Madigan leads Leinster parade through Adams Park
Outhalf runs up 28-point tally as province earn semi-final date with Biarritz
Ian Madigan of Leinster breaks through the tackle of Elliot Daly to score against London Wasps at Adams Park. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Wasps wing Christian Wade scores at Adams Park. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Wasps 28 Leinster 48: The wintry chill remains but the Amlin Challenge Cup’s stellar line-up is producing a bountiful harvest; 197 points in three quarter-finals so far.
After the 72-point feast in Gloucester the night before, this nine-try jaunt on a cold but still and dry night in High Wycombe saw a classy Leinster outfit earn a home semi-final with the holders Biarritz.
As befits one of Europe’s biggest drawing cards, the presence of the Leinster aristocrats induced Wasps’ biggest crowd of the season, 9,654, and while their flying wings, Christian Wade and Tom Varndell, took their combined tally for the season to 32 tries, this was more a statement of intent by Leinster.
Learning the lessons from last week, their recycling and ball presentation was altogether quicker, allowing their runners to continually get on the front foot and Ian Madigan and co to attack the gain line in front of the watching Lions head coach Warren Gatland.
They usually responded to a Wasps score with one of their own; one felt they could always score when they had to.
It helped that the contest was very consistently refereed too, by Pascal Gauzere.
In the nitty gritty, Leo Cullen’s line-out organisational skills, close-in work and leadership were also clear to see, while Seán O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip made a ton of carries.
The lively tone was set from the start, as Joe Simpson posted a warning of his pace off the base of a scrum with a blind side snipe, and a couple of phases later, Andrea Masi broke outside Kevin McLaughlin to put the speedy Wade away.
Leinster responded within four minutes, a superb Dave Kearney take off Madigan’s up-and-under the prelude to a spell of high tempo recycling from which Madigan looped around Fergus McFadden but instead of the trademark Leinster loop, his short, flat pass put Gordon D’Arcy speeding through to score by the posts.
Having landed the conversion for his 15th successful kick in a row, Madigan was wide from almost half-way before Leinster had another defensive blip, McFadden shooting out of the line for Nicky Robinson to exploit the ensuing gap and Wade to score with another pacey finish.
However, over the last two seasons, no outhalf across the three major leagues in Europe has been more prolific in locating the opposition try line than Madigan and after strong carries by Heaslip, and a clever offload by O’Brien, Madigan attacked the gain line in customary style, showed, went, and had the strength to wriggle free and speed to score from the 22.
Madigan added the conversion and traded penalties with Robinson before tagging on another pair of penalties either side of the interval.
Isa Nacewa hasn’t been having a vintage season, but he remains a wonderful game breaker in open play or off kick-offs, and his stunning break on receiving the ensuing restart and clever kick ahead was the prelude to another Daly fumble and from the ensuing pack rumble, Mike Ross, of all people, was driven over the line.
After a further exchange of penalties, O’Brien’s willing and strong carrying eventually yielded a powerful line break and he popped the ball off the deck for Rob Kearney to score.
It would have irked Joe Schmidt no end that Ashley Johsnon plundered yards close in when carrying into Devin Toner, who had a good game, and when the ball went wide Wade combined with Varndell to fend off tackles by Boss and Rob Kearney to score, adding his 17th of the season five minutes later after the ball popped to him and he wriggled over.
In between, though, Hugo Southwell had a kick charged down by Seán Cronin and from the recycle, smashing hands by D’Arcy – another who had a big game – enabled Nacewa to score in the corner. As late as the 75th minute, Cullen and co had the final meaningful say with a huge maul.
Fittingly, Madigan closed out the scoring with the resultant penalty for his ninth kick from 11, and a personal haul of 28 points.