Leinster v Saracens

Leo Cullen's side face down the defending champions at the Aviva Stadium

Patrick Madden Sun, Apr 1
LIVE: Leinster v Saracens

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  • Good afternoon!

    Welcome to our coverage of Leinster's Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens at the Aviva Stadium (3.30ko).

    It has already been a vintage season for Irish rugby - and now Grand Slam heroes turn their attentions to club matters on the continent.

    Leinster were the standout team of the pool stages - with six wins from six - but their reward for finishing as top seeds is this afternoon's daunting encounter.

    Saracens might not be enjoying the best campaign by their standards, but Mark McCall's side is stacked with internationals, many of whom will have a serious point to prove in Dublin.

    It's the three-time winners against the back-to-back champions, it's Johnny Sexton versus Owen Farrell, it's Dan Leavy versus Maro Itoje - it's Ireland against England once again.

    And it's perfectly poised - here's to a good one.

    Come on!!!

  • LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Isa Nacewa (capt), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Seán Cronin, Tadhg Furlong; Devin Toner, James Ryan; Scott Fardy, Dan Leavy, Jordi Murphy. Replacements: James Tracy, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Rhys Ruddock, Max Deegan, Nick McCarthy, Joey Carbery, Rory O’Loughlin.

    SARACENS: Alex Goode; Liam Williams, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt (capt), Sean Maitland; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Juan Figallo; Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Nick Isiekwe, Schalk Burger, Jackson. Replacements: Schalk Brits, Richard Barrington, Titi Lamositele, Dom Day, Blair Cowan, Ben Spencer, Alex Lozowski, Chris Wyles.

    Referee: Jérome Garcés.

  • Gavin Cummiskey has previewed today's heavyweight clash - you can read that HERE.
  • FT: Clermont 17 Racing 92 28

    Munster will play Racing 92 away in the semi-finals.

  • It might only be the last-eight, but today's game is probably a meeting of Europe's two best sides.

    Leo Cullen has been able to welcome back his Ireland core - injuries permitting. Nick McCarthy has passed a fitness test meaning Jamison Gibson-Park misses out on the 23, allowing James Lowe and Scott Fardy to start as Leinster's two overseas players. Fardy starts at six alongside Dan Leavy and Jordi Murphy in the backrow. Sexton, of course, is steering the ship at 10.

    For the visitors, Farrell has been able to prove his fitness late on and he starts opposite Sexton at outhalf. Brad Barritt captains the visitors inside him, while George Kruis starts in the engine room with Itoje. Itoje responded to claims he looked jaded durnig the Six Nations with a barnstorming performance against Harlequins last weekend.

  • 15 mins until kick off!
  • According to McCall Farrell trained fully on Friday - and is set to resume kicking duties.
  • The teams are in the tunnel in Dublin.
  • The Aviva is a sell-out today. A huge roar meets the teams, plus the obligatory crackle of fireworks.

    Here we go!

  • Saracens to kick-off, we're underway!
  • 1 min: Short kick but Ryan does well to secure the ball under pressure from Liam Williams. Poor clearance from Lowe - straight into touch.
  • 2 min: Saracens get quick lineout ball but keep it in the tight. Big carry from Itoje who gets well chopped by Leavy. The supporting Burger then gets pinged for steaming in at the fringes. Sexton finds touch on halfway.
  • 3 min: Flat ball to Leavy who carries well in midfield. Flat to Nacewa again and he almost breaks on halfway. Leinster building but Murphy gets isolated and Saracens turn it over.
  • TRY LEINSTER!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Great score. Lowe uses his strength to burst a tackle on the left inside his own 22 and offloads inside to Nacewa. The old warhorse shows great pace to burn down the wing and he has a simple ball inside to Ringrose who cruises over to score.

    Sexton converts.

