Nacewa stars as Leinster cut loose

Isa Nacewa was the key figure in Leinster’s bonus-point victory in last night’s RaboDirect Pro12 clash with an Italian side noted for causing upsets in this competition.

For 60 minutes or so it went according to that plan, until Leinster’s young bucks stormed through to leave the remaining league challengers trailing in their wake.

On this performance, with a so-called half a team, albeit against half a Treviso team, it seems certain Joe Schmidt’s side will go on to secure top spot or at least win a home semi-final.

There were many cheers during a Leinster-dominated last quarter, but few matched the announcement Nacewa had won the man of the match award. It was hardly surprising, because apart from a generous haul of 20 points, he was also instrumental in the creation of two further Leinster tries.

He set the scene for what was eventually a Leinster demolition job, and even after his departure with a blood injury in the 75th minute, the trend continued. Fionn Carr prospered from a late cross-kick by Ian Madigan, who then knocked over the conversion to enhance the comprehensive victory.

Schmidt expressed his delight at the result given it was an opportunity to throw so many of his youngsters into the fray. He did, however, temper his remarks by an admission Treviso were well short of a full deck, both in personnel and training opportunity in a week when the Italian winter fully set in.

He said: “We know they hadn’t anything near their top side and they have been ill prepared through lack of training this week as well.”

However, Leinster fans will hardly worry about that following an emphatic victory that started and finished with lots of entertainment. Both sides had try-scoring opportunities but Leinster provided the opening points through a well struck penalty goal from Nacewa.

The full-back combined with Brendan Macken to create a magnificent 13th-minute movement, but Leinster had to be smart to snuff out a strong run from Brendan Williams as well, and the visitors equalised with a drop goal from out-half Alberto di Bernardo midway through the half.

Leinster went in front again with a simple try from out-half Madigan, who was put into the scoring position by number eight Leo Auva’a. Nacewa screwed his conversion attempt to the right but atoned when he kicked a 32nd-minute penalty for an 11-3 lead at the break.

Di Bernardo missed a kick for the visitors, but it didn’t stop them trying, even after Nacewa kicked a 51st-minute penalty against the run of play.

Prop forward Matteo Muccignat got in for a try at the corner five minutes later and the visitors were back in the ball game.

Not for long. Richardt Strauss grabbed a 62nd-minute try after a brilliant run by Carr, continued by Macken, opened up the Treviso defence. Nacewa added the conversion to stretch the lead out to 21-8.

In the space of four minutes, any lingering doubts about the outcome were dispelled.

Nacewa converted his own try and then converted another he created for substitute John Cooney for a 35-8 lead, the guarantee of a bonus point and a substantial lead at the top of the table.

Carr and Madigan combined for the last seven-pointer of the evening in injury time.

Scorers for Leinster: Tries: Madigan, Strauss, Nacewa, Cooney, Carr. Cons: Nacewa 3, Madigan. Pens: Nacewa 3.

Scorers for Treviso: Try: Muccignat. Drop Goal: Di Bernardo.

LEINSTER: I Nacewa, D Hudson, B Macken, C.O’Shea, F Carr, I Madigan, I Boss, H van der Merwe, R Strauss, N White, D Browne, D Toner, K McLaughlin (captain), L Auva’a, S Jennings.

Replacements: J Hagan for White, R Ruddock for Auva’a (both 56), D Kearney for Carr (64), J McGrath for Van der Merwe, M Flanagan for Browne (both 66), N Reid for O’Shea (68), T Sexton for Strauss, J Cooney for Boss (both 69).

BENETTON TREVISO: L Nitoglia, B De Jager, E Galon, A Pratichetti, B Wiliams, A di Bernardo, A Chillon, M Muccignat, E Ceccato, I Fernandez, F Minto, V Bernabo (captain), G Padro, M Filipucci, B Vermaak.

Replacements: P di Santo for Fernandez (27), S Picone for Chillon (34), G Garcia or De Jager (40), D Vidal for Ceccato, E Pavanello for Padro (both 64), C Fazzari for Muccignat (68).

Referee: L Hodges (Wales).

RaboDirect Pro12 at Firhill: Glasgow 19, Scarlets 9.

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