Leinster teach newcomers a lesson
October 9, 2010
Isa Nacewa gets to grips with Racing hooker Benjamin Noirot
© Getty Images
Leinster laid down an impressive marker for their Heineken Cup campaign by powering to a 38-22 bonus-point victory over Top 14 leaders Racing Metro at the RDS on Saturday.
The 2009 champions continued to distance themselves from their shaky early season form, backing up last weekend's Aviva Stadium win over fierce rivals Munster with a composed performance against a dangerous set of European newcomers.
Sean O'Brien, Rob Kearney, Richardt Strauss, Jamie Heaslip and Fergus McFadden scored Leinster's tries, securing a vital bonus-point to aid their pursuit of top spot in this season's most difficult Pool - one that also contains French champions Clermont Auvergne and Aviva Premiership heavyweights Saracens.
Albert Vulivuli scored Racing's only try in Dublin and it was a doubly damaging one for Leinster as inspirational centre Brian O'Driscoll was injured in the build-up, only a week out from their Wembley meeting with Sarries. The Ireland skipper hobbled off with what looked like a hamstring problem, leaving his replacement, McFadden, to finish the job.
The pre-game calm generated by an immaculately observed minute's silence for legendary Munster and Ireland lock Moss Keane was shattered in spectacular fashion by Sebastien Chabal, who launched himself exocet-style into a first-minute hit on opposite number Heaslip.
Racing's opening minutes were characterised by barely-concealed excitement and while they clattered into contact with relish, they were caught cold for the opening points as Nacewa knocked over a penalty. The Parisian aristocrats were lucky to concede only three after Gordon D'Arcy had coasted into a yawning gap in their defence only for a forward pass to end the hosts' raid.
Racing fullback Francois Steyn's first penalty was well wide from 30 metres but after Julien Saubade had wasted a possible overlap out wide, fly-half Jerome Fillol sent over a well-judged penalty to level the scores after 12 minutes.
The scrum was a concern for both sides in the early stages with a host of early engagements from Leinster producing free-kicks but it was pressure on the visitors' set-piece that yielded the next score. O'Brien latched on to Chabal at the base to win a penalty and Nacewa sent it between the uprights.
The impressive O'Brien was immediately back in action, beginning and ending the move for Leinster's first try. He claimed Steyn's towering restart to set his pack rumbling upfield, with D'Arcy adding further cut and thrust to take the ball into the 22, where tight-head Mike Ross barrelled for the line. He was stopped just short but O'Brien was on hand to dive over from close range, Nacewa adding a simple conversion.
The pendulum swung further in the home side's favour with their second try, a score concocted from equal parts of Racing idiocy and Leinster brilliance. Steyn and Saubade launched a kamikaze raid from deep and conspired to lose the ball forward, gifting Leinster a scrum on the Racing 22. From there O'Driscoll and Jonny Sexton worked a superb loop move, allowing Sexton to break clear and find Kearney with a well-judged pass for the try out wide.
Steyn's riposte was to slot his first penalty of the afternoon, but Nacewa was able to bite back immediately after when Racing failed to deal with Sexton's restart. His penalty restored a 15-point cushion at the break.
Fillol closed the gap after the break but Racing were back under the cosh when Nicolas Durand was yellow-carded for killing the ball in the wake of a sparky break from Luke Fitzgerald. Leinster's third try duly followed but again it was avoidable for the visitors. They turned their back after conceding a penalty and paid the price, Sexton taking a quick tap to allow Fitzgerald to streak clear and put hooker Strauss over in the corner.
Steyn pulled out his kicking boots to land a 66-metre monster kick just as Durand was restored and Vulivuli gave Racing more reason to cheer by powering over for their first try. The giant Fijian centre crashed through a gap created by O'Driscoll's injury, diving in as the Ireland skipper pulled up amid shouts of pain.
Leinster quickly nipped the Racing comeback in the bud by scoring the vital bonus-point try and it was skipper Heaslip who profited. Kearney began the move by collecting his own Garryowen and with Cian Healy doing his best impression of Ross by taking the ball to within feet of the line, replacement scrum-half Isaac Boss had an easy job to put Heaslip in under the posts. Fillol and Nacewa traded further penalties before McFadden tied a bow around the result for Leinster, streaking along the touchline for a try in the corner after the game's structure broke down.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton