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Leinster Rugby (10) 24 - 8 (3) ASM Clermont Auvergne
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Sunday, 18 December 2010, 17:45

Early last week when Leinster were counting the wounded from their trip to France, coach Joe Schmidt was busy talking about Vern Cotters penchant for mind games. Well now, following Leinsters impressive win over their visitors, perhaps it's his previous understudy who could be accused of the mind games.

Of course we'll probably never know, but it does seem strange that the Leinster coach talked so openly of mind games and still constantly held a cloud of doubt over the fitness of both O'Driscoll and Heaslip, two players key to Leinster's set up. But, as it turned out, the aforementioned Leinster men played as if they were never injured in the first place and returned to talisman like form.

The key to Leinster's victory seemed to be from the start-up where the home side, quite simply, outclassed their opposition and piled on the pressure, forcing the visitors immediately onto the back foot. The pressure paid off after only 8 minutes when Cian Healy bundled over for his first try of the evening. Sexton made it 7.

About ten minutes later Parra kicked Clermont back to a 4 point deficit. But Leinster were unrelenting in attack, especially with the forwards who simply bullied their opposite numbers and out muscled them to boot, carrying ball repeatedly through Clermont's defensive line. Just before the stroke of half time Sexton added another 3 points and gave Leinster a deserved 10-3 lead.

The re-start saw Leinster shine once again, applying pressure by the ton on Clermont. The gaps soon began to show and Healy bundled over for his second try and secured his man of the match performance only 43 minutes into the game, again Sexton added the 2 points.

The Leinster pack continued to decimate the visitors allowing for quick, clean ball for the back line, who ran hard, looping lines up the field, constantly keeping the French side under pressure and back peddling. The pressure was such that Baby running the ball from the 22, gave a shocking long pass out that rolled behind the two locks and out into touch. A quick line out from Horgan caught out the Clermont defensive line and Sean O'Brien flew over for Leinster's third. Again Sexton added the extra points.

In all fairness to Clermont though they retained a certain amount of class and put pressure on Leinster in the last 30 minutes when the bonus point seemed on for the home side. And although their forward movement was nothing close to as impressive as Leinster's, Nalaga still spared the visitors blushes on 69 minutes.

Despite a world beating performance and tired bodies and minds Leinster still pushed hard in the last 15 minutes but were unable to secure the bonus point, which was quite flattering for Clermont who were clearly found wanting.

Match Statistics

Leinster Rugby
24 - 8
ASM Clermont Auvergne
Tries Healy (2),
Conversions Sexton (3)    
Penalties Sexton
Teams Isa Nacewa
15 Anthony Floch
Shane Horgan
14 Napolioni Nalaga
Brian O'Driscoll
13 Aurelien Rougerie
Gordon D'Arcy 12 Gavin Williams
Fergus McFadden 11 Julien Malzieu
Jonathan Sexton 10 Brock James
Isaac Boss
9 Morgan Parra

Cian Healy 1 Thomas Domingo
Richardt Strauss
2 Ti'i Paolo
Mike Ross 3 Davit Zirakashvili
Leo Cullen (C) 4 Julien Pierre
Nathan Hines 5 Thibaut Privat
Sean O'Brien 6 Julien Bonnaire
Shane Jennings
7 Alexandre Lapandry / Alexandre Audebert
Jamie Heaslip / Dominic Ryan
8 Sione Lauaki

Replacements Jason Harris-Wright 16 Mario Ledesma
Heinke van der Merwe 17 Lionel Faure
Clint Newland
18 Clement Ric
Devin Toner 19 Julien Pierre
Dominic Ryan / Rhys Ruddock
20 Elvis Vermeulen
Isaac Boss
21 Benoit Baby
Shaun Berne 22 Kevin Senio
Dave Kearney 23 Taseva Lavea
Not Considered
due to Injury
Stan Wright,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Rob Kearney,
Andrew Conway,
Paul Ryan,
Eoin O'Malley

Officials Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Tim Hayes, Hugh Watkins (both WRU),
4th Official: Brian MacNeice (IRFU),
5th Official: Barry O'Keeffe (IRFU)
TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)

by Patrick Fennelly, © 2011-08-23