O'Driscoll back at centre of action as Leinster give Cardiff the blues

Leinster 34 Cardiff Blues 3

aviva stadium

Good to see you back, BOD. The shoulder operation that removed Brian O'Driscoll from this year's Six Nations' Championship – and who knows whether his presence might have stalled Wales's Grand Slam march that began with a mightily marginal victory on this ground – has done its job, and the great centre reprised some of his peerless skills in this romp.

O'Driscoll scored one try and had a big hand in Leinster's other three as the Heineken Cup holders and 2009 champions earned a fourth successive semi-final.

They will have to complete their title defence on the road: the last-four tie will be away to Saracens or Clermont Auvergne at Twickenham or Bordeaux's Stade Chaban-Delmas, three weeks today. There is a Twickenham final to play for. Munster or Ulster will "host" the other semi here at the Aviva Stadium.

While Wales's national side are doing fine, its regions – slashing playing budgets and seeing their stars take the gravy train to France – suffer shockingly by comparison with the Irish provinces. Leinster's scrum was ruthless. The first set- piece brought them a penalty and Scott Andrews, the Blues tighthead, must have known he was in for a long evening. Though the resulting line-out was stolen from Leinster's swanky All Black loan signing Brad Thorn, it merely delayed a score when Jonny Sexton, Leinster's Ireland fly-half, kicked a penalty to equalise Leigh Halfpenny's third-minute belter. It was asking a lot for the Blues to cover for five injured players, including the Wales captain, Sam Warburton, and the man of the 2009 Lions series, Jamie Roberts. There had also been the kerfuffle in the week of sacking Gavin Henson.

The scrum spelt trouble. To adapt the old Goons song, the Blues were walking backwards for Easter, over the Irish Sea.

The first Leinster opportunity to run – a tapped penalty by Sexton – brought their first try, 12 minutes in. O'Driscoll and Kevin McLaughlin scampered and Sexton shot through, dummied Halfpenny and fed Rob Kearney, who sent Isa Nacewa over. Sexton kicked the conversion, missed a penalty then converted Kearney's 30th-minute try. It originated with a scrum from a free-kick 10 metres inside Leinster's half and Eoin Reddan's break from an adroit pass by O'Driscoll.

The third of the first-half trio of tries was the best. Leo Cullen, returning from injury, batted a line-out and Jamie Heaslip fed Sexton, whose sumptuous inside ball was taken at pace by Luke Fitzgerald. The wing had O'Driscoll on his shoulder and Sexton converted for a 27-3 interval lead.

Leinster have variety and it will take a good side to prise the cup from their fingers. Two snapped passes by O'Driscoll led to a second try for Kearney after 46 minutes, with Sexton converting. Though there was no further score Thorn's juddering tackles, O'Driscoll's jackalling and the openside foraging of Shane Jennings in the last half-hour made you suspect the impressive Cardiffian spirit to keep trying was being utilised by Leinster as live defensive practice.

A chance for Martyn Williams was lost when the flanker let the ball slip over the line. Ceri Sweeney, on for Dan Parks, got almost as close with five minutes left, no more successfully. Whatever the Cardiff sobriquet might be, it was the home supporters' cries of "Come on the boys in blue" that rang true.

"The dressing room wasn't overly elated," said O'Driscoll, after the third match of his comeback from a five-month lay-off. "Good sides always pick holes in a victory. We're not getting silly about it, we are where we want to be and we'll enjoy watching Clermont and Saracens on Sunday afternoon."

The Blues captain, Xavier Rush, said: "Leinster put us under pressure at scrum-time and you figure if a good side has the number of chances they did, they'll win."

In the Amlin Challenge Cup, Biarritz beat Wasps 26-23 at Adams Park. The Scarlets, the only non-French team left, play Brive in France this evening.

Leinster R Kearney; I Nacewa, B O'Driscoll (I Madigan, 68), G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald (F McFadden, 59); J Sexton, E Reddan (I Boss, 61); C Healy (H van der Merwe, 65), R Strauss (S Cronin, 52), M Ross (N White, 72), L Cullen (capt), B Thorn (D Toner, 59), K McLaughlin (S Jennings, 49), J Heaslip, S O'Brien.

Cardiff Blues L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, C Laulala, D Hewitt, T James; D Parks (C Sweeney, 68), L Williams (R Rees, 68); G Jenkins, M Breeze, S Andrews, B Davies, J Down (M Molitika, 59), M Paterson, X Rush (capt), M Williams.

Referee D Pearson (England).


Tries: Nacewa, Kearney 2, O'Driscoll

Cons: Sexton 4

Pens: Sexton 2

Cardiff Blues

Pen: Halfpenny

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own