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Leinster have got their Champions Cup campaign off to a winning start with a bonus-point 33-15 victory over Castres at the RDS.
Five tries from Sean Cronin (2), Jack McGrath, Isa Nacewa and a penalty try, combined with some assured kicking off the tee from Nacewa gave Leinster five points in Pool 4
Castres’ scores came from a try from replacement back row Antony Jelonch and a penalty try, allied to Ben Urdipaletta kicked points. But in truth they were second best for almost the entirety of the 80 minutes.
Leinster opened the scoring with a try coming off the back of a lineout, Cronin the man to touch down for the home side following a powerful driving maul.
The Irish province - after an utterly dominant first quarter - pushed further ahead just before the half-hour mark, with Cronin again the scorer. The hooker broke off a ruck inside the Castres 22 and using a combination of both speed and power evaded and crashed through the defence to go over for a second five-pointer; Nacewa converted to give Leinster a handy cushion heading towards the interval.
Castres managed to get their challenge off the mark a few minutes later with Urdipaletta stroking over a penalty following a high tackle from Rob Kearney.
However, all the momentum and possession was still with Leinster and that was rewarded with try number three before the break. Another Leinster maul proved the platform off which Jack McGrath would crash over the line. Nacewa, from wide right, made no mistake with the extras.
Just as it looked like Leo Cullen’s team were coasting to a facile bonus-point win, Castres hit back just before the half-time oranges. From a driving maul inside the Leinster 22, Luke McGrath entered the maul from the side holding the ball up; the No 9 was sent to the sin bin for the cynical entry and the Top 14 side were rewarded with a penalty try. Urdipaletta stroked home the conversion to make a ten-point game at half-time.
But with a Leinster man in the bin, Castres failed to turn the screw after the break, as Nacewa made a scorching break inside the opposition half, evading three tacklers, to dot down for Leinster’s bonus-point try; the winger then converting his own score.
Leinster made it five on the try front with a penalty try as Castres infringed repeatedly at the scrum, Nacewa again adding the extras. Castres cancelled out that score with an effort from Jelonch, who powered over from a maul in a game dominated by the forwards. This time, however, Urdipaletta missing the conversion from the tee.
By this stage the game was over as a contest with Leinster emptying the bench in the final quarter. Castres enjoyed plenty of territory in the final five minutes as they sought two tries to secure a losing bonus-point, but they never came as the Irish province’s rearguard held firm.
Next up for Leinster is an away trip to Altrad Stadium to face Montpellier next Sunday.
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