Leinster began their Champions’ Cup campaign with a comprehensive 33-15 win last Saturday afternoon against Castres in the RDS. It was a comfortable victory for the home side as they dominated from the first whistle and came away with a bonus point win to get their European campaign off to the perfect start.
Leinster had the better of the opening exchanges as Joey Carberry linked well with his two centres, Henshaw and UCD player Garry Ringrose, to set Henshaw clean through the Castres defence down the left flank early on before winning a penalty in the opposition 22 which was nudged into the corner by Carberry. The decision to forgo the kick at goal paid off as Leinster went to the maul which powered over the Castres try-line for a grateful Sean Cronin to dot down with just 8 minutes on the clock and make it 5-0.
Leinster continued to play the better rugby as they dominated both possession and territory with fly-half Carberry at the heart of everything. However, it was the front 8 that would prove their worth again as another lineout in the Castres 22 would be taken to the maul. Sean Cronin broke free to catch the French side asleep around the fringes to rumble over to make it 12-0 with his second try of the game on the 25-minute mark.
The sole bright spark to come for the French side was from the dangerous 19-year-old Antoine Dupont. The scrum-half spotted a mismatch with Devin Toner at the edge of a ruck and easily side-stepped the big second-rower before his jinking run was eventually brought to a halt on the Leinster 22 by a high-tackle. Benjamin Urdapilleta knocked over the penalty straight in front of the posts to get his sides first points of the day.
Leinster’s third try of the day was almost identical to the first two as on the half hour mark they once more turned down the kick at goal and turned to their maul from a lineout. The Leinster pack again proved too strong for their opposition and this time Jack McGrath was the man to touch the ball down to make it 19-3 following a second successful kick from Isa Nacewa.
It would be Castres who ended the half more positively as, against the run of play, they mauled well from a lineout before a former UCD scrum-half McGrath charged in at the side to collapse the maul and concede the penalty try in the process. His punishment was furthered as a yellow card was brandished meaning he would spend the first ten-minutes of the second half on the side line as the teams headed in to half time at 19-10.
Leinster kept the ball tight in the opening exchanges of the second half as they coped well while down to 14 men. Isa Nacewa showed his experience by controlling the game while filling in at scrum-half. His good play was rewarded, deep into the Castres half he spotted a gap around the ruck and sprinted in to give his side a bonus point fourth try and he made it 26-10 to Leinster.
Carberry continued to show his class as he kept his side moving forward with inch perfect kicks off both feet. This territory would lead to yet more good work by the Leinster pack as their mauling once again proved the undoing of the visiting the defence. Castres replacement second row of Thibaut Lassale was penalised for collapsing a Leinster maul and earned himself ten minutes in the sin-bin. This allowed Leinster to close out the game as they made it 33-10 with a penalty try as a result of several dominant scrums impeded by the Castres pack.
Castres would go on to get what was little more than a consolation score off the back of a maul from replacement Anthony Jelonch, giving the scoreboard a more respectable look on what was Leinster’s day. It may not have been a perfect performance from Leo Cullen’s men against a poor Castres side but they will be nonetheless delighted with their bonus point win. Leinster’s second Cup game against Montpellier was played out on Sunday in the Aviva.
The next round of Champions Cup games comes around in December, with Leinster playing Northampton back-to-back, first in England, before a home game in the Aviva on December 17th.
Leinster ….. 33 Castres ……. 15
Eoghan Brennan | Sports Writer