Schmidt delighted with Leinster display
December 17, 2011
Luke Fitzgerald scored two tries for Leinster © PA Photos
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt could not have been happier after his team inflicted a record Heineken Cup defeat on shell-shocked Bath to open up a six-point lead in Pool 3 at a packed Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
The seven-try 52-27 rout was the heaviest defeat suffered by Bath in 69 matches in the competition - their previous worst having been a 31-9 loss at Munster in 2000 - and the first time they had conceded 50 points in a Heineken Cup game.
The visitors came back with three late tries to make the final score slightly more respectable, but it was a powerful declaration of intent from the defending champions. Schmidt said: "We are obviously delighted to get the five points and with the way some of the tries were scored, also some of the running lines, some of the quality in the pass.
"We've come a long way from drawing at Montpellier but that was probably only our second or third game together."
The West Country side had run the Irishmen close six days previously but this time had no answer to their opponents' pace and precision, especially in the first hour. Leinster could even afford to lose skipper Leo Cullen to the sin-bin in the first half - and still score 14 unanswered points.
Schmidt admitted his team had lacked accuracy in a narrow 18-13 win at Bath last week, saying: "I would have hoped we would have been a little bit more accurate last week. Fortunately it was exhibited in fantastic conditions in front of a fantastic crowd tonight. I think that's certainly something that sparks a real enthusiasm among the players."
The bonus point was secured just 30 seconds into the second half as Luke Fitzgerald sprinted half the length of the field to score his second try. Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton finished with 20 points from a try, dropped goal and six conversions and Leinster's other scorers were Rob Kearney, Eoin Reddan, Rhys Ruddock and Ian Madigan. Isa Nacewa also kicked a conversion.
Stephen Donald, Dave Attwood and Ben Williams grabbed late tries for Bath and Olly Barkley kicked three conversions and two penalties. A rejuvenated Fitzgerald might have had a hat-trick but for a forward pass spotted by a touch judge.
"Luke's been in form for a while," Schmidt said. "He was just a little more visible tonight because the game was so open and he was allowed to run in a bit more space than he has been."
Bath first-team coach Brad Davis pointed to some defensive errors by his team but conceded: "I thought the scoreline reflected the game. Leinster were absolutely outstanding in showing how to finish off opportunities. Defensively we were off the pace by some margin, though, and at times we made it quite comfortable for Leinster to get yardage.
"They are a quality side. All credit goes to the victors. We can take credit from the fact that in the first half we did put pressure on them and with the way the guys kept to their task and scored three tries.
"We're proud of that but you can't look too much into that because Leinster took their foot off the pedal a bit."
Davis said his players had a lot to learn from their opponents after their faint hopes of progressing in the cup were ended.
"Leinster were pretty much on their game tonight," he said. "Any half opportunities they turned into full opportunities. Their back three had a field day, aided by some poor decision-making from us. But you don't want to take too much away from what is a fantastic team. We've been on the end of a hiding. They're pretty much the complete package."
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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
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