Saracens left the RDS with their tails between their legs yesterday as Leinster sent them packing with a six tries to three victory in howling winds, writes Rugby World’s Bea Asprey. The home side were hoping for a bonus point to increase their chances of playing a quarter final at home, and they secured it with 20 minutes of the game still to play.
Saracens showed great character to stay with Leinster in the first half, scoring two tries of their own, and they went in at the break just 10 points behind. But Leinster produced the stuff of champions and showered pressure on the Londoners throughout.
Leinster claimed the final score before half time thanks largely to Man of the Match Sean O’Brien, who ran rings around Saracens’ defence all day long. His ball-carrying skills are phenomenal and Jamie Heaslip – who sat out this game due to injury – is going to have a fight on his hands to hold on to the No 8 jersey. Fergus McFadden scored 11 minutes into the second half, and from then the home side pulled away and out of sight.
Leinster’s defence was bullet proof for much of the game, and their set piece dominated, with Saracens’ lineout letting them down. The back row of Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings and Sean O’Brien proved to be a potent combination.
In the absence of Rob Kearney, Isa Nacewa has shone at full-back, and he was a great threat in attack yesterday – he played his part in creating two tries in the first half and side-stepped Nils Mordt to score his own in the second.
Johnny Sexton kept the score board ticking for the home side, kicking six out of seven goals successfully and providing plenty of pace and creativity as well.
Saracens’ new Director of Rugby Mark McCall was given a brutal introduction to Heineken Cup rugby, but he was philosophical about the defeat. “We were very average today. We weren’t used to the weather and they put us under huge pressure,” he said. “We’re a relatively new Heineken Cup team and this whole experience is one of learning for us. It showed us that we’re not where we want to be; we want to be like the Leinsters and Munsters but we’re not there yet.”
McCall’s counterpart, Joe Schmidt, was delighted with the result and they will go to Paris to face Racing Metro with a five-point lead in Pool 2. He said: “We know it wasn’t the perfect performance, but we’re delighted with where we are. We need to win in Paris to secure a home quarter final, but it’s up to us now not to waste this opportunity.”