By Brendan O’Brien, RDS
Leinster 55 - Glasgow Warriors 19: Leinster sealed a home Champions Cup quarter-final berth against an admittedly limp Glasgow side at the RDS on Sunday afternoon with the sort of outstanding display that is once again becoming their trademark.
On this evidence, the province’s tag as tournament favourites is spot on.
The bonus point victory was secured with five minutes still to play in the first-half. They ended the game with eight in all – to three conceded - but we should make a point here of just how poor the opposition was on this occasion.
The Warriors had lost all four of their games in the pool up to this and a raft of injuries, tournament ineligibility and the need to rest others for future matters of more importance all left them vulnerable to the beating they eventually took in Dublin.
Head coach Dave Rennie named a matchday squad with five scrum-halves and such an imbalance in resources was ruthlessly exposed by a home team that has mined such a rich vein of form since their last defeat – in Glasgow back in early November.
This was an eighth win on the spin.
The only worry for Leo Cullen and his followers on this day was an early surge of pressure from Glasgow during which Jordi Murphy earned a yellow card and a moment before half-time when Jonathan Sexton shipped a late blow to the head.
Murphy eventually returned and Sexton played on.
Both players bookended the scoring in that first period with fifth and 39th-minute tries. Isa Nacewa, Sean Cronin and Scott Fardy added to the haul in between with Nico Matawalu briefly evening things up after Murphy’s opener.
Leinster were sublime at times.
Glasgow were porous but the Irish side was ruthless in finding and exploiting them through the centre and out on the tramlines and the speed of thought and movement was matched by the volume of supporting runners willing and able to keep the momentum going.
That it dipped after the break was no surprise.
Job done, Leinster just couldn’t find the urgency that drove their earlier efforts. Jordan Larmour did cross the try line twice in the next dozen minutes - once from inches out, the other from halfway - but both were ruled out.
The sixth five-pointer eventually came courtesy of Nacewa, in for his second, after 57 minutes but the rotation of players on and off the pitch had already kicked in by then as both sides paid heed to next week’s needs.
Amidst the confusion, Adam Ashe and Matawalu picked up consolations for the Scots while James Lowe claimed his first Leinster try at the RDS and Fardy pounced for the last of the day’s eleven tries in the 78th minute.
All in all, a good day’s work.
Leinster: J Larmour; F McFadden, R Henshaw, I Nacewa, J Lowe; J Sexton, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, S Fardy; Jordi Murphy, J van der Flier, J Conan.
Replacements: R Byrne for Sexton and C Healy for J McGrath (both 50); R Kearney for Henshaw and D Leavy for Conan (both 55); B Byrne for Cronin and A Porter for Furlong (both 58); J Ryan for Toner (63); N McCarthy for L McGrath (70).
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; L Jones, H Jones, N Grigg, N Matawalu; P Horne, A Price; J Bhatti, G Turner, S Halanukonuka; R Harley, G Peterson; M Fagerson, M Smith, A Ashe.
Replacements: G Horne for Price (46-55, HIA and 60); A Allan for Bhatti (59); D Rae for Halanukonuka (60); B Thomson for P Horne (65); K McDonald for Peterson and C Fusaro for Smith (both 66); G Stewart for Turner and H Pyrgos for Jones (both 74).
Referee: M Mitrea (Ita)
GAME IN 60 SECONDS:
It mattered: This was all about the bonus point. Leinster were contemplating home knockout berths as soon as Exeter Chiefs were dealt with twice in December.
With Montpellier losing in Devon on Saturday, they could well make it six wins from six in France next week.
Can’t ignore: All praise for Leinster has to be balanced by regular observations as to how poor the opposition was. Diluted by absent personnel and four defeats, the Warriors were a disinterested bunch
long before the finish.
Good day: Leo Cullen can grumble about the concession of three tries but it gives him a stick to beat his side with this week and the success in securing the bonus point so early on allowed him chop and change and minimise individual efforts ahead of a six-day turnaround.
Bad day: An official attendance of just under 16,000 in the nation’s biggest and most populous city makes you wonder how the other 2,500 tickets went unsold when Leinster are consistently playing rugby of this calibre and in the Champions Cup to boot.
Sideline smarts: Glasgow were a patched-up side and Leinster took full advantage early on with their opening two tries emanating from the exploitation of yawning gaps in the visitors’ midfield.
This was a professional job seen to clinically.
Best on show: Luke McGrath got the official vote for his service at scrum-half and the extra dimension that came courtesy of his sniping.
His handful of breaks kept the Glasgow defence honest around the ruck and made room out wide for his colleagues.
Next up: Leinster complete their pool requirements next Saturday afternoon against Montpellier at the Altrad Stadium.
Glasgow have to go through the motions one last time, with Exeter Chiefs the visitors to Scotsoun the day before.