Brendan O’Brien, RDS
Leinster have put back-to-back European titles together before and the province served early notice of their hunger to do so again with a pulverising eight-try destruction of Wasps at a packed RDS in Ballsbridge.
Touted as favourites before this, the opening game of the competition, Leo Cullen’s side cantered to an ultimately one-sided win despite struggling for their rhythm for the vast majority of an opening half which provided some unwanted food for thought.
James Lowe of Leinster goes over to score his side’s fifth try during the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 1 Round 1 match between Leinster and Wasps at the RDS Arena. Photo:Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Sean Cronin had opened the scoring with the first try after six minutes but Wasps proved a tougher nut to crack for a long time thereafter and brought the deficit back to 7-3 thanks to a Lima Sopoaga penalty inside the first quarter.
It was a harsh yellow card for Sopoaga in first-half injury-time that changed the game. Leinster kicked to touch from the penalty and the advanced field position was the perfect foundation for a set of phases that ended with scrum-half Luke McGrath going over.
Up 14-3 at the interval, they struck again within a minute of the restart through flying Kiwi wing James Lowe and that was effectively that. Luke McGrath chalked up the try-scoring bonus point long before the third quarter was put to bed.
Another quartet of touchdowns – from Lowe, Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw and Jack McGrath – applied the gloss to what was a stunningly effective second-half display and sets the province up nicely for their trip to Toulouse next weekend.
The French giants sit alongside Leinster at the head of the European Cup roll of honour with four titles apiece. The odds on the Irish outfit striking out on their own at the head of that list will have shrunk appreciably on the back of this.
Leinster: R Kearney, J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; J Sexton (c), L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan.
Replacements: J McGrath for Healy (HT); J Tomane for Kearney (54); J Tracy for Cronin and A Porter for Furlong (both 56); S O’Brien for van der Flier (57); N McCarthy for L McGrath (63); S Fardy for Toner (64); R Byrne for Sexton (70).
Wasps: W Le Roux, J Bassett, J De Jongh, M Le Bourgeois, E Daly (c); L Sopoaga, J Simpson; Z Zhvania, T Taylor, K Brookes; W Rowlands, J Gaskell; B Shields, T Young, N Carr.
Replacements: B Harris for Zhvania and W Stuart for Brookes (both 54); T Cruse for Taylor, K Myall for Rowlands and A Johnson for Carr (all 59); C Hampson for Simpson (69); B Searle for Sopoaga and R Miller for le Roux (both 78).
Referee: R Poite (FFR).