Leinster are within touching distance of a Heineken Champions Cup home quarter-final after running out 42-14 bonus point winners over Lyon at the RDS.
A Dave Kearney brace took his season’s haul to nine tries in nine games, but Lyon were only 21-14 behind at the break, Virgile Bruni’s intercept score cancelling out a Josh van der Flier effort and Hendrik Roodt crossing late on.
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The French side, who had Ethan Dumortier and Felix Lambey yellow carded either side of half-time, hung in there until tries from man-of-the-match Max Deegan, Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter sealed another big winning margin for the already-confirmed Pool 1 winners.
It was a historic result for Leinster, who have now won nine Champions Cup pool games in-a-row for the first time ever. They picked up their fourth try-scoring bonus point of the campaign and will target top seeding when visiting Benetton next Saturday.
It was all Leinster right from the off, the in-form Kearney twice chipping through to create try-scoring opportunities, but Luke McGrath’s grounded effort was ruled out for offside and then James Lowe knocked on from the next chance.
They duly took the lead in the ninth minute, Lowe laying off for fellow winger Kearney to score after Ross Byrne’s clever cross-field kick from a penalty. A second converted score soon followed, a terrific offload from McGrath sending Van der Flier powering over the line.
Nonetheless, Lyon’s busy number eight Bruni gobbled up a loose pass to impressively run in from near halfway in the 21st minute. Jonathan Pelissie’s conversion halved the deficit before Leinster captain Scott Fardy had a try ruled out by TMO Ian Davies for an earlier knock-on.
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That third seven-pointer arrived on the half-hour mark, Lowe sending Kearney over again in the right corner. Yet, despite losing centre Dumortier to the bin for repeated team infringements, Lyon quickly capitalised on some loose defending by the hosts.
Their lineout maul was troubling Leinster and after Jean-Marcellin Buttin was denied at close range, South African lock Roodt burrowed over in the 37th minute with Pelissie adding the extras.
.@SeanCronin2 with our fifth of the day! ??
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) January 12, 2020
The scoreboard was not reflecting Leinster’s dominance of possession and territory, and they endured another disallowed try on the resumption due to Lowe’s forward pass. However, replacement Lambey’s yellow for a deliberate knock-on kept the pressure on Lyon.
Approaching the hour, young number eight Deegan, who continues to enhance his Ireland prospects, scored at the posts after Jordan Larmour had been wrapped up out wide. Fly-half Byrne kept up his 100 per cent record by converting Deegan’s bonus point try and Cronin’s follow-up.
Leinster took advantage of Lyon winger Xavier Mignot’s binning with Cronin speeding over from a maul. Porter, another lively replacement, drove low to take his side’s tally to six tries. Ciaran Frawley’s conversion closed out the scoring.
– Press Assocation
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