Let’s start off by applying some perspective here.
By May, their interest in both Champions Cup and PRO14 had been ended at the penultimate hurdles so the evisceration of a diluted and disinterested Glasgow side with five scrum-halves in their matchday 23 needs to be placed in context.
The visitors were mostly awful here.
Head coach Dave Rennie described their first-half efforts, which ended with his boys five tries to one in the red, as “lifeless”.
Pretty much as you’d expect, basically, from a side bottom of the pool after four defeats from four.
Leinster, then, are unlikely to benefit from such largesse and naivety again in Europe this term but the professional and clinical manner in which they punished Glasgow time and again was still notable as a statement of intent.
They ended the afternoon here with a home quarter-final booked – almost certainly to be held down the road at the Aviva Stadium – thanks to eight tries scored which lost little of their lustre against the three conceded.
“There’s no magic formula,” said head coach Leo Cullen. “Everyone is working hard. There’s a lot of disappointment at how we finished last season. Losing two semi-finals has a very ‘almost’ feel about it, doesn’t it?
“A lot of work to get us to those semi-finals. It’s nice to have a quarter-final, even if it is a couple of months away, on the horizon to look forward to.”
They steamrolled Glasgow at times with a pack intent on punishment, a half-back pairing that is blossoming thanks to Jonathan Sexton’s consistent excellence and Luke McGrath’s growth and a back line that is all razor-sharp edges.
James Lowe claimed a first RDS try in what was his European bow. Scott Fardy claimed a first five-pointer for the Irish club and then added a second while Brian Byrne made a first Champions Cup appearance off the bench.
Small steps for Leinster but big ones for those men.
It all added to a sense of a jigsaw in which the pieces are falling in to place though they had to weather an early Glasgow surge before wrestling back control and steering a path towards the knockout stages with considerable room for manoeuvre.
Amidst it all, Jordi Murphy must have broken some sort of record when he scored the game’s opening try and then picked up a yellow within a minute as he failed to retreat ten metres from a quick Glasgow tap near his own line.
Nikola Matawalu made him pay with the visitors’ first touch down seven minutes later but, with so many players lost to injury and the management excusing others for a game that meant little to them, that was as good as it got.
Isa Nacewa claimed Leinster’s second. It was a carbon copy of Murphy’s opener, Leinster storming through a gaping midfield hole that had clearly been identified long before the opening whistle, and Sexton added the extra two again.
With Luke McGrath sniping around the fringes and making occasional breaks, Glasgow found themselves robbing Peter to pay Paul with a defensive line that was also exposed out wide time and again. Sean Cronin, Fardy and Sexton all got over the chalk before the break.
If there was any concern for Leinster on the day it came in the wake of Sexton’s score, the out-half’s head shipping a knock from Matawalu as he followed him over the line, but he played on until replaced ten minutes after the break.
“He’s fine,” said Cullen.
Leinster were flying by now, sweeping upfield with an abandon that thrilled and yet there was an inevitable lull in the third quarter as, with the job done and bonus point bagged, their intensity dipped and they veered towards the careless.
“It is important we don’t develop bad behaviours in some of these games,” Cullen warned. “It is great keep in the ball alive, but, if it is at the expense of turning the ball over, then it is not a great exercise really, is it?”
Jordan Larmour crossed twice, once from inches out and the other from halfway, only to have both cancelled out. Nacewa and Fardy began and ended the scoring in that period with efforts from Adam Ashe and Matawalu for Glasgow and Lowe’s in between.
That’s eight wins on the trot now. In what was an unpredictable weekend for the tournament as a whole, this was all reassuringly familiar. They are still unbeaten side in this season’s Champions Cup and travel to France now hoping to nail down a home berth should they make another semi-final.
That’s the least of their ambitions.
J Larmour; F McFadden, R Henshaw, I Nacewa, J Lowe; J Sexton, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Conin, T Furlong; D Toner, S Fardy; Jordi Murphy, J van der Flier, J Conan.
R Byrne for Sexton and C Healy for J McGrath (both 50); R Kearney for Henshaw and D Leavy for Conan (both 55); B Byrne for Cronin and A Porter for Furlong (both 58); J Ryan for Toner (63); N McCarthy for L McGrath (70).
R Jackson; L Jones, H Jones, N Grigg, N Matawalu; P Horne, A Price; J Bhatti, G Turner, S Halanukonuka; R Harley, G Peterson; M Fagerson, M Smith, A Ashe.
G Horne for Price (46-55, HIA and 60); A Allan for Bhatti (59); D Rae for Halanukonuka (60); B Thomson for P Horne (65); K McDonald for Peterson and C Fusaro for Smith (both 66); G Stewart for Turner and H Pyrgos for Jones (both 74).
M Mitrea (Ita).
The 60 Second Report
This was all about the bonus point. Leinster were contemplating home knockout berths as
soon as Exeter Chiefs were dealt with twice. With Montpellier losing in Devon on Saturday, they could well make it six wins from six in France next week.
All praise for Leinster has to be balanced as to how poor the opposition was. Diluted by absent personnel and four defeats, the Warriors were a disinterested bunch long before the finish.
Leo Cullen can grumble about the concession of three tries but it gives him a stick to beat his side with and the success in securing the bonus point early on allowed him chop and change.
An official attendance of just under 16,000 in the nation’s most populous city makes you
wonder how the other 2,500 tickets went unsold when Leinster are consistently playing
rugby of this calibre and in the Champions Cup to boot.
Glasgow were a patched-up side and Leinster took full advantage early on with their opening two tries emanating from the exploitation of yawning gaps in the visitors’ midfield.
Best on show
Luke McGrath got the official vote for his service at scrum-half and the extra dimension that
came courtesy of his sniping. His handful of breaks kept the Glasgowdefence honest around the ruck and made room out wide for his colleagues.
Leinster complete their pool requirements next Saturday afternoon against Montpellier at
the Altrad Stadium. Glasgow have to go through the motions one last time, with Exeter Chiefs the visitors to Scotsoun the day before.
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