Sheehan feasts in Leinster rout
MATCH REPORT: Ireland hooker Dan Sheehan helped himself to four tries as Leinster had little trouble in beating Benetton 42-10 in the United Rugby Championship at the RDS.
One of a dozen players returning from the New Zealand tour, Sheehan scored a 28-minute hat-trick to give the hosts a 21-3 half-time lead.
Replacement Manfredi Albanese ended Benetton’s wait for a try, but Leinster ended up running in six tries in total as Josh van der Flier, Sheehan and Luke McGrath added further scores.
Sheehan is the eighth player, and first from Leinster, to score four tries in a URC match.
The last one to do so was Marcell Coetzee for Ulster against Zebre in November 2020.
Joaquin Riera’s break signalled a bright start for Benetton, but Leinster seized a sixth-minute lead when forward Sheehan was driven over from a well-executed line-out maul.
Benetton wing Mattia Bellini was sin-binned just before that, for a pull-back on Dave Kearney near the visitors’ line, and Ciaran Frawley converted Sheehan’s try for a 7-0 lead.
Replacement Henry Time-Stowers lifted the Italians with a turnover penalty, but some aggressive carrying off a line-out preceded Sheehan’s second converted score in the 16th minute.
Benetton fly-half Giacomo da Re replied with a penalty but, despite Samoan Time-Stowers foiling one Leinster maul, the hosts increased their lead when a subsequent drive propelled Sheehan over for his hat-trick.
Leinster moved further ahead within six minutes of the restart when flanker Van der Flier was released for the right corner and replacement Ross Byrne converted.
The home side took a familiar route to the whitewash in the 52nd minute, Sheehan charging over from another maul with Byrne’s boot making it 35-3.
Recent Italy debutant Albanese sniped over from a ruck in response, before Leinster captain Garry Ringrose had a try disallowed for McGrath being in touch.
However, the Leinster scrum-half did manage to have the final say in the 71st minute, using the maul platform to finish smartly with Byrne converting again.
Player of the Match
Sheehan thrived off Leinster’s dominant line-out maul and was rewarded for his accurate throwing and eye for the try-line with a brilliant quartet of tries. The Dubliner only turned 24 last Saturday and already has an impressive scoring record in blue, notching 20 tries in 30 appearances.
Play of the match
Leinster were at their most fluent early in the second half. Sheehan carried hard off a maul, spearheading 10 pacy phases and quick handling that sapped the energy from Benetton. Ross Byrne and Jordan Larmour both drew in defenders before opening the way for van der Flier to score out wide.
Tries: Sheehan 4, van der Flier, McGrath
Cons: Frawley 3, Byrne 3
Cons: Da Re
Pens: Da Re
Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose (captain), 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ciarán Frawley, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Cian Healy, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Will Connors, 21 Cormac Foley, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Charlie Ngatai.
Benetton: 15 Ignacio Mendy, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Giacomo Da Re, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Ivan Nemer.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Henry Time-Stowers, 21 Manfredi Albanese, 22 Tommaso Menoncello, 23 Ratuva Tavuyara.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Andrew Fogarty (Ireland)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
Picture credit: @leinsterrugby