Rugby Leinster put Europe on notice with Northampton demolition

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Northampton Saints 16Leinster 43

The difference – besides 27 points – can be sliced into a simple reality. Leinster thrived in the absence of their leader and most creative player Johnny Sexton, who faces a nervy wait to see how his right knee, badly jarred when tackled by Matt Proctor, responds to treatment.

The Ireland captaincy is on the line but this season shuttles onwards.

Northampton appear light years away from building a comparable dynasty. Perhaps it is impossible for an English club to ever truly compete with the Dublin-based province without committing financial irregularities.

Such a glaring imbalance will not be turned around inside a week. That lesson was learned by Leinster in December 2013. The punishment for losing to Northampton six years ago was a quarter-final in Toulon.

“And that was my last European game,” Leo Cullen remembers.

Considering Northampton will travel without four marquee players, they are highly unlikely to storm the Aviva Stadium next Saturday. Sure, they could not cope without them at home. Courtney Lawes has yet to physically recover from the World Cup final, All Black tighthead Owen Franks has a broken thumb and their big South African lock David Ribbans is also unavailable.

That head coach Chris Boyd spoke about needing to rest number eight Teimana Harrison – the Kiwi was outstanding in the first half winning three turnovers – sends out a clear festive message to the Christmas jumper parade set to descend upon Dublin 4: enjoy the yuletide celebrations safe in the knowledge that Leinster’s World Cup wannabes and fallen heroes have merged once more into what looks an unstoppable force.

Josh van der Flier pipped Jordan Larmour to the man of the match award because he was blanketing fires deep into the second half. Van der Flier was as immense in defence as Larmour was scintillating with the ball tucked under arm.

Not three minutes had passed when the incoming Ireland fullback glided outside Jamie Gibson to send James Lowe racing clear from 60 metres for the opening try.

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