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Free-flowing first-half is enough for Leinster to breeze past Bath

By PA
(Photo by PA)

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Seven-try Leinster proved too strong for Gallagher Premiership strugglers Bath in a 45-20 Heineken Champions Cup victory at the Aviva Stadium. The 25,403 spectators were treated to a free-flowing first half, at the end of which Leinster led 31-13, with Bath’s late rally seeing Jacques Du Toit crash over from a well-worked lineout move.

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The hosts had dominated up to that point, bagging their bonus point within 24 minutes as Jamison Gibson-Park (two), Tadhg Furlong, James Lowe and Hugo Keenan, with his first European try, all touched down.

Bath’s porous defence leaked two more tries – Ronan Kelleher and Josh van der Flier both crossing before replacement Gabriel Hamer-Webb replied with a late consolation score for Stuart Hopper’s young side. With six of Bath’s starters making their European debuts, a second-minute penalty from fly-half Orlando Bailey settled the early nerves.

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Ex-All Blacks prop John Afoa guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload
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However, Leinster soon used numbers on the short side of a ruck, breaking menacingly from the halfway line as Lowe released Gibson-Park for a 25-metre run-in to the left corner. Ross Byrne missed the difficult conversion but added the extras to Furlong’s 11th-minute effort, the man of the match barging over after captain Rhys Ruddock had come around the corner from a line-out.

Bailey’s right boot briefly halved the deficit to 12-6, before another pacy Leinster surge earned them a third try. Lowe dived over from Keenan’s inviting offload, with Byrne converting. After Bailey pushed a long-range penalty wide, Bath had Richard de Carpentier sin-binned for collapsing a maul. Lowe returned the favour for Keenan, sending the full-back over with a lovely short pass. Byrne converted to make it 26-6.

Gibson-Park soon completed his brace, making up for a near miss from Jordan Larmour, but Bath replied before the break when Josh Bayliss broke from a dummy lineout drive to put hooker Du Toit over. Bailey converted from out wide. Bath scrummaged well on the resumption – a notable positive for them – but Leinster slammed the door shut on any potential comeback when Kelleher bulldozed his way over for Byrne to restore the 25-point gap.

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Bath went close from a maul before Leinster ended a scrappy third quarter with another try, Tom Ellis doing well to stop Ruddock before Byrne’s pass back inside saw van der Flier score. The number 10 also curled over the conversion. Apart from a Keenan chance and some clever midfield running from Ciaran Frawley, Leinster were sloppy during the closing stages.

Bath had some good impact from their bench. The fresh legs of Hamer-Webb benefited from a crisp attack off of a lineout to go in under the posts.

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