European Rugby Champions Cup: Leinster 32-17 Wasps

Leinster's Robbie Henshaw fends off Danny Cipriani during the European Champions Cup quarter-final in Dublin
Leinster's Robbie Henshaw fends off Danny Cipriani during the European Champions Cup quarter-final in Dublin
European Champions Cup
Leinster 32 (22)
Tries: Nacewa, Conan, Henshaw, McFadden Cons: Sexton 3 Pens: Sexton 2
Wasps 17 (3)
Tries: Wade, Gopperth Cons: Gopperth 2 Pens: Gopperth

Leinster put four tries past Premiership leaders Wasps to reach the European Champions Cup semi-final.

A sparkling first half by the three-time champions had them in control at 22-3 ahead with Isa Nacewa, Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw scoring tries.

Shellshocked Wasps rallied with Christian Wade and Jimmy Gopperth closing the gap to 25-17 with 20 minutes remaining at the Aviva Stadium.

But Fergus McFadden halted their charge with a late try to settle it.

The game was billed as a show-case for players aiming for a place in the British and Irish Lions squad, which is announced on 19 April.

Leinster dominated the first half, but the scoreboard didn't reflect their superiority until Conan and Henshaw's tries in the closing moments of the opening period.

Two-time champions Wasps, nervous and slow to settle, conceded an early penalty which Sexton converted after six minutes to get Leinster up and running.

Leinster full-back Joey Carbery set up two first-half tries and his first significant contribution was a superb flat pass out wide to Nacewa, who touched down in the corner.

Wasps inflicted a record 33-6 defeat on Leinster at the RDS last season, and also won 51-10 at home, but this was a horror show by the under-performing Premiership leaders.

They blew their one big chance to establish a foothold in the game when Willie Le Roux's showboating cost them a try after 24 minutes.

Kurtley Beale's footwork created the opening for the South African but he lost control of the ball as he dived over the line and his effort was disallowed.

Willie le Roux is left red-faced after his fumble costs Wasps a certain try against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium
Willie le Roux was left red-faced after his fumble cost Wasps a certain try against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium

Jimmy Gopperth's penalty finally got Wasps on the scoreboard after 32 minutes and Dai Young's side, who had no continuity and struggled to take the ball through the phases, were fortunate to only trail by five points.

Leinster were excellent with the ball in hand and enjoyed over 70% possession in the opening half, which eventually led to two tries within six minutes of half-time.

Again, Carbery was the architect. He exchanged passes with Fergus McFadden and then put Conan away, the number eight's arcing run taking him over the line. Sexton added the extras to make it 15-3.

Wasps needed half-time but Leinster stole the ball from a driving maul by the visitors and and three passes later it was try number three for the home side.

Dan Leavy popped it up to Sean O'Brien who off-loaded to Sexton, and Henshaw was on his shoulder to crash over for a well-worked try leaving it 22-3 at the interval.

Sexton's early second-half penalty stretched Leinster's lead but from 22 points down, Wasps somehow found another gear to almost get back on terms.

Leinster switched off with full-back Carbery coming into the line leaving acres of space in the back field and Christian Wade exploited it as he won the race to touch down his own grubber kick to earn Wasps an opening try after 53 minutes.

Gopperth spent two seasons at Leinster before joining Wasps in 2015 and he was instrumental in their much-improved second half performance.

The Kiwi's direct run punched holes in the Leinster midfield and an excellent one-handed finish suddenly had Wasps right back in the game, with his conversion making it 25-17 with 20 minutes still remaining.

But Leinster resumed control of territory and possession and McFadden's converted short range try with six minutes to go ensured it is Leinster who will face either Clermont or Toulouse in the semi-finals.

'We looked like rabbits in the headlights'

Wasps' Director of Rugby Dai Young: "In these games you can't give yourself a mountain to climb like we did in the first half.

"We knew we had to be at our best and we didn't need to help them along the way.

"Le Roux is really disappointed [with his botched try attempt]. You expect a player of that quality to score but we also gave away two tries.

"We looked like rabbits in the headlights in that first half and the biggest disappointment is we didn't do ourselves justice."

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton: "Wasps are the best team around at capitalising on mistakes and we're disappointed with some of the mistakes we made.

"We wanted to show we had a physical backline but conditions were awful out there. The ball was like a bar of soap and there was a swirling wind."

Leinster: Carbery; Byrne, Ringrose, Henshaw, Nacewa; Sexton, McGrath; McGrath, Strauss, Furlong, Toner, Triggs, Leavy, O'Brien, Conan

Replacements: Tracy, Healy, Bent, Molony, van der Flier, Gibson-Park, McFadden, Kirchner

Wasps: Beale; Wade, Daly, Gopperth, Le Roux; Cipriani, Robson; Mullan, Taylor, Cooper-Woolley, Launchbury (capt), Myall, Haskell, Young, Hughes

Replacements: Johnson, McIntyre, Moore, Symons, Rieder, Simpson, Leiua, Bassett

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