Leinster rout Saints as Connacht, Leicester win
Triple champions Leinster handed Northampton a record European Cup defeat in a nine-try, 60-13 rout Saturday as Connacht and Leicester kept their quarterfinal hopes alive with dramatic last-minute kicks. One week ago, Leinster beat the Saints 37-10 in their first Pool 4 meeting a game marked by Northampton’s England skipper Dyan Hartley being red-carded after just six minutes. On Saturday, the English side, already struggling in fourth from bottom spot in the Premiership, were stunned again despite briefly leading in Dublin when Ken Pisi scored an 80-metre breakaway try to go 13-5 up.
But the 2009, 2011 and 2012 champions were 29-13 ahead by the interval thanks to Adam Byrne’s second try and further scores from Luke McGrath and Sean O’Brien. After the break, Tadhg Furlong, Sean Cronin, skipper Isa Nacewa (two) and Rory O’Loughlin added further tries as Northampton were humiliated. Nacewa added 15 points with the boot.
The win moved Leinster to 16 points at the top of Pool 4, six ahead of Montpellier who face fellow French side Castres yesterday. Northampton remain bottom with just four points.
“We were pretty clinical in taking the opportunities that we created,” said Leinster coach Leo Cullen. Saints boss Jim Mallinder, who made 10 changes to his team, added: “We’re out of Europe. We were always going to struggle. We knew that before the game.”
Connacht avenged last week’s 32-17 loss to Wasps when backrow forward Naulia Dawai barrelled over for the try with 81 minutes on the clock. That made it 18-18 with fly-half Jack Carty holding his nerve to kick the winning conversion for 20-18 from tight on the line as the Galway Sportsgrounds crowd held their breath.
“I just tried to block out the pressure,” said Carty who was his team’s only fit goalkicker. “It’s a feeling of pride and relief.” Wasps took a losing bonus point and still head Pool 2. But they are locked on 13 points along with four-time champions Toulouse and Connacht with only the group winners guaranteed a quarter-final spot. The English side were ahead at 7-3 early in the first half thanks to a try from scrum-half Joe Simpson after Nathan Hughes had been held up short of the line.
But a Carty penalty followed by a converted try from Danie Poolman, after a scrum against the head, gave Connacht a 13-7 lead at the interval.
Wasps clawed back to 13-13 before winger Josh Bassett sprinted over for his team’s second try for an 18-13 lead with just seven minutes left. However, Connacht weren’t finished and Carty’s decision to kick for the corner allowed the home side to set-up a line-out drive which carried Dawai over for the tying score.
Toulouse ran in eight tries in a 54-15 rout of Italian whipping boys Zebre, who have conceded 224 points in four games. Leicester needed a last-minute, long-distance penalty to defeat Munster 18-16.
Leicester, the 2001 and 2002 winners, were 16-15 down with one minute left after hooker Niall Scannell had grabbed the game’s only try for Munster, the 2006 and 2008 champions.
But with the clock ticking down, Munster flanker CJ Stander was penalised and Welsh fly-half Owen Williams coolly slotted the winning penalty from 52 metres. Williams kicked all of Leicester’s points with a perfect six from six as the Tigers avenged last weekend’s 38-0 mauling by Munster at Thomond Park.—