    5 min: Leinster 7 Saracens 0

  • 6 min: Leinster tails are up. They have space on the right and opt to move it, McFadden standing up Maitland before grubbering a good kick deep inside Saracens territory.  
  • 7 min: Saracens looking to steady the ship with some possession in midfield. Some huge collisions - Ryan and Leavy double-teaming Burger. Saracens are up to 11 phases, Maitland dancing his way inside the home 22.
  • 8 min: 13 phases and out for Saracens - good chop tackle from Nacewa and Healy locking on to turn it over. Strange crossfield kick from McGrath deep inside the 22 goes out on the full.
  • 10 min: Saracens probing again, Maitland seeing plenty of ball on the left. The visitors are up to 10 phases again, this time up to the five metre.
  • 11 min: Saracens up to 16 phases and with a penalty advantage. Goode tries to wriggle his way down the left but is ushered into touch.

    Farrell will go for goal with the simple penalty - makes no mistake.


  • 13 min: Kearney misreads a kick and Maitland wins it at the second time of asking. Good cover and kick from Lowe deep inside the Leinster 22 - Saracens take it quickly. This is intense.
  • 14 min: Important tackle from Lowe, hanging onto Goode after he had slipped a Nacewa effort. Saracens back up to double-figures of phases again, they've dominated territory and possession since the Leinster try.
  • 15 min: Ringrose tries to pounce on a loose ball but Kruis gets there first and the Leinster centre is pinged.

    Another simple enough effort for Farrell - inside the 22 - and he knocks it over.


  • 17 min: Mako Vunipola carries into Tadhg Furlong - and Aviva Stadium shakes to its bones. Leinster on the ball in midfield, they need to control it for a bit and settle things again. The ball goes loose and replays show Itoje left one on Sexton - who has got a dead leg.
  • 18 min: Leinster scrum, on their 10 and the pack hold firm. Sexton running freely as they move it right, McFadden dancing back inside. Nacewa tries to stab a kick through and it's blocked, Fardy picking up the pieces and Cronin settling it down with a trademark rumble.
  • 20 min: Penalty advantage for Leinster - Sexton tries to find Lowe with a kick and gets hit late again. This time by Barritt, who had a metal plate inserted into his cheek last Tuesday and is now tackling everything that moves.

    Sexton splits the posts from the tee.


  • 22 min: Ringrose can't quite find touch with a deep grubber, but he is first there to make the tackle as Wray covers on the 22. Wigglesworth clears Saracens lines with a boxkick which Maitland wins above McGrath. Farrell then finds touch on the right on the Leinster 22. Great exit.
  • 24 min: Bosch gets snotted on the Leinste 10 after Wray overruns it. Itoje and Toner then collide - some monster hits going in here. Saracens up to 10 phases again, the visitors keeping the ball alive well.
  • 25 min: Saracens awarded a penalty inside the Leinster 10.

    Farrell to go for goal from the left - slots it.


  • 28 min: Kearney nearly breaks clear on halfway - brilliant tackle from Burger to scrag him. Sexton then gets hit late again - this time a shoulder charge from Wigglesworth who didn't use any arms. He gets away with just a penalty, which Sexton sends to touch.
  • 29 min: Great lineout maul from Leinster and they get real momentum into the Saracens 22. They're awarded a penalty, which Sexton kicks into the corner.
  • 30 min: Cronin hits Toner and they maul again - huge work from Itoje who gets an arm on it reaching over the top.
  • 31 min: Leinster put huge pressure on the Saracens scrum - they turn it over on the five-metre! Huge chance.
  • 32 min: Saracens pinged for offside. Ringrose tries to straighten up under the posts. Penalty for Leinster under the visitor's posts - huge work from Healy at scrum time.

    Sexton knocks over a simple penalty.


  • 34 min: Strange moment as Sexton is penalised for kicking the ball away, gifting Saracens a penalty from the restart.

    Bosch is going to go for goal from halfway - knocks is over with plenty to spare. Stupid mistake from Sexton handing three points straight back.


