Smith leads the storming of Dublin

Leinster 13 - Leicester 29
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The Independent Online

It was when the Midlanders in the audience began to sing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" that the suspicion dawned that the English were taking the Michael. The refrain, seldom heard this season, incensed the majority of the crowd, a record for a Heineken Cup quarter-final, who were as powerless to influence events as the home side.

It was when the Midlanders in the audience began to sing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" that the suspicion dawned that the English were taking the Michael. The refrain, seldom heard this season, incensed the majority of the crowd, a record for a Heineken Cup quarter-final, who were as powerless to influence events as the home side.

If this was cat and mouse there was only one cat, and for the most part it was toying with its prey. The overwhelming superiority of the Tigers forwards laid the foundation for a notable and memorable victory.

Martin Johnson, the Leic-ester captain, who has become a millionaire on the back of England's World Cup triumph, wants to retire by laying his hand on the Heineken Cup for a third time, and what Johnson wants he usually gets.

Yesterday the Tigers were positively ravenous. With Johnson playing in his 50th European Cup match it was partly a sentimental thing. This season is also the swansong for another tough old bird, Neil Back, and the coach, John Wells, is leaving for a post at the Rugby Football Union Academy. More than that, though, Leicester love nothing better than to tear the opposition limb from limb, and the grander the stage the better.

With Northampton and Newcastle both having been blown away in the earlier quarter-finals, losing to Toulouse and Stade Français respectively, the Tigers will play Toulouse in the semi-finals, with Stade playing the winners of today's match between Biarritz and Munster.

Even Leinster's dream centre pairing of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy were, on the day, poor runners-up to their opposite numbers, Ollie Smith and Daryl Gibson. Smith, on this form a certainty for the Lions tour to New Zealand, did not put a foot wrong.

Leicester were leading 6-3 as the first half was drawing to a close when Leinster lost a line-out on their own throw and Smith brilliantly exploited the attacking platform by selling a dummy down the right flank, and his acceleration took him clear of Ciaran Potts for the try. It was the very least Leicester deserved, and Leinster's frustration was highlighted a few minutes later when Potts obstructed Andy Goode as the stand-off put in a chip-and-run. Goode picked himself up to kick the penalty, his third of the half, as Leicester went in holding an ominous 16-3 lead.

Leicester's second try emphasised just how much slicker they were in thought and deed.

David Holwell, who had kicked a penalty in the first half, landed another 15 minutes into the second to cut the deficit to 10 points, but from the restart Goode's drop-out was spot-on. Shane Horgan could only tap the ball back straight into the hands of the magnificent Lewis Moody, and the flanker's sharp pass found Gibson at full pace. The centre made mincemeat of what was left of the defence to go over for the score that confirmed Leinster's exit from the competition.

At half-back too Leicester held a distinct advantage, with Harry Ellis back to his best, and outside him Goode was a revelation. The stand-off, who picked up two England caps as a replacement during the Six Nations, contributed 19 points, with four penalties, a drop goal and the conversions of both tries. If that was all he did it would have been impressive enough, but he offered a lot more than that, and when he was not igniting the Leicester threequarter line, his kicking for position was often of the highest standard. He too is making a bid for a Lions ticket.

Above all, though, Goode and Co benefited from the outstanding platform provided by the Tigers' pack, and not far behind Moody in setting a blazing example were his back-row colleagues, Back and Martin Corry. Leinster were caught in a stranglehold from the word go, when Goode's inch-perfect kick-off was taken by Moody from beneath Horgan's nose.

Leicester had several chances to cross their opponents' line before finally doing so, and even young Sam Vesty, who had been preferred to Austin Healey, came of age, catching the eye, and almost everything else, at full-back. Even when the score was 3-3 Leicester were so confident that they put a succession of penalties to touch rather than kick at goal. Assured of gaining possession from almost every source and with their scrum dominant, the Tigers could afford to bide their time before going for the jugular.

Gibson's try put them in the clear at 23-6 and Goode went on to add another penalty and a drop goal before Horgan scored Leinster's only try, the referee, Joel Jutge, waiting for the confirmation of the video official. Even so, this is one film that Leinster will not enjoy replaying.

As for Leicester, they became the first English club in 32 Heineken Cup quarter-finals to win away from home.

Leinster: G Dempsey; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, F Contepomi (G D'Arcy, 51), D Hickie; D Holwell, G Easterby; R Corrigan (capt), S Byrne, R Nebbett, M O'Kelly, L Cullen, C Potts (V Costello, 48), E Miller, K Gleeson (S Jennings, 57).

Leicester: S Vesty (A Healey, 75); G Murphy, O Smith, D Gibson, L Lloyd; A Goode, H Ellis; G Rowntree, G Shuter, D Morris, M Johnson (capt), L Deacon, L Moody, M Corry, N Back.

Referee: J Jutge (France).

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