Rugby Leinster make it a blue Christmas for Saints

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Leinster 50 Northampton Saints 21

A facile triumph, the foundations of which were laid with a brisk opening salvo and then followed by intermittent excellence that saw Leinster complete a fourth successive victory in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup and in booking a place in the quarter-finals as pool winners with two rounds of matches still to play in January.

The home side accumulated seven tries, several borne of training ground precision and artistic endeavour, others more prosaic as they ruthlessly dismantled a Northampton Saints that had made eight changes from the team that were thumped by Leinster in Franklin’s Gardens last weekend.

The Saints elected to rest a number of players, perhaps with one eye on an English Premiership game away to Sale Sharks next Saturday. If they travelled in hope they were quickly disabused of any notions of an upset.

Leinster set about them with relish and the victory was underpinned by several standout performances not least man-of-the-match, Jordan Lamour (112 metres, 12 defenders’ beaten), Garry Ringrose, who crossed for a hat-trick of tries and Ross Byrne, who provided intelligent direction and game management. Up front Tadhg Furlong was back to his bullocking best, Rhys Ruddock carried hard and Caelan Doris had his best game for the province; the pack were excellent to a man, ably led by Scott Fardy.

There were blemishes; some of Leinster’s defending was brittle and passive; Northampton didn’t have to work particularly as a rule hard for their tries. The home side also coughed up some gilt edged try scoring chances, a little imprecise and impatient at times while the penalty count (11) won’t please Leo Cullen. These are relatively minor cavils when weighed against the overall performance and particularly the outcome.

There was a vibrancy to Leinster’s patterns in the first half, varied and fluent for the most part, changing the point of attack, sucking in the Northampton cover by pummelling the visitors around the fringes before getting round the edges in the outside channels.

The Saints struggled to cope with the high octane tempo, scrambling furiously to plug holes. It could have been even worse than the 31-points they conceded in that period because Leinster left a couple more tries behind them in the opening 40-minutes. The home side also conceded a couple of soft tries that will rankle slightly.

The irony was that Leinster’s first try had nothing to do with creativity. The home side had turned over possession in the Saints’ 22 but Ringrose speed off the mark and surprised Northampton centre Andy Symons whose kicked he charged down, re-gathered and dotted down.

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