Having brushed aside one of the pace-setters in the English Premiership on Saturday, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt will turn his thoughts to Racing Metro with plenty at stake.
This thoroughly-deserved, bonus point win guaranteed Leinster a prized place in the knock-out stages, but Schmidt now wants to secure an April date in Dublin when the tournament resumes after the Six Nations.
“I’m no mathematician, but to be certain of getting a home quarter-final you probably need to get 23 points with all the various things that can occur,” he said. “Obviously, (unbeaten) Northampton (Pool one) and Toulouse (Pool 6) appear to be flying, so those two are going to rack up the two top spots. Then it’s a scramble as to who can get the most points on the board.”
All of that will ensure plenty of drama around Europe next weekend and Schmidt, though encouraged by the brilliance of some of Leinster’s rugby on Saturday, believes they have a difficult assignment in the French capital.
He is intent on keeping a lid on expectation, saying: “I’m a realist. You can live in the illusion that the media creates sometimes or you can live the reality and get your feet on the ground. If your feet lift off the ground, it’s easy to get carried backwards. There are a few guys at Racing Metro who could do that to us next week.
“I don’t believe Racing Metro will offer anything on a plate to us; we’re going to have to go over there and take whatever we can get.”
Recalling Leinster’s opening victory over the Parisian based side (38-22), Schmidt is wary of what might lie in wait for them. “I’m sure they will have a point to prove. We will have to play with tempo against them because they’re strong enough to hurt us. They have a huge kicking ability through the likes of (Francois) Steyn and (Juan Martin) Hernandez. You can’t offer these guys opportunities.”
Although this week will bring a heavy work load, Schmidt has plenty of positives to reflect on, not least the performances of Sean O’Brien, rookie Dominic Ryan and Shane Jennings in the back row, the brilliance of full back Isa Nacewa and the efforts of Shane Horgan on the wing.
Leinster scored six tries to three and Schmidt can also be happy with a powerful performance from Richardt Strauss, solid scrum displays from Cian Healy and Mike Ross, along with some delightful footwork from Fergus McFadden and Eoin O’Malley in scoring their respective tries.
It says much that Brian O’Driscoll or Jonathan Sexton no longer had to hog the limelight on days such as this.
On Saturday, Leinster’s 22-12 half time advantage was mainly down to the brilliance of their back row, albeit with help from Nacewa. The same cannot be said of winger Luke Fitzgerald, whose errors helped give Saracens a lifeline their first-half performance scarcely deserved.
With Leinster leading by 12 points, Fitzgerald’s mistakes allowed Saracens in for tries from James Short and Kelly Brown - one of which was converted by Owen Farrell.
The Leinster back row showed their mettle two minutes from the break when O’Brien, Jennings and Ryan combined for the third try, which Sexton converted.
The back row had earlier taken all of the scoring credit - O’Brien getting the opener after six minutes with assists from Strauss and Nacewa, who paved the way for another try from Ryan, also converted by Sexton.
Frustrated by lack of progress in the early stages of the second half, Saracens capitulated in the face of growing confidence from the home side, who powered home with tries from McFadden, Nacewa and O’Malley, all of them converted by Sexton, before Nils Mordt got a consolation injury time try for the visitors.
LEINSTER: I. Nacewa; S. Horgan, B. O’Driscoll, F. McFadden, L. Fitzgerald; J. Sexton, E. Reddan; C. Healy, R. Strauss, M. Ross; L Cullen (captain), N. Hines; D. Ryan, S. O’Brien, S. Jennings.
Replacements: D. Toner for Hines, E. O’Malley for Horgan (both 60), K. McLaughlin for Jennings, I. Boss for Reddan, C. Newland for Ross, H. Van der Merwe for Healy (all 66), I. Madigan for Sexton (70).
SARACENS: N. Mordt; D. Strettle, M. Tagicakibau, B. Barritt, J. Short; O. Farrell, R. Wigglesworth; R. Gill, S. Brits, C. Nieto; S. Borthwick (captain), H. Vyvyan; K. Brown, E. Joubert, A. Saull.
Replacements: G. Henson for Tagicakibau (34, injured), H. Smith for Vyvyan (44), J. Melck for Saull, N. De Kock for Wigglesworth (both 53), P. Du Plessis for Nieto (61), J. George for Brits (66), N. Cato for Strettle (68, injured).
Referee: R. Poite (France).