Leinster’s display against Saracens on Saturday makes them major contenders for this year’s Heineken Cup title. After a frustrating performance in the Magners League game against the Ospreys the previous week, they bounced back in style to claim a bonus point win, scoring six tries on their way to a 43-20 win, writes Rugby World’s Bea Asprey.
Saracens are in second place in the Aviva Premiership table and haven’t dropped outside the top four all season, but they were made to look distinctly average at the RDS as Leinster dominated in the set piece, and punched holes in their defence left, right and centre.
Leinster were without their talismanic No 8 Jamie Heaslip, and first choice full-back Rob Kearney, and Luke Fitzgerald, having recently returned from injury himself, was drafted into the starting line-up at the last minute as Gordon D’Arcy had to withdraw on the day with a calf strain. But understudies Sean O’Brien (No 8), Isa Nacewa (full-back) and Fergus McFadden (moved to centre from the wing, with Luke Fitzgerald starting on the left wing) not only held their own but proved instrumental in their side’s victory, showing what great strength in depth this team has. Eoin O’Malley, who was named to fill in on the bench on the day, scored a try with his first touch of the ball, and Joe Schmidt has got selection headaches that most coaches can only dream of.
Solid in defence and threatening in attack, Leinster showed the sort of ruthlessness that is required to win this tournament. Fly-half Johnny Sexton runs the show and, crucially, adds the extra points with his boot. This team has quality from 1-15 and you’d be mad to bet against them. So, my money is on Leinster to win the Heineken Cup for the second time in three seasons.