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Bath come up short at home of the champions

17 Dec 2011
Bath come up short at home of the champions

Leinster delivered a performance worthy of Heineken Cup champions as Bath’s faint hopes of progressing from Pool Three were finally ended at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

The West Country side had run the Irishmen close six days previously but this time had no answer to their opponents' pace and precision as they lost 52-27. Leinster could even afford to lose skipper Leo Cullen to the sin-bin in the first half and still score 14 unanswered points.

The bonus point was secured just 30 seconds into the second half as Luke Fitzgerald sprinted half the length of the field to score his second try. Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton finished with 20 points from a try, dropped goal and six conversions and Leinster's other scorers were Rob Kearney, Eoin Reddan, Rhys Ruddock and Ian Madigan. Isa Nacewa also kicked a conversion.

Stephen Donald, Dave Attwood and Ben Williams grabbed late tries for Bath and Olly Barkley kicked three conversions and two penalties.

Bath were under extreme pressure from the off, needing Vesty's tackle to halt Fergus McFadden in a sweeping move down the right and then seeing Sexton's second minute penalty hit the post. But within a minute, Ireland full-back Kearney had opened the scoring, diving over from close range after his forwards had driven to the line. Sexton added the conversion.

Barkley chipped over a penalty on eight minutes but Sexton replied immediately with a monster drop goal after latching on to a loose Vesty clearance. Leinster's tendency to give away penalties eased the pressure on Bath again as Barkley pulled back three more points on 15 minutes.

The home side then lost skipper Leo Cullen to the sin-bin for foul play eight minutes later but it hardly interrupted the champions' progress as they added a second try within two minutes. An ambitious pass from Donald was snaffled by Kearney and the rangy Devin Toner set off upfield with the full-back at his shoulder. Fitzgerald was in support to finish off a 60-metre move and Sexton made it 17-6 after 24 minutes.

Still with only 14 men on the field, Leinster emphasised their superiority with a sweet move from deep in their half, setting Fitzgerald free on the left. Sexton took the inside pass to score in the corner and added the conversion as Cullen trotted back on to the field.

The Ireland fly-half missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time but Bath were again left grasping at shadows as the impressive Fitzgerald sidestepped his way to the line as soon as play resumed. Sexton's conversion made it 31-6.

Vesty went to the bin on 49 minutes for attempting to kill a ruck and it was no surprise that Leinster added a fifth try through Reddan within a couple of minutes, Sexton landing the conversion to take his team out of sight at 38-6. Bath's plight worsened as hooker Chris Biller joined Vesty in the bin on 55 minutes. Again it was less than two minutes before replacement Ruddock crossed for the sixth Leinster try, converted by Sexton.

Donald regained some pride for the visitors with a 63rd minute try converted by Barkley, as both sides made changes off the bench.

Leinster's play became uncharacteristically ragged and Bath's persistence was rewarded with a second try for Dave Attwood, again converted by Barkley. That stung Leinster into action and replacement fly-half Ian Madigan brought up the 50 points with a try converted by Isa Nacewa.

Bath had the last word in front of a crowd of more than 46,000 as Williams crossed and Barkley added the points.

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