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Racing Metro 92 11 (11) - (21) 35 Leinster Rugby
Stade Olympique, Yves-du-Manoir, Paris
Friday, 21 January 2011

Att: 8,326

A small but merry band of Leinster supporters congregated in the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir in Colombes to watch Leinster take on Racing Metro on a cold Friday night. As a supporter it was a strange experience being on a temporary stand in a stadium that once held 60,000 people and hosted the National Team.

The match itself had a surreal feeling also. It is highly unusual for Leinster supporters to be at a match in France with such little stress or tension. With qualification for the quarter finals already guaranteed Leinster went into the match with a home berth their target.

Leinster were without Jamie Heaslip who failed to recover from the ankle knock that has plagued the last few weeks. In Sean O'Brien however, they had a more than capable replacement. The 'Tullow Tank' put in the kind of performance that has seen his teammates give him the moniker "Rocky" in reference to his multiple man of the match awards.

Metro may have had little to play for, but they were game opponents in the opening stages as the game flowed from end to end. Juan Martin Hernandez put Metro ahead early on with a well struck penalty. It was Leinster though that scored the game's first try through the irrepressible Isa Nacewa. The Fijian showed good composure to finish beneath the posts and set up a straightforward conversion for Sexton.

Metro struck back almost immediately through their own Fijian, young centre Virimi Vakatawa. Leinster tackles were batted away as he powered over to put Metro back in the lead. Hernandez couldn't convert the try and Metro's lead remained one point.

The narrow lead didn't last long as Leinster seized the initiative in a big way with two quick tries. The first was that man O'Brien who went over after good work by Boss. The try was converted by Sexton who himself scored a try just a few moments later.

Leinster had three tries and were looking good for another bonus point win. Crucially though Metro were still in touch and a Hernandez penalty just before half time saw Leinster's lead cut to ten points. The job wasn't done yet!

The second half was never going to be as breathless as the first and it took a quarter hour before the scoreboard was bothered again with Sexton kicking a penalty to stretch Leinster's lead.

Leinster secured the bonus point less than ten minutes later when Nacewa and Sexton combined to push Leinster's lead out to three scores. All that was left was for birthday boy Brian O'Driscoll to cross over to a chorus of "Happy Birthday" and the win and home quarter final was secured.

The final ten minutes saw several odd changes in the Leinster pack. Cian Healy hooked in the scrum, Sean O'Brien threw into a lineout and all four props took to the field. Thankfully the game was won at that point and the change in personnel wasn't crucial.

It will please the Leinster management that Metro were held scoreless in the second half, particularly in light of a few missed tackles in the first half and with the many changes in personnel made throughout the second half.

To have run 5 tries in against a French team at home is no mean feat either, but the fact remains that despite the impressiveness of the victory, a tougher test awaits against Leicester Tigers in April.

Match Statistics

Racing Metro 92
Leinster Rugby
Tries Vakatawa

Sexton (2),

Sexton (4)
Penalties Hernandez (2)


Teams Dan Scarbrough
15 Isa Nacewa
Benjamin Fall
14 Shane Horgan
Varimi Vakatawa
13 Brian O'Driscoll
Andrea Masi
12 Gordon D'Arcy
Julien Saudabe
11 Luke Fitzgerald
Juan Martin Hernandez
10 Jonathan Sexton
Nicolas Durand (C)
9 Isaac Boss

Julien Brugnaut
1 Cian Healy
Gregory Arganese
2 Richardt Strauss
Scott Zimmerman
3 Mike Ross
Santiago Dellape
4 Leo Cullen (C)
Francois van der Merwe
5 Nathan Hines
Remi Vaquin
6 Rhys Ruddock
Bernard Le Roux
7 Shane Jennings
Alvaro Galindo
8 Sean O'Brien

Replacements Benjamin Noirot (for Arganese, 50)
16 Jason Harris-Wright (for Strauss, 45)
Andrea Lo Cicero (for Brugnaut, 55) 17 Heinke van der Merwe (for Healy, 41)
Benjamin Sa (for Zimmerman, 55)
18 Clint Newland (for Ross, 71)
Lionel Nallet (for Dellape, 57)
19 Devin Toner (for Hines, 75)
Mathieu Loree (for Hernandez, 55)
20 Dominic Ryan (for Jennings, 75)
Francois Steyn (for Durand, 70)
21 Eoin Reddan (for Boss, 63)
Jacques Cronje (for Jaquin, 60)
22 Ian Madigan
Antoine Battut (for Le Roux, 41)
23 Fergus McFadden (for Horgan, 41)
Not Considered
due to Injury

Stan Wright,
Rob Kearney,
Paul Ryan,
Jamie Heaslip
Match Officials Referee: Greg Garner (RFU),
Assistant Referees: Chris White, Stuart Terheege (both RFU),
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2011-01-24