Leinster secured a Heineken Cup quarter final berth with a bonus point victory over Saracens in which the Irish province ran in six tries to the Aviva Premiership Rugby outfit’s three.
The bonus point for scoring four tries was as important as the victory itself after Clermont Auvergne had beaten fellow French competitors Racing Metro 28-17 in the other group match on Friday night. Brian O’Driscoll’s side’s five point haul over Saracens leaves them five points above Clermont in their Heineken Cup group with just one match remaining, and with a better head to head record against the French Top 14 champions in this year’s competition, the Irishmen have guaranteed themselves top spot.
It took little time for Leinester, the 2008/9 Heineken Cup winners, to open up a 12-0 lead after quick ball through the hands of O’Driscoll, Isa Nacewa, and Richardt Strauss allowed Sean O’Brien to score in the corner. This was quickly followed by Dominic Ryan capitalising on good play from O’Brien and Nacewa to score the first of his two tries in the match. Jonathon Sexton converted after missing his first attempt.
James Short got Sarries into the match after nearly half an hour after he picked off a wayward pass from Luke Fitzgerald and was able to run in his side’s first try. From here the away side continued in the same vain as Kelly Brown scored shortly after Sexton had slotted over a penalty. Things could have been worse for Leinster had Italian prop Carlos Nieto not knocked on inside the home side’s 22 as it looked a dead certainty that he would score, having been put through by Brad Barritt.
It looked as though the score would remain as it was through half time, with the match tightly balanced at 15-12 to the home side. However Leinster grabbed the initiative and went in at 22-12 ahead following Ryan’s second try of the match after O’Brien has broken through two Saracens tackles.
Fergus McFadden, the Leinster Centre, continued his side’s form into the second half by scoring a try just minutes after the break. And although Owen Farrell, son of now Saracens coach Andy, slotted a penalty shortly afterwards, Leinster were soon on the attack once more. With the players of last season’s Magners League runners up competing between themselves as much as Saracens for the next score, it was clear that the crowd at the RDS would not have to wait long for another try. Their wishes were granted minutes later as Sexton, O’Driscoll, and O’Brien all shipped the ball on before Nacewa side stepped his way through the last line of defence to score his side’s fifth try.
Another home try, this time by replacement Eoin O’Malle, signalled that the Watford based side were well and truly beaten, and although they were able to score late on through Zimbabwe born England Sevens player Nils Mordt, following the sin binning of Devin Toner, the result was never in doubt for the Dublin based side.
Match of the weekend contenders:
Inter Milan 4-1 Bologna: Goals from Dejan Stankovic, Diego Milito, and Samuel Eto’o (2) continued newly appointed coach Leonardo’s 100% record after taking over from Rafa Benitez. A free flowing performance from a team a team that, under Benitez, looked bereft of ideas was too much for a Bologna side that could only net a consolation through Henry Gimenez after Inter had already netted all four of their goals.
Green Bay Packers 48-21 Atlanta Falcons: Green Bay, a side that last week progressed through the Wild Card Weekend, overcame Atlanta who, having won their Division with a 13-3 season, were well odds on favourites for this match. However, three tough down passes for a total of 366 from Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers made sure his side made it through to the NFC Conference Championship match where they will pay either the Seattle Seahawks or the Chicago Bears, who play tonight.