Leinster held off a second-half Wasps fightback to secure their passage through to the European Rugby Champions Cup semi-finals with an impressive victory in the Aviva Stadium.
The Irish province – three times champions of Europe – produced a stunning first half against their Aviva Premiership Rugby opponents as Isa Nacewa, Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw all crossed.
But the quarter-final was back in the balance in the second half when Christian Wade and Jimmy Gopperth both produced remarkable solo scores for the visitors.
But Fergus McFadden’s late score ended the match as a contest to secure a 32-17 victory and the province’s first trip to the final four since the 2014/15 season.
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This was the eighth meeting between these two sides in Europe with Wasps holding the head to head advantage, including two thumping Pool stage wins last season.
But it was the Irish province that came storming out of the blocks on Saturday and when Joe Launchbury infringed at a maul Sexton kicked the hosts in front.
The Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders were struggling to settle, offloads were going to ground as they tied themselves in knots and gave away possession cheaply.
And Leinster made them pay with the first try of the game soon after, man of the match Joey Carbery firing a fine cut out pass to put Nacewa in at the corner for his seventh try of the season in this competition.
Sexton missed with the extras but the game was getting stretched already, the impressive Sean O’Brien next to canter clear while Sexton led another break out soon after in a breathless passage of play.
Danny Cipriani was out of sorts – his errant kick out on the full epitomising the visitors’ first-half struggles but they should have had a lifeline soon after.
Kurtley Beale fielded a kick in his own 22, produced a searing break from nothing and released Willie Le Roux to canter clear but the South African had a moment of madness – dropping the ball at the last moment as he went airborne to touch down and the TMO spotted it to rule out the score.
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Jimmy Gopperth did get them on the scoreboard soon after with a penalty but Leinster were completely dominant and got a deserved second try in the 34th minute.
Again it was Carbery turning the screw, the full-back combining well with Fergus McFadden down the right to create the line break and Conan was on hand to dot down under the posts.
Sexton could not miss with the extras for a 15-3 lead and it looked like that was how it would stay until the break before another Wasps error gifted them a third.
Devin Toner did well to disrupt a maul in the Wasps 22 and when the ball went loose O’Brien pounced to release Sexton who in turn put Henshaw under the posts.
Sexton’s conversion made it 22-3 at the interval and Wasps were in all sorts of trouble.
They needed the first score of the second period but it was Leinster who got it, Sexton with his second penalty of the afternoon to make it a 22-point lead.
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Wasps were handed a lifeline soon after and it was Wade who provided it, turnover ball was spread right and the winger outsprinted the defence to re-gather his own grubber and dot down.
Gopperth nailed the extras as well to make it 25-10 but the game was still very much Leinster’s to lose.
Alarm bells began to ring a little louder for the hosts moments later however, Gopperth producing a fantastic solo score when he cut back against the grain and beat the cover defence to dive over in spectacular fashion.
That was Gopperth’s – now at fly-half with Cipriani off the pitch – tenth try of the season and with the conversion for good measure it was 25-17 and still a quarter of the game to come.
But Leinster ragethered their composure and found a fourth try to kill the game off late on when McFadden barrelled over from short range, Sexton’s conversion making it 32-17.
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