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Leinster 50 Northampton Saints 21
Leinster’s facile victory permitted them to accelerate into the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals after just four rounds of the pool stages but, while a notable milestone, it won’t materially affect their outlook when Europe resumes in January. The concern then will be to secure a top seeding and a home draw to facilitate an ambition to make it to Marseille.
Before then they’ll indulge in a little sibling rivalry with Pro14 fixtures against Ulster, Munster and Connacht over Christmas and the New Year. Leo Cullen has previously stated that Leinster’s Irish World Cup squad contingent will get time off during that period as he rotates the playing roster presumably in a staggered manner.
On the evidence of the recent victory over Glasgow and the way in which some of the younger players have seamlessly stepped up to European benchmarking, Cullen and his coaching cadre will be optimistic the province can maintain the momentum of an unbeaten season to date.
Northampton head coach Chris Boyd made eight changes from the side pummelled by Leinster in Franklin’s Gardens. The visitors were quickly disabused of any notions of a different outcome, their fate effectively sealed in a lacklustre opening 21 minutes in which they conceded 24 points, a tally that might have been appreciably higher had Leinster been a little more clinical.
Garry Ringrose’s first in a hat-trick of tries was down to his speed off the mark in blocking Andy Symons kick and the presence of mind to retrieve the ball quickly; his second a training ground sketch brought to life by the sharp hands and minds of Josh van der Flier, Luke McGrath, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw (subtle block on Dan Biggar) and James Lowe. The third try, in the second half, was more prosaic, based on predatory instincts as he swooped onto a loose ball near the Saints’ line.
Tadhg Furlong, back to his rumbustious best, trundled over as the Leinster pack fle
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