Larmour's intercept try crucial as Leinster squeeze out away win in Bath

Bath 10

Leinster 17

Murray Kinsella reports from the Rec

IT WASN’T PRETTY on a slippery night in Bath but champion sides find a way and Leinster did as much to get their Heineken Champions Cup defence back onto a winning track.

Leo Cullen’s men were not at their best against a spirited Bath team, although they just about edged the contest in front of a crowd of 14,425.

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Leinster celebrate Jordan Larmour’s second-half try.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

An intercept try from right wing Jordan Larmour in the second half proved crucial for Leinster, after hooker Sean Cronin had crossed at the back of an excellent maul in the first half.

With Bath chasing the game late on, a penalty from replacement out-half Ross Byrne had a soothing effect as Leinster closed out victory to make it two wins from three in Pool 1 so far. 

Cullen will hope for much better from his team in several aspects of their game next weekend in the return leg in Dublin, although there will likely be some pride in the grit and resourcefulness Leinster showed at the Rec. 

The forwards fronted up well at crucial points, with man of the match James Ryan leading by example and Cian Healy powerful throughout.

Leinster were dominated at the breakdown too often, however, with Francois Louw and the granite-like Sam Underhill having a major effect in that area, while Bath’s smothering linespeed stifled much of Leinster’s attacking intent.

The wet ball and a soggy-looking pitch certainly didn’t help to make this a European classic but Bath were good value after plenty of pre-match predictions that they wouldn’t test Leinster. 

A first-half converted try from tighthead Henry Thomas had left Bath well-positioned at 7-7 at the break. Yet they couldn’t find an extra gear thereafter as Leinster instead twisted the screw and eked out a crucial win on the road.

Rob Kearney with Jackson Willison and Ruaridh McConnochie
Rob Kearney carries for Leinster.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

With rainfall just before kick-off, the opening quarter was scrappy and error-strewn, while also being shudderingly physical as the likes of Underhill and Leavy led the way in the tackling stakes.

Sexton missed an 11th-minute shot at goal following a penalty for James Wilson’s high tackle on Noel Reid, before Bath’s pressuring defence pinned Leinster into their own half.

Tom Dunn threw the ball crooked into a five-metre lineout to seemingly miss a key chance for Bath in the 21st minute, but Leavy had trouble off the base of the scrum for the second time in the game.

The Ireland international, far more recognised as an openside but selected in the number eight shirt ahead of Jack Conan here, had fumbled off an early scrum to stunt an attacking opportunity, while he was turned over too easily on this defensive scrum.

Bath counter-punched rapidly, driving at the Leinster tryline before a Dave Attwood carry laid the platform for tighthead prop Henry Thomas to batter over from close-range, with Wilson converting.

Leinster sparked into attacking life in response, Sexton breaking off a loop thanks to a well-time James Lowe pass before Garry Ringrose made metres on an arcing carry, but Louw soon pounced for a turnover penalty inside the Bath 22.

Charlie Ewels celebrates his side scoring a try
Bath celebrate their first-half try.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A superb hit from Devin Toner and Leavy soon forced a spill from Underhill, with Reid cleverly kicking in behind Bath, allowing right wing Jordan Larmour to hound after Joe Cokanasiga and tackle him to force a turnover penalty.

Leinster went into the right corner, constructed a cohesive and powerful maul and marched over for hooker Sean Cronin to dot down, Sexton converting for 7-7.

A big midfield break from Bath’s Thomas, of all people, was halted only by Tadhg Furlong recovering from his missed tackle to track back and prevent Bath scrum-half Will Chudley from gathering Thomas’ offload for a possible try. 

Leinster did end the half battering away in the Bath 22 through at least 15 phases, but Louw’s breakdown dominance continued with yet another turnover penalty to leave the sides level at the break.

The visitors had another visit to the home side’s 22 early in the second half after a Cian Healy turnover penalty but Rhys Ruddock was pinged for clearing too deep beyond the ruck as they worked through their direct phase play.

Healy had another important turnover penalty three minutes later, this time in Leinster’s defensive territory following Underhill’s aerial win over Lowe under a Chudley box kick.

Sean Cronin scores a try from the back of a maul
The Leinster maul powered up for Sean Cronin’s try.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Then Leinster finally hit the front for the first time in the 50th minute in somewhat odd circumstances. 

Cronin’s throw into a Leinster lineout just inside their own half had caught in the wind and gone comedically crooked, only for Chudley to pounce on the loose ball as Bath played on.

Out-half Wilson – seemingly thinking his side still had advantage but in the second after referee Mathieu Raynal had called it over – attempted a wildly ambitious double skip pass that hung in the air and allowed Larmour to burst up off his right wing and intercept.

With a headstart from the halfway line, Larmour wasn’t going to be caught by Cokanasiga and he dotted down under the sticks for Sexton to add the extras.

Leinster went about managing their 14-7 lead rather than looking to force the issue, with a big scrum penalty from Healy, Cronin and Furlong part of the muscular effort.

Raynal required a TMO review for a tackle by the kick-chasing Cokanasiga on Luke McGrath as he fell to the ground, deciding that a penalty was punishment enough for the high shot. 

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Jordan Larmour streaks clear to dot down.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A 65th-minute lineout in the Bath 22 – after opting against a shot at goal – should have led to more Leinster pressure but replacement lock Elliott Stooke picked off James Tracy’s throw soon after he had replaced Cronin.

Bath continued to flood at Leinster but they twice knocked-in in good territory, the second of them leading to sub scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and Lowe chasing hard on the wing’s clearing kick.

Lowe hammered Cokanasiga in the tackle and Gibson-Park poached for the turnover penalty, allowing Ross Byrne – just on the pitch as a replacement for Reid – to slot a 72nd-minute penalty and give Leinster some breathing room.

Bath did nick a losing bonus point with the last action of the game, Wilson popping over a penalty to give the home side a justified match point. 

Bath scorers:

Tries: Henry Thomas

Conversions: James Wilson [1 from 1]

PenaltiesJames Wilson [1 from 2]

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Sean Cronin, Jordan Larmour

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [2 from 2]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [0 from 1], Ross Byrne [1 from 1]

BATH: Ruaridh McConnochie; Semesa Rokoduguni, Jackson Willison, Jamie Roberts (Cooper Vuna ’65), Joe Cokanasiga (Alex Davies ’80); James Wilson, Will Chudley (Kahn Fotuali’i ’72); Nathan Catt (Jacques van Rooyen ’58), Tom Dunn (Jack Walker ’65), Henry Thomas (Max Lahiff ’69); Dave Attwood (Elliott Stooke ’58), Charlie Ewels (captain) (Matt Garvey ’69); Tom Ellis, Sam Underhill, Francois Louw.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Noel Reid (Ross Byrne ’70), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain) (Rory O’Loughlin ’75), Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson-Park ’66); Cian Healy (Ed Byrne ’64), Seán Cronin (James Tracy ’64), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’64); Devin Toner (Ross Molony ’78), James Ryan; Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Dan Leavy (Jack Conan ’54). 

Referee: Mathieu Raynal [FFR].

Attendance: 14,425.

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