ไฮเนเก้นแชมเปียนส์คัพ: สเตอร์ 55-24 เสือเลสเตอร์ – สเตอร์เข้าสู่รอบรองชนะเลิศ
|Leinster: (17) 55|
|Tries: Ringrose 2, Gibson-Park, Penalty try, Penny, O’Brien, McKee Cons: R Byrne 6 Pens: R Byrne 2|
|Leicester Tigers: (10) 24|
|Tries: Watson, Cracknell, Potter Cons: Pollard 2, Gopperth Pen: Pollard|
Leinster thrashed Premiership champions Leicester Tigers in Dublin to become the first side through to this season’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals.
Ireland centre Garry Ringrose crossed twice in the first half for the hosts.
Anthony Watson replied for Leicester, but Jamison Gibson-Park, a penalty try, Scott Penny, Jimmy O’Brien and John McKee tries secured a dominant win.
Leinster, chasing a record-equalling fifth Champions Cup triumph, will play Toulouse or Sharks in the last four.
Alongside their formidable form in all competitions so far this season – they have won 21 and drawn one of their 22 games – the prospect of home advantage should they get to the final, which will be played at Aviva Stadium on 20 May, means Leinster are tipped by many to lift the premier trophy in European rugby for the first time since 2018.
Tigers’ attentions will now turn to defending their Premiership title, with Richard Wigglesworth’s team currently third behind Saracens and Sale in the table.
Olly Cracknell and Harry Potter went over for consolation tries for the visitors late on.
Leinster through after second-half salvo
Ringrose gave Leinster the best possible start, touching down under the posts after one minute, but strong Leicester defence and solid work at the breakdown prevented the hosts from performing at their fluent best in the first period.
They still showed moments of quality, in particular the well-worked set-piece move which created space for O’Brien to set up Ringrose for his second, but Leicester’s England winger Watson acrobatically dived in at the corner before half-time to send Tigers into the interval just seven points behind.
Leicester’s hopes of reducing that deficit further improved when, shortly after the restart, home flanker Caelan Doris was yellow-carded for a high tackle.
However, Leinster responded by scoring 24 unanswered points in a much-improved second-half display.
A powerful scrum earned a kickable penalty for Ross Byrne and much-needed momentum for Leinster, as Ringrose turned provider for Gibson-Park to cross unopposed and referee Nika Amashukeli awarded a penalty try for Tigers illegally pulling down a maul near their own try line.
Attacking line-outs were the starting points for the final three of Leinster’s seven tries, as the home side preserved their unbeaten record in all competitions this season.
Two disappointing footnotes for Leinster, however, were injuries to forward Ryan Baird and winger James Lowe which forced them off the field either side of half-time.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen told BBC Radio 5 Live:
“We’re delighted to be over this pretty significant obstacle because we have so much respect for what Leicester do, and we’re delighted to be into the next round.
“It [playing at home] is the pressure we want; we want to be here, we want to be running out in front of friends and family. If you don’t enjoy playing in the pressure environments, you’re in the wrong business.
“It’s an amazing competition and it’s a real privilege to be in the quarter-finals, to get through this stage and be fighting it out in the semi-final now.”
Leicester head coach Richard Wigglesworth told BBC Radio 5 Live:
“We were in the contest at 50 minutes, made some mistakes and then discipline cost us and they’re going to hurt you.
“Leinster are an exceptional team, we knew that coming in, but I’m incredibly proud of the effort and the spirit that went into it.
“If you look at the gulf in budgets and gulf in personnel, then there will be a gulf. Did we, for 50 minutes, have 15 versus 15 that was pretty competitive? Yes.
“As always, it’s the size of the squad. We’re down to the bare bones and they’re definitely not, but that’s not taking away from how well they’re coached and how well they play. That’s not taking anything away from Leinster, that’s just the reality of the situation.”
Leinster: Keenan; O’Brien, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; R Byrne, Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, Molony, Ryan (c), Baird, Doris, Conan.
Replacements: McKee, Healy, Ala’alatoa, Jenkins, Penny, McGrath, H Byrne, Frawley.
Leicester: Brown; Watson, Potter, Kelly, Steward; Pollard, Van Poortvliet; Cronin, Montoya (c), Heyes, Martin, Henderson, Liebenberg, Reffell, Wiese.
Replacements: Clare, West, Cole, Snyman, Cracknell, Wolstenholme, Atkinson, Gopperth.
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)