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No Show Like A Lowe Show – Leinster Reaffirm Favourites Tag With Wasps Walloping

Leinster 52

Wasps 3 

Sean McMahon reports from the RDS

Storm Callum may have failed to deliver the damage across the country which many feared it would and after 39 minutes of tonight’s Heineken Champions Cup opener at the RDS, the sold-out crowd were wondering why there was an absence of a different kind of damage, in this case, the one which has seen Leinster swat aside both Connacht and Munster in recent weeks.

However, it was merely the calm before the storm on this occasion. Leinster picked their moments when it mattered most and Lima Sopoaga’s yellow card for a deliberate knock-on at the end of the first half paved the way for Leo Cullen’s side to finally strike that telling blow.

When Luke McGrath sniped over for a Johnny Sexton converted try with the clock in the red, the scoreline read 14-3 to the home side at the interval and one can only imagine the blow in confidence that Wasps took from that concession after some brilliant defence in the opening 40.

McGrath’s try supplemented Sean Cronin’s excellent first-half effort and from the moment the sides stepped out onto the turf for the second half, there was only going to be one winner. James Lowe and McGrath ran over for two quick-fire tries in the opening 10 minutes of the second half to end the contest.

The pain didn’t end there for Wasps as Lowe, Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw and Jack McGrath scored four more tries as Leinster ran out deservedly convincing winners.

Leinster didn’t take long to get up and running in this game when Sean Cronin scored the first try of the game after just four minutes on the clock. After a number of phases in the Wasps 22, Sean Cronin, like we have seen so many time before, picked up the ball from the base of the ruck and powered through a gap – his famous burst of acceleration took him home across the line to celebrate in front of a packed Anglesea Road end.

Dai Young’s side responded with three points when their first period of possession of the game resulted in a penalty just outside the Leinster 22. Lima Sopoaga made no mistake from the distance and the away side got on the board after 12 minutes of the game gone.

Time and time again, Leo Cullen’s side looked to tie this game up as they bombarded the English side’s line only for some excellent individual turnovers from Wasps and the left boot of Elliot Daly relieving pressure time and time again.

There were some uncharacteristic errors from Leinster as the first half wore on. A kick out on the full by Jordan Larmour was followed by a Johnny Sexton knock-on when James Lowe made a superb line break from deep.

Whenever Wasps did have a period of possession, Leinster’s excellent defence stood firm and their line speed often pushed the English side back several metres before they conceded defeat and kicked possession away.

The crucial moment came on the stroke of halftime as Sopoaga was sent to the bin for a deliberate knock on. Like any championship side, Leinster sensed blood and from the resulting penalty, they had a sustained period of pressure in the Wasps 22 which resulted in McGrath sniping over from the base of a ruck to get Leinster’s second try of the game and give the home side a 14-3 lead at the break.

The most important thing for Wasps at the beginning of the second half was not to concede but that’s exactly what they did and it was James Lowe, the smiling assassin, who provided the magic.

A lineout setpiece from the halfway line resulted in Robbie Henshaw receiving the ball in midfield. In a training ground move, the Athlone man popped a reverse pass to the onrushing Lowe who burst through the defence and slalomed through any remaining covering or chasing Wasps defenders to score his side’s third try.

About 10 minutes later, Lowe played a vital part in securing the bonus point when he sent McGrath home with a well-timed pass. However, a lot of the credit must go to Tadhg Furlong who showed some superb footwork and handling skills for a tighthead to give the pass to Lowe who went flying up the wing.

At this stage, Leinster began to ring the changes but that they didn’t let up in putting on a superb display of attacking rugby.

A James Ryan linebreak and offload to McGrath brought Leinster within striking distance. Jack Conan came in to deputise at scrumhalf as he threw a pass to Sexton. The Irish out-half passed the ball on first time, and through his legs to Henshaw who then passed it on to Lowe who went over for the home side’s fifth try of the night.

To heap more misery on their opponents, Jordan Larmour and Jack McGrath crossed for late tries as Leinster sent out a message to those in this competition that they won’t be relinquishing their title that easily.

Leinster: Rob Kearney (Tomane 54′), Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (Byrne 70′), Luke McGrath (McCarthy 64′), Cian Healy (McGrath 40′), Sean Cronin (Tracy 56′), Tadhg Furlong (Porter 56′), Devin Toner (Fardy 64′), James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: James Tracy, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Scott Fardy, Sean O’Brien, Nick McCarthy, Ross Byrne, Joe Tomane.

Wasps: Willie Le Roux, Josh Bassett, Juan de Jongh, Michael Le Bourgeois, Elliot Daly, Lima Sopoaga, Joe Simpson, Zurabi Zhvania (Harris 54′), Tommy Taylor (Cruse 59′), Kieran Brookes (Stuart 54′), Will Rowlands (Myall 59′), James Gaskell, Brad Shields, Thomas Young, Nizaam Carr (Johnson 59′).

Replacements: Tom Cruse, Ben Harris, Will Stuart, Kearnan Myall, Ashley Johnson, Craig Hampson, Billy Searle, Rob Miller.

Referee: Romain Poite (Fra)

Attendance: 18,300

Man Of The Match: James Lowe

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email [email protected] or on Twitter