Leinster 52 Bath 27: match report

Read a full match report of the Heineken Cup game between Leinster and
Bath at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday Dec 17 2011.
Luke Fitzgerald of Leinster scores a try during the Heineken Cup match
between Leinster and Bath at Aviva Stadium on December 17, 2011 in
Dublin, Ireland.

By Simon Roberts at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin

7:45PM GMT 17 Dec 2011


Bath were humiliated in Dublin as Leinster inflicted a record defeat
at the Aviva Stadium. The gulf in class was, at times, embarrassing as
the reigning European Champions racked up the highest score, biggest
winning margin and most tries in a match on the fallen west country
giants.

Luke Fitzgerald scored twice while Rob Kearney, Jonathan Sexton, Eoin
Reddan and Rhys Ruddock and Ian Madigan piled on the misery, while
star of the show Sexton also converted six tries.

It was more than five years since Bath gained their solitary Heineken
Cup victory in Ireland, against Leinster in 2005, and first team coach
Brad Davis accepted his team’s failure to challenge that particular
bit of history.

He said: “I thought the scoreline reflected the game. Leinster were
absolutely outstanding in showing how to finish off opportunities.

“Defensively we were off the pace by some margin and at times we made
it quite comfortable for Leinster to get yardage.

“They are a quality side. All credit goes to the victors.”

Davis’s side froze at the kick off, in front of a fiercely partisan
crowd, and were too easily beaten by the width of Sexton’s arching
pass that allowed Fergus McFadden to streak clear, before earning a
penalty for Sexton.

When the fly-half saw his kick rebound off the right-hand post,
Leinster’s giant lock Devin Toner used all of his 6ft 11in frame to
beat all others to the rebound and Bath were powerless to halt Mike
Ross forcing his way to the line, though it was Eoin Reddan’s
delightful reverse pass that opened the door for Kearney to dive over
for an early lead.

Irish ill-discipline reared its head once again when captain Leo
Cullen was shown a yellow card for punching, yet it was Bath who were
living on the edge of their capabilities.

Stephen Donald may have been a World Cup winner with the All Blacks,
but he struggled to keep up with the pace of this European tie. Having
seen a kick charged down by Richard Strauss, it was then his lose pass
that was juggled by David Flatman, only to inevitably end in Leinster
hands. Toner quickly showed remarkable dexterity and handling skills
to beat two men and release Kearney, who seared through the Bath line
before picking out a scoring pass to Fitzgerald.

It was difficult to accept that Leinster were down to 14 men as they
followed up with a third try eight minutes later as Bath’s defence
collapsed.

All too often, Leinster’s backs, playing with their tails up, looked
up to see only lumbering forwards in their way. With Fitzgerald and
Kearney in full flight, Bath were, at times, grasping thin air.

A simple exchange of passes between Sexton and Sean O’Brien released
McFadden, then Fitzgerald and Bath flanker Simon Taylor, though no
slouch, was no match when the Leinster fly-half skipped clear on 33
minutes. Such was Leinster’s dominance that when Cullen returned to
the field he must have been left wondering whether he was required.

Whatever McGeechan said at half-time was rendered academic as
Fitzgerald skipped past Ryan Caldwell and past Sam Vesty for a
stunning solo score just 30 seconds into the second half.

The one-way traffic continued as first Vesty and then Chris Biller
were sin binned either side of Reddan’s score, before Ruddock added a
sixth try and Madigan a seventh. Donald barged through to cross for
the visitors, followed up by late tries for Dave Attwood then Ben
Williams, though it was scant consolation.

It was a fitting display by the home team in front of a crowd of
46,365 – the second highest attendance for a cup pool match – and
coach Joe Schmidt was delighted with the improvement over last week’s
laboured 18-13 win over the same opponents.

“I would have hoped we would have been a little bit more accurate last
week. Fortunately it was exhibited in fantastic conditions in front of
a fantastic crowd tonight,” said Schmidt. “I think that’s certainly
something that sparks a real enthusiasm among the players.”

Scoring: 5-0 Kearney try, 7-0 Sexton con, 7-3 Barkley pen, 10-3 Sexton
d-g, 10-6 Barkley pen, 15-6 Fitzgerald try, 17-6 Sexton con, 22-6
Sexton try, 24-6 Sexton con, 29-6 Fitzgerald try, 31-6 Sexton
conversion, 36-6 Reddan try, 38-6 Sexton con, 43-6 Ruddock try, 45-6
Sexton con, 45-11 Donald try, 45-13 Barkley con, 45-18 Attwood try,
45-20 Barkley con, 50-20 Madigan try, 52-20 Nacewa con, 52-25 Williams
try, 52-27 Barkley con.

Leinster: R Kearney; I Nacewa, E O’Malley, F McFadden (G D’Arcy, 53),
L Fitzgerald; J Sexton (I Madigan, 59), E Reddan; H Van Der Merwe (C
Healy, H-T), R Strauss (S Cronin, 53), M Ross (N White, 65), L Cullen
(capt, K McLaughlin, 59), D Toner, S O’Brien (R Ruddock, 53), J
Heaslip, S Jennings (I Boss, 78). Yellow Card: Cullen (24).

Bath: S Vesty; J Cuthbert (B Williams, 56), M Banahan, O Barkley, N
Abendanon; S Donald (T Heathcote, 68), M Claassens (C Cook, 56); D
Flatman, C Biller (R Batty, 67), D Wilson, D Attwood, R Caldwell, F
Louw (capt), S Taylor (A Beattie, 53) G Mercer. Yellow card: S Vesty
(49), C Biller (54).

Referee: Romain Poite (France)