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Sizzling Leinster Secure Quarter-Final Berth

Sizzling Leinster Secure Quarter-Final Berth

Six-try Leinster put Saracens to the sword in a swashbuckling second half at the RDS, as they booked their place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

This bonus point victory keeps Leinster five points clear of Clermont Auvergne and guarantees them top spot in Pool 2, as they edge the French side in terms of the head-to-head.

Saracens were only 22-12 adrift at half-time, turning around with the advantage of a blustery wind, but tries from Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa and Eoin O’Malley eased Leinster away.

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In a free-flowing first half, man-of-the-match Sean O’Brien and Dominic Ryan (2) touched down for the hosts, with James Short and Kelly Brown crossing for Sarries.

But the Aviva Premiership high flyers were taught an attacking lesson after the break, and an injury-time try from Nils Mordt was meaningless in the end.

Wind-backed Leinster, who lost Gordon D’Arcy to a calf strain beforehand, moved 12-0 ahead thanks to two early tries.

The impressive Brian O’Driscoll and Isa Nacewa created an opening on the left, and the supporting Richardt Strauss put O’Brien over despite the presence of Brown.

There was a further injection of pace in the 12th minute when a wraparound move involving Fergus McFadden and Jonathan Sexton set up Shane Horgan for a run down the right.

Leinster secured quick ball and from a position closer in, passes from O’Brien and Nacewa put 20-year-old flanker Ryan over for a converted try.

Saracens pounced on a Leinster error to run in a settling 24th minute score. Luke Fitzgerald’s sloppy pass, near the halfway line, was gathered on the bounce by Short who had the pace to scamper away and touch down by the posts.

Owen Farrell added the conversion and although Sexton pulled a penalty back after Rhys Gill dropped a scrum, there were further encouraging signs for Sarries.

Brad Barritt got his legs pumping on a huge surge into the Leinster 22, Carlos Nieto rumbled forward on the recycle and a subsequent knock on let Leinster off the hook.

But they could do nothing about the brilliant move which led to Brown’s 33rd-minute effort.

Sarries gobbled up Fitzgerald’s clearance kick before Schalk Brits roared forward, linking with the dancing David Strettle who offloaded for Andy Saull and he sent Brown over in the right corner.

Farrell failed with the conversion, and as the open style of rugby continued, Leinster mustered a response before the break.

The tireless O’Brien burst past two tacklers and after a well-managed ruck, Sexton’s long pass allowed Shane Jennings unselfishly lay off for Ryan to grab his second try.

Sexton tagged on the tricky conversion for a 10-point buffer at half-time, and it was his half-break that ignited Leinster’s attack again for their bonus point try.

After soaking up some pressure in their own half, Sexton and O’Driscoll exposed the Sarries defence near halfway, Strauss then took the ball on and McFadden had a comfortable 30-metre run to the line, with Sexton adding the extras.

A Farrell penalty made it 29-15, but another sumptuous score saw Leinster put the result beyond doubt. Sexton, O’Driscoll and O’Brien were involved in a stylish break which finished with Nacewa stepping past Mordt for the try.

Three minutes later, Farrell’s missed tackle invited replacement O’Malley into scoring range and he jinked his way past the covering Short for a classy seven-pointer.

A raft of substitutions broke up the tempo and after Leinster’s Devin Toner saw yellow for collapsing a maul, Sarries salvaged some pride as Barritt put Mordt over for the ninth try of a hugely entertaining European tie.

Speaking afterwards, Sean O’Brien said: “We started very well and it kind of kicked on from there and we’re pretty happy with the result because we knew that they’d come back strong, which they did.

“It was very windy out there and it was a pretty good performance considering the conditions. We had said during the week that we needed to be positive out there and we were. It was pleasing to win in front of that incredible support again.”

Leinster captain Leo Cullen added: “We knew that Saracens were going to be very dangerous and it was important that our discipline was good and thankfully we didn’t give away too many penalties.

“Our form has been consistent of late and we’re pretty happy where we are (in the pool). The support that we’re getting is phenomenal.”