Leinster 41, Wasps 11: O’Driscoll masterclass a timely Lions reminder

Mark Jones
Sunday 19 October 2008 00:00
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If it's not unreasonable to suggest that hardly anyone outside of the home team's tent saw this extraordinary rout coming, Leinster have proved conclusively that are serious contenders for European glory.

Admittedly, we've heard that clarion call from the province before, and too often in the past, confidence has been grossly misplaced by boys in blue, but as Heineken Cup performances go, this was so brilliant and so brutally efficient, that no one can deny that Michael Cheika's side have laid down a marker.

Despite Brian O'Driscoll's individual excellence, there were only fleeting signs during the first half of the landslide to come, however, the second 40 minutes with its four storming tries was as impressive a display as Leinster have ever produced in this competition.

Despite the bonus-point victory in Edinburgh, several uncomfortable questions remained from last weekend. Why did the line-out malfunction so glaringly? Why, once again, did so much breakdown ball go unprotected? Was O'Driscoll really firing on all cylinders? And, perhaps most pertinent of all, were Edinburgh simply so bad that the Leinster A team would have come away from Murrayfield with all five points?

For Wasps, too, there was much to prove with their disappointing Premiership form still a noose around their necks. They looked the part for a while during the home win over Castres, but it didn't seem they would bring the swagger of two-time champions into last night's game.

And while there were several battering incursions into the Leinster 22 during the first half, the visitors looked by far the more edgy of the two sides. There was indecision aplenty at the rear from Jeremy Staunton, and even the golden boy, Danny Cipriani, contributed his share of handling errors.

Although, not surprisingly, the respective defences took centre stage for much of the contest, it was O'Driscoll who strode like a colossus through the first half before he was forced out of the action with a leg injury.

With Wasps' head honcho, Ian McGeechan, who as it happens will also lead the Lions in South Africa next summer, present to witness the snatches of wizardry for himself, the timing appeared to be right for an apparently rejuvenated O'Driscoll until he limped off to be replaced by Jonathan Sexton.

The half time whistle had been greeted with a loud chorus of boos following Staunton's try in the corner, and at first glance, it did look as if Cipriani had obstructed Girvan Dempsey as the full-back attempted to cut off his opposite number just before the line.

However, Shane Jennings had bundled Cipriani into Dempsey's path, and what appeared to be 'crossing' was in fact a perfectly good try which referee Nigel Owens duly awarded.

A four-point lead at the changeover did seem to be scant reward for Leinster and O'Driscoll's endeavours. When Wasps' Tom Palmer spilled a high kick just outside his own 22 - what a second row was doing in that area of the pitch is anybody's guess -Felipe Contepomi threaded a kick through which was nudged on by Rob Kearney.

The chance looked to have been lost, but O'Driscoll somehow grabbed the ball, pirouetted and dived for the line. Owens opted for the sanctuary of the TMO, but there was no doubt about the grounding and after just five minutes, Leinster were off to the ideal start.

Then coming up to the quarter of an hour mark, Paul Sackey hoofed the ball aimlessly upfield, and while O'Driscoll found some space down the blindside, his objective was literally and metaphorically a long way off. But with a chip, followed by a clever kick over Staunton's head, he turned the highly improbable into a brilliant opportunistic score.

As cameos go, this was top class, but the centre's untimely injury which had been preceded by the departure of captain, Leo Cullen, didn't seem to hinder Leinster who came out blasting at the start of the second half.

With Sexton installed at number 10, and Contepomi in his most effective position at inside centre, Wasps were run off their feet. The outstanding Luke Fitzgerald finished off a passing movement which Contepomi converted from the touchline, and then the Argentine almost created a fourth try as the blue jerseys swept forward once more.

Still, the bonus point wasn't far away, and when Riki Flutey ponderously wound up to clear his lines, Contepomi charged the kick down, kept moving forward as the coaching manual emphasises, and flopped over for the score which he again converted. There were more celebrations to come as Rocky Elsom thundered over from close range before Kearney put Wasps out of their misery.

Two victories then, one a bit of a gift, the other simply majestic. Maximum points - Leinster are going places.

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