Belfast Telegraph

Sexton shines in Leinster's perfect 10

Leinster 70-6 Zebre

Jonathan Sexton made a winning return as Leinster dominated Guinness PRO12 strugglers Zebre in a facile 70-6 bonus point victory.

Sexton's first match since Ireland's November defeat to New Zealand, following hamstring problems, went very much according to plan.

The fly-half converted first-half tries from Sean O'Brien, Hayden Triggs, Luke McGrath, Cian Healy and Rory O'Loughlin, leaving the Italians, who mustered two Edoardo Padovani penalties, trailing 35-6.

Sexton added the extras to Garry Ringrose's 47th-minute effort before his departure and in a rampant final 15 minutes, Leo Cullen's men added four more tries through O'Loughlin, who notched a hat-trick, man-of-the-match Ringrose and Jamie Heaslip on as a replacement.

Leinster quickly exploited the visitors' soft centre at the start of this 10-try thrashing, which was a PRO12 record win for the Irish province. Robbie Henshaw and Ringrose did some damage in midfield before McGrath scooped a long pass out to the right for O'Brien to run over unopposed in the fourth minute. Sexton converted.

New Zealander Triggs powered over after an initial lineout maul had been stopped. Sexton converted for a 14-3 lead.

Sexton's excellent restart was gobbled up by Devin Toner, Zebre switching off as they allowed Zane Kirchner to sprint through and pass for scrum-half McGrath to finish off by the posts.

The bonus point score arrived as early as the 29th minute, prop Healy showing strength to drive over from close range.

Lively winger O'Loughlin added his fifth try in as many games just before half-time, the 22-year-old racing up the left touchline after McGrath's snappy break.

Ringrose struck having burst onto Sexton's short pass, and he provided the scoring passes for O'Loughlin's next two tries.

A quick ball from a scrum allowed Ringrose to scamper in from close range, and there was still time for Heaslip to be freed up for a final try, with young replacement Ross Byrne expertly landing all four of his conversion kicks to make it a perfect 10 for Leinster.

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