Leinster 57 Gloucester 0
Gloucester lock Arthur Clark dropped the kick-off – and that was about as good as he got for the visitors’ second team against a well-stocked Leinster in Dublin.
Not that the hosts were at their best; far from there. Leinster were a shadow of the team that ransacked Racing 92 last weekend: cumbersome, sometimes, on the loose; unusually inaccurate off the line and surprisingly short-sighted in attack. They still scored nine tries and didn’t concede a single point in this bonus point demolition. God helps us when they come.
Leinster were at times so outside of their usual quasi-international rhythm that one wonders what might have happened if Gloucester had sent their first-choice side. Les Cerise et Blancs have made 13 changes from the side that won at Bordeaux last week – and they’ve received quite a bit of criticism this week.
But it’s not their fault. Thanks to the ridiculous format of the group stage of this competition – which received deserved vitriol – and Gloucester’s bonus points win at Kingsholm last weekend, one more win should see them through to the knockout stages. Indeed, one more win and a few bonus points could even secure a knockout game at home. When you factor in that the visitors to an ice-kissed RDS Arena face Leicester in a potentially decisive game on Christmas Eve, followed by unbeaten Saracens at home, head coach George’s team selection Skivington suddenly seems much more understandable.
“We had a pass in two weeks – we were the last Premiership side to have one – but the season has been restructured,” Skivington said. “I had to make decisions. But I was as devastated as anyone when the week off was taken because I would have loved to come here full throttle.”
Leinster’s scrum and maul caused Gloucester myriad problems – and hooker Ronan Kelleher was the main beneficiary. He scored two of the hosts’ first-half tries – both while driving mauls – and had another ruled out on a trick out move with scrum-half Luke McGrath. By then, however, thanks to tries from James Lowe, Josh van der Flier and James Ryan, the match was long over.
As Van der Flier and Ryan showed the best of Leinster muscle – both scoring at close range – Lowe headed in from 40 yards after Caelan Doris robbed Gloucester captain Ben Meehan and threw a delicious long pass at him on its wing.
To compound Gloucester’s misery, hooker Henry Walker and stubborn Ciaran Knight were caught within 10 minutes of each other as the visitors’ scrum capitulated. Following that, McGrath rushed in for Leinster’s sixth try.
When Lowe added a seventh – again powered by Doris – it looked like the deluge of Genesis might be coming, but Leinster would only add two more tries, replacing Jordan Larmour and Doris. Outclassed Gloucester refused to give in completely, and only a powerful scrambling defense from Garry Ringrose and Jonny Sexton prevented a consolation.
“Gloucester fired at us. Considering our lads were reasonably clinical. It was a big score but Gloucester made life difficult. But happy to have two wins on the board,” Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said. .
It wasn’t quite lambs at the slaughterhouse – the workers forgot to sharpen the knives completely – but it was close. Yet when Leinster’s blades are honed, they remain Champions Cup contenders.
Scoring sequence 5-0 Lowe try, 10-0 Van der Flier try, 12-0 R Byrne against, 17-0 Kelleher try, 22-0 Ryan try, 24-0 R Byrne against, 29-0 Kelleher try, 31-0 R Byrne against, 36-0 McGrath try, 38-0 R Byrne against, 43-0 Lowe try, 45-0 R Byrne against, 50-0 Larmour try, 55-0 Doris try, 57-0 Sexton against.
Leinster H Keenan; J O’Brien (J Larmour 53), G Ringrose (c), C Ngatai, J Lowe; R Byrne (J Sexton 60), L McGrath (J Gibson-Park 60); A Porter (E Byrne 47), R Kelleher (D Sheehan 47), M Ala’alatoa (C Healy 41), R Molony, J Ryan (J McCarthy 47), C Doris (Van der Flier 70, Doris 80), J Van der Flier (M Deegan 56), J Conan.
Gloucester L Evans; A Hearle (K Moyle 22), G Kveseladze, B Twelvetrees, J Morris; G Barton (S Atkinson 11), B Meehan (c); H Elrington (A Seville 47), H Walker (S Blake 44), C Knight (K Gotovtsev 54), F Thomas, A Clark (A Craig 37), J Polledri, J Clement, A Tuisue (H Taylor 57).
yellow card: Walker 36, Knight 46
Arbitrator Luke Ramos.