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Leinster eye up South African heavyweights after victory over Zebre

By PA
Luke McGrath of Leinster evades the tackle of Scott Gregory of Zebre during the United Rugby Championship match between Zebre Parma and Leinster at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma, Italy. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

United Rugby Championship leaders Leinster continued their relentless play-off push by beating Zebre 31-7 in Parma.

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Leinster will go into next week’s Dublin clash against fellow title challengers the Bulls with a four-point advantage over the second-placed South African side.

And it promises to be a heavyweight encounter, with many of Leinster’s sizeable Ireland international contingent potentially returning following their Six Nations success.

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First-half tries by wings Rob Russell and Andrew Osborne sent Leinster on their way to a 10th win from 12 URC starts this season.

Scrum-half Luke McGrath and captain Scott Penny then added touchdowns during the third quarter to secure a bonus point, while Russell crossed for his second try near the end and Ross Byrne kicked three conversions.

Zebre claimed a well-worked try from full-back Jacopo Trulla that Geronimo Prisciantelli converted, but despite plenty of hard graft they had no real answer to Leinster’s attacking flair.

Leinster were off and running after just four minutes when Byrne’s inside ball to Russell saw the wing accelerate clear of Zebre defenders and claim a fine 45-metre solo score.

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Attack

177
Passes
159
118
Ball Carries
101
208m
Post Contact Metres
295m
3
Line Breaks
9

Byrne added the conversion, and a passive Zebre defence was almost unlocked again eight minutes later when Leinster full-back Ciaran Frawley attacked in space, but he was hauled down five metres out.

Leinster had centre Liam Turner yellow-carded following head-on-head contact with Zebre fly-half Prisciantelli, and the home side rapidly drew level.

Prisciantelli was the architect, kicking with pinpoint accuracy to find wing Scott Gregory, and his pass sent Italy international Trulla sprinting over for a try that Prisciantelli converted.

It had been a testing spell for Leinster, but they went back in front nine minutes before half-time when Osborne regathered his own superbly-weighted kick inside Zebre’s 22 and finished impressively.

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Byrne’s conversion made it 14-7, and Zebre ended the first half a player down after flanker Iacopo Bianchi received a yellow card after an off-the-ball tackle on Leinster’s Will Connors.

McGrath claimed Leinster’s third try early in the second period, and Penny followed him over Zebre’s line five minutes later after a Turner break shredded Zebre’s defence, before Russell added his second late on.

Set Plays

9
Scrums
6
100%
Scrum Win %
83%
20
Lineout
20
95%
Lineout Win %
85%
2
Restarts Received
7
100%
Restarts Received Win %
100%
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