Leinster warm up in style

Leinster 70 Zebre 6: Leinster had the game done and dusted by the time the returning Johnny Sexton left the field last night, on 55 minutes.

Leinster warm up in style

By full time, they had humiliated a pitiful Zebre side, running in ten tries against the Guinness PRO12’s bottom placed side.

Aside from boosting the confidence of Rory O’Loughlin, who scored three tries to follow on from his brace against Ulster last week, and Garry Ringrose, who scored two of his own, it’s hard to see what Leo Cullen will take out of this game ahead of next week’s Champions Cup clash against Montpellier.

Well, actually, those first 55 minutes will do.

Captain for the night, Sexton made his first appearance on a rugby pitch since November, thanks to a Joe Schmidt endorsed ‘rest’, and didn’t put a foot out of place.

He kicked six conversions from six before leaving the park, and was his usual commanding self – bawling out James Tracy for not passing accurately and costing Leinster a potential quick tap and go inside the Zebre 22, and he made a clever call on the break, to take a scrum – from which O’Loughlin scored his first of the night, instead of kicking three points.

All told, a good night for the outhalf, and for Leo Cullen.

But what about Zebre – who looked poor when they conceded eight tries in this same fixture last year?

Two first half penalties was all they had to show, and one must wonder how long a side that has won just once this season can argue they deserve a place in the league in their current guise.

But Leinster can only beat what’s in front of them, and they left them black and blue last night with tries coming from anywhere and everywhere.

Rory O’Loughlin showed the pace and intelligence that has him spoken about as the next great hope from the Leinster academy, while Garry Ringrose made hard work look easy once more.

Sean O’Brien, vocal from the very outset in a rather quiet RDS, opened the scoring early on, as Leinster made a mockery of even the most generous bookmaker’s odds.

Hayden Triggs and Luke McGrath combined well – ending in a try each before the half hour mark, when Cian Healy forced home from close range to wrap up the bonus point in ridiculously quick fashion.

McGrath was the architect of the fifth try of the half, sniping as he does so well off the back of a scrum, before feeding McLoughlin on the blindside – with nobody close to stopping the flying winger.

The St Michael’s man, who enjoyed himself so much last weekend, must think this game is easy as he – combining with Ringrose in the second half, completed his hat trick with eight minutes to go.

Leinster were scoring at their leisure, with Ringrose not only providing, but finishing too – and the 21 year old ended with two scores of his own, as Leinster’s forwards bullied the Zebre defence, leaving it to the quicksilver kids to add to their season try tallies.

Not to be outdone, Jamie Heaslip, making a rare start on the bench, joined in the fun with an 80th minute try of his own to take Leinster’s haul to ten.

It won’t be so easy next week, when Montpellier visit. But for Leinster, and Sexton, this will do nicely as a warm up.

Scores for Leinster:

Tries: O’Brien, Triggs, McGrath, Healy, O’Loughlin (3), Ringrose (2), Heaslip. Cons: Sexton (6) Byrne (3)

Scorer for Zebre:

Tries: Cons: Pen: Padovani (2).

LEINSTER:

Z Kirchner; A Byrne, G Ringrose, R Henshaw (Reid, 66), R O’Loughlin, J Sexton (capt) (Byrne, 55), L McGrath (Gibson-Park, 55); C Healy (McGrath, 48), J Treacy (Cronin, 48 [Tracy, 74)), M Bent (Furlong, 48), D Toner, H Triggs (Ruddock, 48), D Leavy (Heaslip, 60) S O’Brien, J Conan.

ZEBRE:

K Baker, M Bellini , M Pratichetti (Venditti, 50), T Castello, L Greeff (Palazzani, 55); E Padovani (Bordoli, 63) M Violi; A Lovotti (De Marchi, 66), T D’Apice (Festuccia ,40) P Ceccarelli (Roan, 7-16. 60), G Koegelenberg (Furno, 50), G Biagi (capt), D Minnie (Mbandà, 45), F Ruzza (Ceccarelli, 74), A Van Schalkwyk.

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