  • 37 min: Leinster building the phases on halfway but it's all a bit tight and Healy spills a flat ball forward, with Jamie George steaming in.
  • 37 min: Just one handling mistake apiece after nearlly a full half - pretty staggering considering the hits which have been going in.
  • 38 min: It opens up for Saracens on the left, Farrell movnig it quickly anf Goode trying to carve his way round on the outside rather than using Maitland. Good defence from Ringrose but an accidental hand on the floor sees Saracens win a penelty, which is nudged into touch.
  • 39 min: Advantage Saracens, Farrell goes crossfield. Back for another penalty which is sent for a five-metre lineout.
  • 40 min: Leinster steal the lineout!
  • Time for a quick lie down.
  • The teams are back out for the second half. There's a point in it. Hold onto your hats.
  • Sexton gets us back underway!
  • 41 min: Sexton's restart picks out Wray and Lowe is there to make the tackle. Saracens kick down the throat of Kearney and Leinster have the ball on halfway.
  • 42 min: Great break from Kearney! He gets by on the outside shoulder and finds Leavy on his inside, Leavy's ball inside goes loose off the covering George.

    Leinster had a penalty though - high tackle from Isiekwe. Sexton will go for goal, from just inside the Saracens half. Nails it.


  • 45 min: Farrell sends up an awkward kick to McGrath who spills backwards under pressure from Liam Williams but then secures it. Good carry from Ryan and then Leinster use the space out right. It's moved to Ringrose who grubbers from the Leinster 10 into touch inside the five-metre. Brilliant kick.
  • 46 min: Good lineout and exit from Saracens. McFadden runs it back form the 10.
  • TRY LEINSTER!!!!!!!!!!
  • Leinster are on the ball on the Saracens 22. Cute work, Leavy playing scrumhalf and popping to first receiver Ryan, before taking the ball back and scampering through the gate and over the line.

    Sexton converts.


  • 49 min: Brilliant tackle on Farrell by Toner but Leinster can't win it back on the deck. Saracens look to move it right but Wray gets collared and Leinster are awarded a scrum. Solid ball for the hosts and Nacewa dances through a gap with a big step but then loses the ball - Farrell getting a key hand on it.
  • 52 min: Solid Saracens scrum and they try to work a loop with Farrell and Barritt but Leinster read it well. The visitors move it through the hands to Liam Williams who looks to straighten up. Huge tackle from Furlong on Vunipola and Saracens spill it forward.
  • 53 min: First changes - Jack McGrath on for Cian Healy. Danger for Leinster again as Leavy breaks the line! This time there's cover so he arcs his runs and finds Ringrose with an offload. Leinster in the ascendancy on the Saracens five.
  • 55 min: Lovely loop between Cronin and Sexton and the latter nearly bursts through. Leinster up to 17 phases inside the Saracens 22.
  • 56 min: Lenister can't make it count - Sexton gets smashed and the ball squirts forward. Chance to put huge pressure on this Saracens scrum.
  • 57 min: Saracens defend the scrum well and after a couple of short phases Wigglesworth clears - but can only pick out McFadden. Monster carry from Ryan on the left.
  • TRY LEINSTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • All from that Ryan carry. It's moved to Ringrose on the left and back inside to Sexton who delays and finds McGrath. He gets Leinster up towards the five on the left. The blue shirts descend and Nacewa shunts Itoje out of the way allowing Lowe to force his way over.

    McFadden converts with Sexton getting treatment.


  • 61 min: Saracens look to strike straight back and Itoje carries up the middle and into the 22 - but he's brilliantly held up and Leinster get the decision. Some brief handbags ensue.
  • 62 min: Lozowski on for Saracens now to add a bit of variety to their attack. It nearly works as well - they have numbers left and move it to Williams. Williams dances back inside but slips and takes heavy knock from the covering Kearney. Looks like a head injury - he's off for a HIA.
  • 63 min: Saracens are awarded a penalty for that Kearney challenge which is stuck into touch. They then set the lineout maul from five.
  • Grinding lineout maul from Saracens, with countless white shirts piling in, and Cowan is judged to have got the ball down.

