Defending champions swat Wasps in merciless show of intent
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