Leinster’s road to Champions Cup glory: a recap of their stellar campaign

Province started strong with a convincing victory over Montpellier in October last year

Leinster players celebrate with the trophy Champions Cup trophy after beating Racing 92 in the final   at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

Leinster players celebrate with the trophy Champions Cup trophy after beating Racing 92 in the final at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

 
Leinster’s Barry Daly celebrates scoring his side’s fourth try against Montpellier at the RDS, Dublin. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Leinster’s Barry Daly celebrates scoring his side’s fourth try against Montpellier at the RDS, Dublin. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Round 1: October 14th, 2017

Leinster 24 Montpellier 17

Four tries and a half-time lead that Leinster never relinquished was the perfect start to a perfect campaign. In this outing Ross Byrne played 10 and Joey Carbery fullback. Carbery on 17 minutes and Josh van der Flier on 25 minutes put early distance between the teams. Robbie Henshaw scored just after the break and left wing Barry Daly secured the bonus point. On the way.

Leinster: Joey Carbery; Adam Byrne, Robbie Henshaw, Isa Nacewa (capt), Barry Daly; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Jack McGrath, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong; Devin Toner, Scott Fardy; Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan. Replacements: Noel Reid for Nacewa (35 mins), Seán Cronin for Tracy, Cian Healy for J McGrath (both 47 mins), Michael Bent for Furlong, Ross Molony for Ryan, Jordi Murphy for van der Flier, Jamison Gibson-Park for L McGrath (all 63 mins), Fergus McFadden for Daly (80 mins).

Sin-binned: A Byrne (75 mins).

Leinster’s Noel Reid celebrates scoring their fourth against Glasgow Warriors with Dan Leavy. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Leinster’s Noel Reid celebrates scoring their fourth against Glasgow Warriors with Dan Leavy. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Round 2: October 21st, 2017

Glasgow 18 Leinster 34

Leinster’s second scalp was taken coming from behind. A physical match initially went with the Scots after a penalty from Finn Russell and try from Stuart Hogg. The Leinster machine kicked in and the forwards took control. Cian Healy hit back twice on 23 minutes and just before the break, with Sexton adding another just after. Noel Reid closed the door on 75 minutes.

Leinster: J Carbery; F McFadden, R Henshaw, N Reid, B Daly; J Sexton (capt), L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, S Fardy; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan Replacements: D Kearney for B Daly (41 mins), J Tracy for S Cronin, J McGrath for C Healy, D Leavy for J van der Flier (all 49 mins), J Ryan for S Fardy (54 mins), J Gibson-Park for L McGrath (61 mins), M Bent for T Furlong, R Byrne for J Sexton (both 68 mins)

Leinster’s Fergus McFadden celebrates Jack Conan’s try against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park, Exeter. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Leinster’s Fergus McFadden celebrates Jack Conan’s try against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park, Exeter. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Round 3: December 10th, 2017

Exeter Chiefs 8 Leinster 18

How to win in Sandy Park. This time Leinster chose to strangle the Premiership champions. The Irish side did to Exeter what they had done to all visitors since losing at home on the corresponding weekend to Bordeaux Begles exactly 12 months previously. After Saturday’s win against Racing, Isa Nacewa said Leinster beat Racing as they had away to Exeter. “Nothing flash.”

Leinster’s Luke McGrath celebrates scoring a try with Dan Leavy, Scott Fardy and James Ryan in their victory over Exeter Chiefs at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Leinster’s Luke McGrath celebrates scoring a try with Dan Leavy, Scott Fardy and James Ryan in their victory over Exeter Chiefs at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Round 4: December 17th, 2017

Leinster 22 Exeter 17

Leinster managed to rise above the imperfections of a first half in which they trailed 3-17 and 9-17 at the break. It was a victory that scarcely looked plausible at various junctures, especially when Sexton retired after just two minutes. But in a wonderfully abrasive final 40 minutes, Nacewa with his kicking boots on and a Luke McGrath try was enough. Leinster squeezed through.

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, I Nacewa (capt); J Sexton, L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, S Fardy; S O’Brien, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: R Byrne for Sexton 2 mins; J Larmour for Byrne 6-15 mins; J McGrath for van der Flier 18-27 mins; J Tracy for Cronin 55 mins; J McGrath for Healy 55 mins; D Leavy for O’Brien 55 mins; J Ryan for Toner 55 mins; A Porter for Furlong 73 mins; J Gibson-Park for L McGrath 73 mins. J Larmour.

