Leinster close in on trophy

THERE may still be five rounds to play before this year’s Magners League campaign is put to bed, but Leinster already have one hand gripped firmly around the trophy after events in Dublin and Wales last night.

A five-try defeat of Glasgow in the RDS was in itself sufficient reason to make this a very Good Friday, but Llanelli’s win over Cardiff at Stradey Park saw a lead that had been eight points at the table’s summit stretched to 10.

After a stuttering opening quarter, Leinster were never in danger of slipping up and, with the injured Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy due back in two weeks, the season’s final chapter looks predictable.

The evening was a seminal one for Malcolm O’Kelly who was making his 139th appearance for the province, a landmark that brings him alongside Reggie Corrigan as Leinster’s most capped player.

The second row forward was just one of five Ireland players to be parachuted straight back into the side after the Six Nations campaign as coach Michael Cheika looked to hammer home his side’s dominance at the head of the table.

Rob Kearney wore the number 15 jersey, Shane Horgan and Luke Fitzgerald patrolled the touchlines, while Bernard Jackman returned to the centre of the front row.

Glasgow’s approach to their international contingent could not have been more marked. Coach Sean Lineen resisted the urge to reintroduce his Scotland internationals after what he termed “nine months of high-intensity rugby”.

That meant no place for Dan Parks, hooker Fergus Thomson, centre Andy Henderson and back-rowers John Barclay and Kelly Brown. None of the quintet even featured on the bench.

But Lineen’s side dominated territory for the first 10 minutes and accelerated into a 6-0 lead thanks to a pair of penalties from out-half Colin Gregor.

It took Leinster’s youngest member, Luke Fitzgerald, to ignite their evening midway through the half when he jinked his way past a clutch of tackles in midfield with his line break resulting in a penalty in front of the posts. Contepomi duly opened Leinster’s account.

They took the lead two minutes later but they owed their new-found advantage to a Glasgow mistake. Cruelly, it was almost the visitors’ first of the game.

Leinster had found their way into the away 22 with a fluid backline move — their first of the evening — but momentum appeared to have been lost when a succession of mauls yielded little in the way of ground gained.

From nowhere however, a path appeared for Shane Jennings, who stumbled over the gain line and in for the try.

As the night sky darkened, Leinster moved to put some daylight between them and their visitors before the break and they achieved it with another try that owed everything to the brain of Contepomi.

Taking the pass from scrumhalf Chris Whitaker, the Argentinean was faced with a wall of defenders just inches from his face but a clever grubber kick with his right outstep made the rearguard redundant in an instant.

The two men quickest to the chase were both wearing a harp on their jerseys but inside centre Michael Berne won the race to touch down with Horgan hovering over his shoulder.

Contepomi’s second conversion left 11 points between the sides at the interval.

The second period offered more in the way of open ground and line breaks and, if it was chaotic and riddled with mistakes, it was equally entertaining — with five tries squeezed into the last 20 minutes.

Leinster won that mini-contest three to two and were never in danger of being caught but, every time they managed a touch down, Glasgow neutralised the damage with five points of their own.

Horgan grabbed the first and last of the half, latching on to another Contepomi grubber kick for the former and a looped Jonathan Sexton pass for the latter. The other Leinster try was a one-yard lunge from Jamie Heaslip.

Glasgow’s efforts came either side of Heaslip’s, tighthead prop Moray Low claiming the first and number eight John Beattie running nearly the full length of the pitch after an interception to register the other.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; S Horgan, C Warner, M Berne, L Fitzgerald; F Contepomi, C Whitaker; O le Roux, B Jackman, S Wright; L Cullen, M O’Kelly; S Jennings, K Gleeson, J Heaslip. Replacements: C Keane for Whitaker 52, J Sexton for Berne 58, T Hogan for O’Kelly 64, C Healy for le Roux 70, G Brown for Fitzgerald 73, B Blaney for Jackman 76, S Keogh for Heaslip 76.

GLASGOW: B Stortoni; L Fa’atau, G Morrison, D Gibson, T Evan; C Gregor, S Pinder; E Kalman, D Hall, M Low; A Newman, D Turner; J Eddie, D MacFayden, J Beattie. Replacements: O Palepo for Newman 39, J Va’a for Kalman 40, R Vernon for MacFayden 56, H O’Hare for Fa’atu 64, S Barrow for Pinder 73,

Referee: H Watkins (WRU).

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