By Brendan O’Brien, RDS
Leinster 50 Benetton Treviso 19
It may have been a day of drama and calculators across most of the Guinness PRO12, but Leinster strolled to the most straightforward and expected of victories against a mostly awful Treviso side at the RDS on Saturday afternoon.
Needing both the win and the try bonus point to be assured of a top-two finish in the ladder and, with it, the crucial home semi-final berth, Leo Cullen’s men had the necessary done within six minutes of the second-half.
They now face Ulster in the RDS in a fortnight’s time after their loss to Connacht in the Sportsground.
Jonathan Sexton got the ball rolling with the first five-pointer after nine minutes. A pair from Richardt Strauss were duly added before the break, which the hosts reached at 17-0 to the good. The only question by then was how high the final score would go.
Leinster broke the Treviso line repeatedly and offloads were two-a-penny. The only concerns all afternoon came when Rob Kearney hobbled off with an ankle injury, which jeopardises his chances of playing in the semi, and Jonathan Sexton who followed him soon after the break.
The word on Sexton after a 47th-minute hit which left him floored and medics assessing his neck/head area was of a “precautionary” substitution and, oddly, some ice on a quad as he watched the remainder of the game from the bench.
Jack McGrath had already crossed for the bonus point try by then and tries five and six followed before the hour mark from Isa Nacewa and Mick Kearney before Treviso finally landed a punch with a score from Marco Lazzaroni and the conversion from Jayden Hayward.
Noel Reid pounced for Leinster’s seventh within minutes, but Leinster were on go-slow mode for the last quarter and Matteo Muccignat cantered over for a second Treviso try with less than six minutes before Enrico Bacchin added a third with 90 seconds left on the clock.
The hosts did at least get the final word with Garry Ringrose, moved from centre to the wing back when Rob Kearney made his departure, going over in the right corner with a pass from the excellent Ben Te’o. Nacewa, man of the match, added the last two points.
It was nonetheless a messy and uninspiring way for Leinster to end the game, and the regular season with it, and yet it was a useful and timely reminder of the shortfalls which cost them so dearly in the Champions Cup and again in their previous game against Ulster.
Better will be required later in the month.
Leinster: R Kearney; I Nacewa, G Ringrose, B Te’o, D Kearney; J Sexton, E Reddan; J McGrath, R Strauss, M Ross; R Molony, M Kearney; R Ruddock, J Murphy, J Heaslip.
Replacements: N Reid for R Kearney (24); C Marsh for Sexton (48); S Cronin for Strauss and T Furlong for Ross (both 52); D Ryan for Ruddock (54); P Dooley for McGrath (55); H Triggs for Kearney (61); L McGrath for Reddan (69).
Benetton Treviso: J Hayward; L Nitoglia, T Iannone, A Sgarbi, A Esposito; L McLean, E Gori; M Zanusso, O Gega, S Ferrari; M Fuser, F Paulo; F Minto, A Zanni, A Steyn.
Replacements: E Bacchin for Iannone and M Lazzaroni for Zanni (both HT); A Lucchese for Gori (42); L Bigi for Gega (54); S Manu for Ferrari (60); M Muccignat for Zanusso and A De Marchi for Minto (both 67).
Referee: B Whitehouse (WRU).