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

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'

Watch this commuter make a mad 320-metre, 75-step dash to work
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week