blizzard of hands before the effort ran out of space and luck just five metres from the English side's line. Shame but the dam was clearly ready to burst again.

Leinster finally sealed the try bonus-point two minutes before the break with Sexton atoning for having overegged his earlier kick to Byrne with a deliciously weighted crosskick that the winger collected over the head of Darren Atkins before touching down.

With Sexton landing all four of his conversions, Leinster led 28-10 at the interval and that chasm yawned further when Dan Leavy burrowed under the posts just five minutes after the restart. Credit to Bath, they found another response.

Underhill, as Leavy had done, made the crucial yards after a series of pick and goes on 52 minutes but Wilson's unsuccessful conversion from wide left meant there was still 20 points between the sides, the score standing at 35-15.

The game all but up, and with the mercury plummeting, both coaches began to empty their benches but there was still fun to be had, not least when Lowe gave a half-shimmy and offloaded to Jamison Gibson-Park who burst through for try number seven.

Devastating stuff from the Irish side who turn their attention to three rounds of Guinness PRO14 interpros over the festive season before returning to European affairs with that RDS date with Toulouse in January.

Leinster: J Larmour; A Byrne, G Ringrose, R O'Loughlin, J Lowe; J Sexton, L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; D Leavy, H van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: R Ruddock for van der Flier (44); A Porter for Furlong (46); J Tracy for Cronin and E Byrne for Healy (both 54); J Gibson-Park for McGrath and R Byrne for Sexton (both 61); R Molony for Ryan (70); N Reid for Ringrose (71).

Bath: R McConnochie; S Rokaduguni, J Willison, J Roberts, C Vuna; J Wilson, W Chudley; J van Rooyen, T Dunn, H Thomas; D Atwood, C Ewels; T Ellis, S Underhill, F Louw. Replacements: M Garvey for Underhill (HIA, 9-19); D Atkins for Willison (blood sub, 21); N Catt for van Rooyen (48); J Walker for Dunn and M Lahiff for Thomas (both 54); M Garvey for Louw and K Fotuali'i (both 60); E Stooke for Ewels (70); A Davies for Wilson (71).

Referee: P Gauzere (Fra).

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