A BLUES

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - GAELIC GAMES - BY MICHAEL SCULLY

WASPS felt the hu­mil­i­at­ing sting of Le­in­ster’s hunger to go back to back as Euro­pean cham­pi­ons at a sell-out RDS last night.

The hosts ran in eight tries in front of a pumped up 18,300 at­ten­dance to serve up sweet re­venge over the vis­i­tors.

As open­ing state­ments go by de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, this takes some beat­ing.

Le­in­ster let their main Cham­pi­ons Cup ri­vals know in no un­cer­tain terms that they are in no mood to re­lin­quish their hold on the tro­phy. .

Once again Leo Cullen’s side used the cham­pi­onship min­utes to do their real busi­ness, scor­ing tries just be­fore and af­ter half-time to kill off what had been a stub­born Wasps re­sis­tance to that point.

Rob Kear­ney stated on the eve of this pool opener at the RDS that the tro­phy had been handed back and Le­in­ster saw them­selves as con­tenders again, rather than as hold­ers.

And the hunger is clearly still there as they pre­pare for round two, a trip to Toulouse, next Sun­day.

Some of the older mem­bers will have taken par­tic­u­lar plea­sure for the man­ner and size of this vic­tory.

The last time Wasps pitched up at the south Dublin venue – an 18,300 sell-out on the night – they romped to a 33-6 vic­tory.

That was three years ago as Le­in­ster hit rock-bot­tom with five pool de­feats.

But they ce­mented their re­turn to the top last sea­son with vic­tory in the Cham­pi­ons Cup de­cider against Rac­ing 92, a record-equalling fourth tri­umph in the com­pe­ti­tion.

The task fac­ing Wasps here was ob­vi­ous, with Cullen se­lect­ing 14 Ire­land in­ter­na­tion­als – the vast ma­jor­ity of them Grand Slam win­ners – plus the Kiwi try-ma­chine James Lowe to start.

As it hap­pened he was forced to re­place Dan Leavy with Rud­dock in the back row be­fore kick-off, and Rud­dock was clearly fired up with a point to prove hav­ing been om­mit­ted de­spite a stormer against Mun­ster.

Al­though the hosts dom­i­nated ter­ri­tory and pos­ses­sion, a com­bi­na­tion of good Wasps de­fend­ing and poor Le­in­ster de­ci­sion­mak­ing kept the vis­i­tors in touch un­til the 40th minute trail­ing 7-3 to Sean Cronin’s open­ing try.

Liam Sopoaga, the 14-times capped All Black, acted out of des­per­a­tion as the clock ticked into the red to pre­vent com­pa­triot Lowe from scor­ing by de­lib­er­ately

OPEN THE GATES Hooker Sean Cronin crashes over the first of eight tries for Le­in­ster last night

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