Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Sexton and Drico drive Leinster into last eight

Leinster breezed through to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup last night.

Joe Schmidt's side guaranteed a money-spinning last eight clash in Dublin after a scintillating display of red-hot rugby on a bitterly cold evening in the north-west suburbs of Paris.

The visitors led 21-11 at the break thanks to tries from Isa Nacewa, Sean O'Brien and Jonathan Sexton with Virimi Vakatawa touching down for Racing.

Sexton sealed the bonus point with a 62nd minute try and Brian O'Driscoll completed a fine Leinster display with the fifth try.

After a stuttering start, Leinster were soon into their stride, their powerful concoction of power and precision invariably carving open the French side.

Leinster coughed up the first restart, ominously, and further unfavourable portents arrived when Cian Healy was pinged at the opening scrum, Juan Martin Hernandez helping himself to the game's opening trio of points.

Leinster’s opening try came after a great move finished off by Isa Nacewa's dart under the posts ensuring that Jonny Sexton's conversion for 3-7 was rudimentary.

Back came Racing and the irrepressible young Fijian, Verimi Vakatawa, somehow danced down the right touchline past a host of woefully flailing would-be tacklers, the last of which, Isaac Boss, pounced his fists on the floor in fury.

Leinster remained unnerved. Soon they were prowling in Racing territory again, courtesy of a barrelling run from that man O'Brien, who launched himself like a gazelle through a parting tide of blue and white jerseys, kicking ahead before only the merest toe in touch mocked his charge.

He would not be denied. Leinster encroached with sufficient pressure upon the French side's set-piece to cause a turnover; instantly, O'Brien was released and he launched an unstoppable charge just metres from the line. Sexton added easy extras for 8-14.

Leinster's third try came in the 23rd minute when O'Driscoll's majestic looped pass seemed to bamboozle half a dozen defenders as he switched play from right to left, Luke Fitzgerald sashayed, Nacewa shimmied and D'Arcy stepped wonderfully to create the space for Sexton to glide in unchallenged. Sexton converted for 8-21 and Leinster were cruising.

Some forceful momentum from O'Brien and his back-row partner Rhys Ruddock ensured that Leinster gained a penalty in the 54th minute which enabled Leinster to go ahead 24-11.

Just past the hour mark, Sexton finished from Nacewa's pass to secure his second try and the bonus point win before O’Driscoll claimed the fifth try.

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