Skipper’s relief as Sexton kicks Blues out of jail

Treviso 18 Leinster 19

Joe Schmidt’s men seemed set for a shock loss after a 78th-minute try by Fabio Semenzato had left Benetton Treviso leading 18-16 with time ticking away.

But then Sexton came into his own, launching a perfect restart from which Leinster would re-gather possession before splitting the posts with a sensational drop goal, handing Leinster a win they scarcely deserved.

“I think I was coming from a ruck when I saw Johnny tee it up, and even though it was a wobbly, ugly one, I knew he would hit the target,” said Heaslip of the winning kick.

“It’s testament to his character that he took it on from such a long range, and also testament to the team that we managed to put him position in the first place.

“Everything from the restart had been worked out beforehand.

“It was planned and calculated, and everyone played a part, in particular Devin Toner, who secured the ball.”

Sexton was one of seven players making their seasonal bow on the night, and how Leinster relied on his marksmanship skills throughout to keep them in touch.

Despite being slightly off the pace in general play, his goal kicking was flawless, and his contribution of 15 points was enough to earn him the man-of-the-match gong.

Another lining out for the first time this season was Brian O’Driscoll, who rolled back the years with a trademark try, Leinster’s only touchdown on the night.

Indeed, they didn’t have too many other scoring opportunities as they were pushed to the brink by a Treviso side hell-bent on repeating their giant-killing act against the same opposition two seasons ago.

“From about 10 minutes on, it just became a matter of putting our finger in the dyke,” admitted coach Schmidt afterwards. “They just stormed at us and stormed at us, and we couldn’t find any rhythm. The second half was a bit better, but I feel we still aren’t matching up physically.

“I was hoping for things to click but maybe we need another couple of games together for that to happen. Or at least that’s what I’m hoping.”

One man who certainly won’t be seeing any rugby for a while is Richard Strauss, who was stretchered off the pitch with a bad concussion, and is already ruled out of next week’s game against Edinburgh.

By the time the whistle sounded, he wasn’t the only Leinster player looking dazed, and unsurprisingly the feeling within the camp was very much one of relief as they boarded the plane for home.

“It certainly wasn’t easy out there tonight,” admitted Heaslip.

“I don’t think we played as well as we could have, but you have to take into consideration that it was a first run-out for many of us, and it’s never easy to get up to speed.

“There were times out there tonight when we really struggled to keep up with the pace.

“Treviso threw everything at us and we were really blowing.

“Personally, I felt as if I had been hit by a double decker bus. It was that tough.

“We’ll go home relieved but also pleased of our day’s work, because it’s far from easy to pick up away wins in this competition and especially here in Treviso.”

Scorers for Treviso: Tries: Barbieri, Semenzato, Con: Burton, Pens: Di Bernardo, Burton.

Scorers for Leinster: Try: O’Driscoll. Con: Sexton. Pens: Sexton 3, Drop: Sexton.

TREVISO: L McLean; E Gori, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, L Nitoglia (F Semenzato 70); A Di Bernardo (K Burton 55), T Botes; A De Marchi (M Rizzo 60), L Ghiraldini (F Sbaraglini 55), I Fernandez-Rouyet (L Cittadini 60); F Minto, C Van Zyl (capt) (V Bernabò 45); S Favaro (D Budd 75), A Zanni, R Barbieri.

LEINSTER: I Madigan (I Nacewa 41); A Conway, B O’Driscoll, F McFadden, F Carr; J Sexton, E Reddan (J Cooney 69); H van der Merwe (C Healy 60), R Strauss (S Cronin 63), M Ross (J Hagan 60); D Browne (L Cullen 63) , D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip (capt).

Referee: I Davies (WRU).

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