    Farrell converts with aplomb and Saracens have a sniff again.


  • 66 min: Deep restart to Wray and the Saracens number eight covers and then splits the Leinster defence with a surging run from deep, getting up to halfway. A huge tackle from Toner on Farrell kills their momentum.
  • 69 min: Raft of changes for Leinster now - Porter, Ruddock and Nick McCarthy all on, with Carbery also replacing Sexton. Leinster retaining the ball on halfway.
  • 70 min: Surely a knock-on from Goode under pressure from Ringrose but Garces doesn't give it and Saracens can break from deep. The visitors on the ball on the home 10.
  • 71 min: Monster clearout from Leavy with Saracens on possession on the Leinster 10 - but then a poor kick gives the visitors a lineout in a promising position.
  • 72 min: Saracens in the ascendancy inside the 22 after nice hands from Mako Vunipola and then a big carry - but then they get done for crossing. Concern over McFadden who's prone on the floor.
  • 73 min: McFadden remains on the pitch. Leinster on the ball on the Saracens 10, rumbling their way out of trouble. Carbery then finds a lovely kick into touch on the left on the bounce.
  • 74 min: Quick lineout ball for Saracens and they move it left, Vunipola carrying over halfway.  

    YELLOW CARD DEVIN TONER! He gets pinged for a deliberate foot on the floor. Farrell finds the five-metre, Leinster without their main jumper.

  • 75 min: Kruis knocks on and Leinster can clear. The ball is sent down the throat of Goode. Saracens run it back and Vunipola breaks but his offload is poor and Cowan can't hold on.
  • 77 min: Lowe makes the gamble on the left of the Leinster defence and Saracens knock forward again. Farrell couldn't flick the ball on. This time, Leinster will calm it down and take the scrum. Nearly there.
  • 78 min: Solid Leinster scrum and it's moved out to Nacewa who carries hard.  
  • 79 min: Saracens on the ball on halfway and Farrell is chopped by Nacewa before blue shirts descend on Maitland. And then there's another handling error from Saracens.

    Nacewa named man of the match as he leaves the pitch.

  • 80 min: Leinster scrum on halfway. They work the short side through man O'Loughlin.
  • Peter Coghlan Many thanks again Patrick. Aviva seems a million miles away from deepest Dorset but you've brought it a little closer again today. Much obliged.
  • Pat walah Thanks, great coverage.
  • Huge performance from Leinster today. They weathered a serious storm from Saracens after their early try, and then blew their visitors away early in the second.
  • Mike Moloney Thanks Patrick, Being a Munster man in Bolton.....delighted to have Leinster join our boys in the European top four rugby team. Bring on the semi- finals.
  • Your semi-final line-ups.
  • Shelley Ann Quilty-Lake Thanks very much from New York City, Patrick, for the up to date coverage. It's hard not to get excited about the prospect of Munster v. Leinster final! Granted, there are 2 massive semi-finals to get through first.
  • "It's what it's all about," says Leo Cullen after that mammoth encounter.

    "They defended brilliantly and hit us hard on the counter attack. At half time we though it was even Stevens but after the start of the second half we were always playing catch-up," says opposite number McCall.

  • Timmins Philo Hanging on to every last letter of your match coverage,from rural Seine et Marne.Two Irish in the semi -finals!!! Possibility of an all Irish final !!!!! Roll on April
  • Ger Following from San Francisco. Thanks for the coverage
  • That's six wins against English sides in Dublin on the bounce for Leinster. Fortress(es).
  • Brian Brophy Thanks for the coverage from the Sahara! Currently travelling with family to a Berber camp. Cmon Leinster!
  • Right, thanks for joining today. A win for the ages for Leinster - and a final for the ages remains a tantalising prospect.