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Leinster back on top in the URC after their nine-try Italian job

By PA
(Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Leinster reclaimed the top spot in the URC with a 61-17 Saturday thrashing of Benetton in Treviso. Ulster’s big win against Cardiff on Friday night saw them edge ahead of Leo Cullen’s men in the overall table but the Dubliners ran in nine tries to claw their way back to the summit with a four-point margin.

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Max Deegan, Sean Cronin, Jordan Larmour and Ross Byrne earned Leinster a bonus point by half-time, with a single penalty from Rhyno Smith the only response Benetton could muster before the URC interval.

The hosts did touch down twice in the second half but Cronin’s second and two tries each for James Tracy and Jimmy O’Brien saw Leinster to a comfortable victory, with Byrne also kicking 14 points. 

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Deegan powered over from close range for Leinster’s first try after a totally dominant opening five minutes. Byrne added the extras before Smith got Benetton off the mark with a relatively straightforward penalty seven minutes later. 

The visitors eventually added their second try when Cronin went over from a driving maul. Byrne’s conversion made it 14-3 after 24 minutes and he was on target again when a third try quickly followed, Larmour exploiting a gap in the Benetton defence to go over.

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Leinster had their bonus point by half-time thanks to a fantastic team try initiated by a rapid counter-attack from Jimmy O’Brien, Tommy O’Brien and Larmour, with Byrne eventually applying the finish and converting for a 28-3 scoreline at the break. Cronin emerged from another lineout maul to cross for his second try seven minutes into the second half, again converted by Byrne, but Benetton went over when second row Nicola Piantella picked up from the back of a ruck and darted for the line.

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Smith’s conversion took the hosts into double figures but replacement hooker Tracy resumed the Leinster onslaught with a close-range finish and Byrne made it 42-10 from the tee. Jimmy O’Brien ran in under the posts to give Byrne an easy seventh conversion but the fly-half hit both posts and the crossbar after Tracy’s second – his first miss of the match.

Lorenzo Cannone touched down and Smith split the posts as Benetton showed some signs of life but O’Brien converted his own try to round off a pleasing afternoon’s work for Leinster.

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