Leinster put the rest of Europe on notice as they ruthlessly put Cardiff Blues to the sword with an emphatic 34-3 win at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.
A brace of tries from Rob Kearney and one each from Isa Nacewa and Brian O’Driscoll secured Leinster’s berth in the semi finals of the Heineken Cup for the fourth season in a row.
In front of a jam packed stadium it was Cardiff that started the better with full back Leigh Halfpenny giving his side the perfect start with a well taken penalty just inside the Leinster half.
That penalty was quickly cancelled out when Jonny Sexton bisected the posts with his first kick of the game.
Mins played 80 mins
80 mins Full time here at the Aviva. Leinster march on to the semi finals. 34-3 the final score
79 mins Tom James ends his day with a yellow card. Scrum five to Leinster
78 mins Leinster almost over again Cronin held up yards from the line.
76 mins Yet another knock on from Cardiff who have been very poor this evening
74 mins Nice lineout from Leinster denies Cardiff yet again
72 mins Cardiff with another chance to get their first try.
69 mins Brian O’Driscoll is called ashore, Ian Madigan replaces him
68 mins Leinster still looking for more tries. Sean O’Brien with a huge break up the middle which comes to nothing
66 mins NO TRY. Cardiff denied a try. Williams failing to ground the ball. Scrum five Leinster
65 mins Cardiff could be over. Ref going up to TMO
63 mins The intensity of the game has dropped off. Cardiff look to make the scoreboard look decent
61 mins The bench continues to be emptied for Leinster. Boss in for Redden
59 mins Toner & McFadden both in. Thorn and Fitzgearld both off
57 mins Chance lost for Cardiff. Knock on from their lineout
55 mins Cardiff have a huge chance to get a try here. Five meters out from the Leinster line
52 mins Sean Cronin comes in for Strauss
51 mins Great defence from Rob Kearney. He is having a stand out match at the moment
49 mins Shane Jennings is in now for Kevin McLaughlin
46 mins TRY LEINSTER. Kearney gets his second of the game and that could put Cardiff out of sight. Sexton gets the extras
45 mins Lineout for Leinster on Cardiff’s 22
44 mins Great turnover from Leinster there after six phases from Cardiff
42 mins A rare Rob Kearney knock on from an up and under
41 mins Second half is underway
40 mins Half time here at the Aviva. All Leinster so far. 27-3 Leinster
34 mins Try number three to Leinster. Far too easy. O’Driscoll with the score
29 mins TRY LEINSTER. Ruthless play from the champs. Great break from Redden. Quick ball put Rob Kearney clear. Sexton tags on the extras
27 mins The crowd find their voice ‘C’mon you boys in blue’ is the cry.
24 mins Good defensive play from Leinster. Cardiff very much on the back foot
22 mins Straight as you like. 13-3 Leinster
21 mins Sexton has a chance to make amends with another penalty
18 mins Huge hits coming in from Leinster. Cardiff are stunned at the moment
17 mins Not like Sexton at all. Drags the kick to the left and wide
16 mins Sexton has a chance to extend Leinster’s lead with another penalty
14 mins Leinster have their tails up now. Scrum to the home side on Cardiff’s 10 meter line
12 mins TRY LEINSTER. Wonderful, simply wonderful try from Leinster. Sexton to Kearney to Nacewa. Magic from the Heineken Cup champions. Sexton nails the extras
10 mins Beautiful play from Leinster. Up to Cardiff’s 10 meter line.
9 mins Cardiff almost right back into the lead with a well taken drop goal from Parks, just fades to the right and wide
7 mins Beautiful kick from Sexton ties the game up. 3-3
5 min Rob Kearney announces himself into the game with a huge take off an up and under and Leinster win a penalty for their efforts. Sexton lines it up
4 mins Huge first scrum for Leinster off their own ball. Sexton gets a lot out of the kick
3 mins Another pen to Cardiff off the scrum in the middle of the park. The away side very much on top in the opening few minutes
2 mins Halfpenny nails it. Cardiff lead 3-0
1 min First penalty of the game to the away side. Halfpenny fancies a pop at goal
1 mins Dan Parks to get us underway
0 mins What a reception for Leinster. Here we go
0 mins And here come Leinster
0 mins Cardiff are just about to take to the field at the Aviva
0 mins Both sides are about to take the field for what should be a cracker of a Heineken Cup quarter final
PreviewThe Heineken Cup roars back into action this weekend and first up, from an Irish perspective, are the defending champions Leinster who welcome the Cardiff Blues at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening, kick off 5.45pm.
