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Leinster ready for tough Amlin CC debut

Monday 1st April 2013

12:00 am (GMT)

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Dai Young's side have reached the last eight for the second successive season

Dai Young's side have reached the last eight for the second successive season

Dai Young’s side have reached the last eight for the second successive season, but find themselves hosting the current Heineken Cup champions. Leinster were beaten twice by ASM Clermont Auvergne in their Pool and had to settle for a life-line into the Amlin Challenge Cup instead of trying to make it three Heineken Cup titles in a row.

They will arrive at Adams Park with a massive European pedigree, but having lost their last game after their 22-18 home defeat at the hands of Ulster. Will that shake their confidence and give Wasps an edge?

Wasps, meanwhile, who like Leinster have tasted success in winning the Heineken Cup, have lost their last two games at home against Northampton Saints and Saracens. “Now is it all about character. We have got to pick ourselves, bounce back and come out a little bit better and we know we have the ability to do that,” explained Young after the defeat to table-topping Saracens.

Leinster will be without Brian O’Driscoll, who is still suspended after being cited for a stamping incident in Ireland’s final RBS 6 Nations game against Italy, and Jonny Sexton is still sidelined with the foot tendon injury he picked up in Rome.

But even without those two back line talisman, as well as a third in the injured Luke Fitzgerald, there is still enough talent and fire-power behind the Leinster scrum to achieve a semi-final ticket. Ian Madigan has stepped seamlessly into Sexton’s shoes and will be key to their chances.

Opposite him could be the wily old Wales and British & Irish Lions star Stephen Jones and the battle of the boots will be crucial. Leinster won’t have experienced the pace of Christian Wade before and Billy Vunipola’s raw power from the home back row will challenge the more established ball carrying threat of Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip.

Match Facts

  • Wasps have never faced Irish opposition in this tournament, though in the Heineken Cup they have won nine of 13 meetings with Irish clubs, including two of three against Leinster.
  • Leinster have never featured in the Amlin Challenge Cup before but have faced English opposition on 38 occasions in the Heineken Cup. They have won 26, drawn one and lost 11.
  • Only two other players have made more tackles than Wasps back row, James Haskell, in this season’s Amlin Challenge Cup. Haskell has completed 63 and missed only four.
  • Wasps winger Tom Varndell has the best average gain (13.8m) of all players in the Amlin Challenge Cup this season (15+ carries).
  • Leinster’s ball retention at rucks and mauls was the best of any club in the Heineken Cup pool stage. They won 97% of rucks when in possession and also averaged 89 won per game, more than any other side.

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Leinster reach semis in style

Friday 5th April 2013

12:00 am (GMT)

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Wasps v Leinster: Behind the scenes video. - 07/04/2013 11:59

Wasps v Leinster: Behind the scenes video. - 07/04/2013 11:59

Heineken Cup holders Leinster reached the final four of the Amlin Challenge Cup in some style after seeing off London Wasps 48-28 in an Adam’s Park thriller.

The 2009, 2011 and 2012 Heineken Cup Champions scored five tries on their Amlin Challenge Cup debut as they booked a semi-final showdown with Biarritz Olympique in Dublin.

Ian Madigan produced a hugely impressive individual showing to finish with 28 points courtesy of a try, five penalties and four conversions, with Gordon D’Arcy, Mike Ross, Rob Kearney and Isa Nacewa also touching down for the visitors.

Wasps were well in the game throughout an enthralling first 40 minutes as wing Christian Wade displayed his prodigious talents with a brace of tries but Leinster built on their 20-15 half-time advantage with an 18-point burst in the third quarter.

Tom Varndell pulled two tries back for the 2003 Amlin Challenge Cup winners and double Heineken Cup kings but Leinster were good value for a commanding triumph that keeps them on track to win three European competitions on the spin.

It was Wasps who enjoyed the perfect start, though, as they crossed for a fine try with less than two minutes on the clock. Italian centre Andrea Masi sliced through in midfield, picking off Leinster prop Cian Healy and blindside flanker Kevin McLaughlin before handing Wade a simple run in.

Nicky Robinson was unable to add the extras from the right-hand side, however, and Leinster hit back to take the lead just three minutes later. D’Arcy cruised home from the 22 after the Wasps defence fell for Madigan’s wrap around run, with Fergus McFadden supplying the scoring pass with a delayed pop.

Madigan slotted the simple conversion from directly in front of the posts but was off target with a long-range penalty attempt before Wade brought the crowd to their feet once more with a quarter of an hour gone.

The 21-year-old flyer stepped inside McFadden’s attempted tackle following Robinson’s flat pass 35 metres out before rounding Kearney with a brilliant drop of the shoulder and another display of out and out pace.

Robinson succeeded with the conversion this time from a similar angle to his first attempt to make it 12-7 but the lead changed hands once more when Madigan matched Wade’s individual brilliance after 22 minutes.

The inform fly-half has been making the most of his chance in the absence of the injured Jonathan Sexton and he showed just why he is rated so highly in Ireland with a superb solo score. Madigan stepped in between Wasps forwards Joe Launchbury and Marco Wentzel after taking possession on the opposition 22 and the covering defence had no chance of halting his momentum once he had exploited the narrowest of gaps.

Madigan completed the seven-point score with a straightforward conversion before his first penalty pushed his side five points clear at 17-12 four minutes before the half hour.

Robinson struck from distance after 35 minutes to cut the gap to two points but Madigan followed suit to make it a five-point ball game to Leinster at the interval.

Leinster then took control in the third quarter as they added the decisive quick-fire points thanks to two more tries, two more penalties and a conversion in comparison to a single kick at goal from Robinson.

Madigan’s 45th minute penalty was almost immediately followed by a close-range effort from Ross after Nacewa’s fine break and chip ahead, with another Madigan three pointer then backed up by Kearney’s strong finish from Sean O’Brien’s powerful burst on the hour.

Wasps refused to give up the ghost and responded with two tries from Varndell after 65 and 70 minutes but Nacewa’s deserved score split the former England wing’s touchdowns to ensure the result was beyond doubt prior to the closing stages.

Fittingly, it was Madigan who had the final say as he sent over his fifth penalty with three minutes left to take his team to within a single strike of a half century.

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