Leinster’s Scott Fardy scoring a late try against Glasgow Warriors at the RDS. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Leinster’s Scott Fardy scoring a late try against Glasgow Warriors at the RDS. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Round 5: January 14th, 2018

Leinster 55 Glasgow 19

Pure and simple this was a rout in the RDS. Leinster scored eight tries against an under-strength Glasgow to seal top spot in Pool 3 and secure a home Champions Cup quarter-final. Jordi Murphy was the first to go over the whitewash after seven minutes. He was followed by Nacewa twice and Scott Fardy twice, James Lowe, Sexton and Sean Cronin. A rout pure and simple.

Leinster: J Larmour; F McFadden, R Henshaw, I Nacewa, J Lowe; J Sexton, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, S Fardy; J Murphy, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: C Healy for McGrath, R Byrne for Sexton (both 49 mins); R Kearney for Henshaw, D Leavy for Conan (both 54 mins); B Byrne for Conan, A Porter for Furlong (both 58 mins); J Ryan for Toner (62 mins); N McCarthy for L McGrath (68 mins).

Yellow card: J Murphy (Leinster) 10 mins.

Leinster’s Bryan Byrne in action against Montpellier at Altrad Stadium, Montpellier. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Leinster’s Bryan Byrne in action against Montpellier at Altrad Stadium, Montpellier. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Round 6: January 20th, 2018

Montpellier 14 Leinster 23

The final game of the pool and the goal was to top the pool. So they did with a 100 per cent record against meagre opposition to earn top seeding in the quarter-finals and put Montpellier out of the competition. Starting strongly, the lead came after a line break by James Lowe enabled Byrne to dot down. Henshaw and Cronin tries followed. Mission accomplished.

Leinster: R Kearney; J Larmour, R Henshaw, I Nacewa, J Lowe; R Byrne, J Gibson Park; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; D Leavy, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: J McGrath for C Healy (50 mins), L McGrath for J Gibson-Park, J Carbery for R Kearney (both 57 mins), J Murphy for D Leavy, A Porter for T Furlong (both 66 mins), F McFadden for J Lowe (68 mins), B Byrne for S Cronin (70 mins), R Molony for J Ryan (73 mins).

Leinster’s James Lowe celebrates his try against Saracens at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Leinster’s James Lowe celebrates his try against Saracens at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Quarter-Final: April 1st, 2018

 Leinster 30 Saracens 19

Garry Ringrose opened the scoring after three minutes. But with Bosch, Farrell and Sexton exchanging penalties, there was just one point in it at half-time. Leinster brought energy and purpose after the interval, dominating in a full Aviva Stadium. Lowe claimed a try as did the outstanding Dan Leavy after a memorable one-two with James Ryan. Scarlets in the semi-final.

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, G Ringrose, I Nacewa (capt), J Lowe; J Sexton, L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; S Fardy, D Leavy, J Murphy. Replacements: J McGrath for Healy 53 mins; J Tracy for Cronin 59 mins; A Porter for Furlong 64 mins; R Ruddock for Fardy 64 mins; N McCarthy for L McGrath 64 mins; J Carbery for Sexton 68 mins; R O’Loughlin for Nacewa 78 mins; M Deegan for Murphy 78 mins.

Leinster players celebrate Jonathan Sexton’s try against Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Leinster players celebrate Jonathan Sexton’s try against Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Semi-final: April 21st, 2018

Leinster 38 Scarlets 16

A Leinster performance for the ages. Another rout, they eviscerated the Pro14 champions in a game that launched them into the final as favourites. On a par with beating the twice champions Saracens, Leigh Halfpenny had the temerity to give Scarlets the lead. But Ryan began the brutal demolition on nine minutes with Healy, McFadden, Fardy and Sexton tries following.

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, I Nacewa; J Sexton (capt), J Gibson-Park; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; S Fardy, D Leavy, J Murphy. Replacements: J Larmour for McFadden half-time; J McGrath for Healy 53 mins; J Tracy for Cronin 57 mins; J Carbery for Sexton 61 mins; A Porter for Furlong 61 mins; J Conan for Leavy 66 mins; N McCarthy for Gibson-Park; R Molony for Ryan 71 mins.

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