Having defeated provincial rivals last weekend, Joe Schmidt’s side come into this game full of confidence and with a full squad to choose from as they look to reach the semi-finals of European rugby biggest club competition for the fourth straight year.
The Kiwi coach calls upon a fit again Brian O’Driscoll, captain Leo Cullen and World Cup winner Brad Thorn, who will be making his European debut for the province on Saturday.
The presence of that trio has given Leinster an extra pep in their step and it can only help that O’Driscoll and Cullen have relativity few miles on the clock this season. They will be champing at the bit come kick off.
A home defeat to the Ospreys two games ago has been the only blot on Leinster’s copy book in six months as they put together an impressive undefeated streak both in Europe and in the Rabo Pro12.
In Europe this season Leinster, have at time, been devastating. Their clinical and ruthless defeat of Bath in the Aviva before Christmas showed just how good they can be when they click. When they have ball in hand there are few teams in Europe that can live with Leinster
The loss of Jamie Roberts and captain Sam Warbutton have put Cardiff at a disadvantage from the start.
Both players had standout games when Wales defeated Ireland in the Six Nations in February. While Warburton was a menace at the breakdown, it was Roberts, with his size and strength, that punched holes in Ireland’s defence and put his side on the front foot.
Having to play without such hugely talented players cannot help the Blues chance on Saturday.
The absence of Warburton gives Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip (who is due a big game) the chance to impose themselves on Cardiff. Their aggression and tempo at the breakdown will dictate how Leinster play. Start well and Cardiff have to come out and play. Be sluggish and Cardiff will play themselves into the game.
The scrum, which caused so much debate in the Leinster win over Munster, will again be the focus of much attention.
Mike Ross, who was sin binned against Munster, will look to put what was a torrid evening behind him when he packs down with Cian Healy and Richardt Strauss.
They will need to be ready for battle as Scott Andrews, Marc Breeze and Gethin Jenkins are sure to test them at scrum time.
One tussle that will be key will be the battle of the No 15′s. Rob Kearney has been in sensational form for both Leinster and Ireland in recent months. The knee injury and changes to the laws of the game that threatened to stall his meteoric rise have been put behind him and on form, one could argue, that he is the best 15 in world rugby at the moment.
Facing him will be Leigh Halfpenny, who has happy memories of the Aviva having landed the penalty that inched Wales past Ireland in February.
Smaller than Kearney, Halfpenny is lethal with ball in hand, has a beautiful step and can score for fun. If Leinster give him an inch, as the old saying goes, Halfpenny will take a mile of the Aviva on Saturday.
On paper there looks to be one winner. Leinster come into this game as red hot favourites. Their performances all season have been steps to this point in time. The defeat of Munster sets them up nicely.
It will be one heck of a match, but Leinster are selected to win and continue their quest for back to back Heineken Cup’s. Don’t miss it.
15: Rob Kearney
14: Isa Nacewa
13: Brian O’Driscoll
12: Gordon D’Arcy
11: Luke Fitzgerald
10: Jonathan Sexton
9: Eoin Reddan
1: Cian Healy
2: Richardt Strauss
3: Mike Ross
4: Leo Cullen CAPTAIN
5: Brad Thorn
6: Kevin McLaughlin
7: Sean O’Brien
8: Jamie Heaslip
16: Sean Cronin
17: Heinke van der Merwe
18: Nathan White
19: Devin Toner
20: Shane Jennings
21: Isaac Boss
22: Ian Madigan
23: Fergus McFadden
15: Leigh Halfpenny
14: Alex Cuthbert
13: Casey Laulala
12: Dafydd Hewitt
11: Tom James
10: Dan Parks
9: Lloyd Williams
1: Gethin Jenkins
2: Marc Breeze
3: Scott Andrews
4: Bradley Davies
5: James Down
6: Michael Paterson
7: Martyn Williams
8: Xavier Rush CAPTAIN
16: Kristian Dacey
17: John Yapp
18: Sam Hobbs
19: Macauley Cook
20: Maama Molitika
21: Richie Rees
22: Ceri Sweeney
23: Gavin Evans
REFEREE: David Pearson (RFU), ASSISTANT REFEREES: Pascal Gauzere (FFR), David Changleng (SRU), 4th OFFICIAL: Tim Wigglesworth (RFU), 5th OFFICIAL: Roy Maybank (RFU), TMO: Geoff Warren (RFU)