De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons swat Wasps in mer­ci­less show of in­tent

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Johnny Watterson

Even the evening stood still for Le­in­ster’s breath­less per­for­mance. After a day of bro­ken trees and swirling leaves in Balls­bridge, Dublin, a calm de­scended on the RDS for the first of their Euro­pean nights.

A full house of 18,300, most of them barely re­flect­ing on the pos­si­bil­ity of a Le­in­ster de­feat to Premier­ship side Wasps, had their high con­fi­dence re­warded by a mer­ci­less rout: two first-half tries and six in the sec­ond.

In a stun­ning mini ram­page, the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons earned their place at the top of Pool 1 with a 52-3 win, start­ing their Heineken Cham­pi­ons Cup where they left off just a few months ago

It didn’t take long for the early min­utes of the game to fall into an easy set­tling-in for both teams. But that lasted less than seven min­utes.

Then, out of the night, shot Le­in­ster’s wicked hooker Sean Cronin, jets on fire, bar­relling in on the Wasps’ line on a slanted cross field run.

“Howya, Wil­lie?” he surely mut­tered as he burned past the great South African back for Le­in­ster’s first try. Yes, it was Wil­lie, not Ol­lie, le Roux.

Even with Dan Leavy pulling out just be­fore kick-off and Rhys Rud­dock com­ing in with Sean O’Brien left to stew on the bench, Le­in­ster never broke sweat that Wasps could over-run them.

James Lowe hit Johnny Sex­ton on the head with a pass, another ball inches from the line was badly passed then fum­bled and Rob­bie Hen­shaw con­sumed half the acreage of the show­ground be­fore hit­ting turf.

But all that first half grunt al­most came to lit­tle as the Le­in­ster ac­cu­racy be­trayed them in the fi­nal 20 yards, the first half clos­ing 14-3, Luke McGrath nip­ping in for a de­served sec­ond try in in­jury time. Wasps gifted out­half Lima Sopoaga went to the bin for im­petu­ously jump­ing from his line and slap­ping a Le­in­ster ball.

Le­in­ster were more of a juice press than a shred­der in the open­ing 40 min­utes. But the brazen Lowe stood up just as the re­freshed crowd gath­ered to their seats after the break.

Tak­ing on all in front of him, the winger streaked straight up main street from 30 yards out. Suck­er­punched for try three, there was no way back for Wasps. The yel­low card had cost them two tries. McGrath added the fourth soon after, and Le­in­ster re­tired into an up­tempo, high-ac­cu­racy state of cruise con­trol.

Maybe at the begin­ning it wasn’t as much the rock’n’roll, ramped-up, allsing­ing, all-danc­ing Le­in­ster the fans might have hoped for. But by the end that’s ex­actly what they be­came, the pop­u­lar Lowe, again his bob­bing bun and quick feet, tak­ing the Le­in­ster try count to five and his fourth in two matches, then Jor­dan Lar­mour his first in Europe and fi­nally Hen­shaw and so late Jack McGrath.

Toulouse next week in France. A win­ter begin­ning, and Le­in­ster coltish and spring-heeled. This far out, they are al­ready shap­ing the tour­na­ment.

This far out, Le­in­ster are al­ready shap­ing the tour­na­ment

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