Leinster ends Exeter's Euro run
EUROPEAN CUP MATCH REPORT: Four-time competition winners Leinster scored a comprehensive 34-22 win over the defending champions Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Despite scoring three tries each, the boot of replacement flyhalf Ross Byrne – who kicked a conversion and five penalties – saw the Irish province advance to the semifinals and keeps alive their dreams of an unprecedented fifth title.
* Did you miss any of the action? To recap all the dramas, CLICK HERE!
Exeter, who narrowly beat Racing 92 in a gripping Final last October, as they achieved an English/European double, could not withstand the Leinster pressure.
Exeter made the perfect start on home turf, as wing Tom O’Flaherty touched down twice in the first eight minutes to open up a 14-0 lead.
Leinster hit back swiftly with one wing James Lowe reducing the deficit and the other wing Jordan Larmour levelling on the half-hour.
Ross Byrne, who came on as a replacement for a groggy-looking Johnny Sexton, converted the latter and added two penalties to give Leinster a 20-14 lead at the break.
Within two minutes of the restart, Exeter was back within a point after Dave Ewers crashed over but three penalties from Byrne, who finished with 17 points, and Larmour’s second try saw Leinster take control.
Exeter threw themselves at the Leinster defence, but the blue line held firm and with the clock in the red Rory O’Loughlin thought he had crossed for the Irish side’s fourth try.
The video ref ruled it out for an illegal tackle, but Leinster had done enough to book their place in the final four.
“Exeter showed their class in the first 10 minutes, so we knew it was going to take a valiant effort,” Leinster centre Robbie Henshaw said in his post-match reaction.
“It was up there with the toughest games we have played all season. It was up there with international standard.”
For Exeter Chiefs
Tries: O’Flaherty 2, Ewers
Cons: Simmonds 2
Tries: Lowe, Larmour 2
Cons: Sexton, Byrne
Pens: Byrne 5
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Tom Francis, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ian Whitten.
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Dave Kearney.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)