Champions Cup: Exeter v Leinster

Leinster face a daunting trip to play English Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park

John O'Sullivan Sun, Dec 10
 
LIVE: Champions Cup: Exeter v Leinster

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  • 17:11
    Hello again and welcome to the Irish Times live rugby blog for the second time this afternoon. John O'Sullivan here and I'll be taking you through the action. Can Leinster emulate Munster, Ulster and Connacht and make it a 100 per cent winning strike rate in week three of the Champions Cup.  
  • 17:12
    There's about 20 minutes to kickoff.  
  • 17:13
    Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: "They (Exeter) have a lot of quality, lot of clever signings over the last few years. It's a tough challenge for our guys and we have a huge amount of respect for Exeter. They are a difficult team to play against. They are a club we admire."
  • 17:13
  • 17:15

    Here are the teams

     

    EXETER CHIEFS:  Phil Dollman; James Short, Henry Slade, Ian Whitten, Olly Woodburn; Gareth Steenson (capt), Nic White; Alec Hepburn, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Harry Williams; Mitch Lees, Jonny Hill; Don Armand, Matt Kvesic, Tom Waldrom.

    Replacements:  Jack Yeandle, Ben Moon, Tom Francis, Sam Skinner, Sam Simmonds, Will Chudley, Sam Hill, Jack Nowell    

    LEINSTER:  Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Isa Nacewa (capt); Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Seán Cronin, Tadhg Furlong; Devin Toner, Scott Fardy; Rhys Ruddock, Seán O’Brien, Jack Conan.

     Replacements:  James Tracy, Jack McGrath, Michael Bent, James Ryan, Josh van der Flier, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Jordan Larmour    

    Referee:  Romain Poite (Fra)

  • 17:15
  • 17:16
    Here is Gerry Thornley's preview.
  • 17:20
    Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter: "Jack (Nowell) is just coming back from that facial injury. He was very good off the bench last week. Sam (Simmonds) hasn't done anything wrong. He is a massive effective ball carrier but the other three guys have the jerseys today."  
  • 17:22
    Simon Zebo at his best.  
  • 17:22
  • 17:25
    There are six minutes to kickoff in Sandy Park. The teams will be ouvt in about 120 seconds or so.  
  • 17:26
    My hunch is that referee Romain Poite will have a significant bearing on this game. I hope I'm wrong.    
  • 17:28
    The stadium announcer is being annoying, trying to co-ordinate the chanting. The Tomahawk Chop chant is getting an airing from the home supporters.  
  • 17:29
    It's a big game for Jack Conan. He'll want to lay down a marker in the Champions Cup as Leinster's first choice number eight.  
  • 17:29
    Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw are reunited on the pitch. The teams are in the tunnel and we're almost ready to go.  
  • 17:30
    I had to rush through those last two sentences because the game's about to start. Isa Nacewa leads out Leinster, Armagh born Gareth Steenson does the same for the Chiefs.  
  • 17:31
    Weather is perfect, great night for rugby. Let's go. Steenson to kick off.  
  • 17:31
    Microphone issue with a touch judge.
  • 17:32
    Chiefs win the kickoff, that was really slack by Leinster but the visitors force a scrum turnover from Scott Fardy.  
  • 17:35
    Super scrum from Leinster, Conan breaks and when Leinster rewind for a second time Steenson..........yes Steenson puts in a huge hit on Henshaw. Leinster win Luke McGrath's up and under but after excellent work by Sean O'Brien, Isa Nacewa kicks the ball away down the pitch. He's been doing a lot of that recently, something he wouldn't have in the past.  
  • 17:36
    TRY: McGrath.  
  • 17:37
    Wonderful flowing move from Leinster down the touchline with Rob Kearney and Johnny Sexton playing pivotal roles.  
  • 17:37
    Romain Poite has gone to the TMO to see if Johnny Sexton put his foot in touch.  
  • 17:38
    It doesn't look like it touches the line. It casts a shadow over it.  
  • 17:39
    The advantage goes must go to the attacking side. I told you Romain Poite would have an influence. He's ruled out the try.  
  • 17:39
    So NO TRY.  
  • 17:39
    Nic White clears to the Exeter 10-metre line.  
  • 17:40
    My feeling watching several replays that you couldn't be sure that Sexton's foot touches the line. The TMO may have had a better angle but none that I saw.  
  • 17:41
    6 mins: Leinster win lineout but maul held up and it's a scrum turnover. Leinster get a free kick for an early engagement at the scrum.  
  • 17:43
    8 mins: Leinster hit up several times before Tomas Waldrom is caught offside.  
  • 17:44
    9 mins: Sexton misses by miles from the Exeter 10-metre line. Huge shove right.  
  • 17:45
    Will Leinster rue that first 10 minutes in having a try disallowed and Sexton missing that penalty.  
  • 17:47
    McGrath up and under. Dollman is hurt. Sexton with a gorgeous nudge to the corner. Hill wins the lineout but Chiefs coughs up the boy and Devin Toner stretches for the line.    
  • 17:48
    The question is try, yes or no.  
  • 17:48
    You can't see that he's grounded it but he has grounded it.  
  • 17:49
    TMO wants to award the try. Poite says no. He asks the TMO did he see the grounding. TMO says no and so Poite says scrum five.  
  • 17:49
    God when I said that Poite would have an influence on the game before the match little did I know.  
  • 17:51
    Leinster win the scrum, Conan, Henshaw, Healy and McGrath all have a rattle at the line. There's a knock-on but Leinster had a penalty advantage and have gone back to take a scrum. Interesting choice.  
  • 17:52
    Leinster get another scrum penalty. Poite will want a chat but he'll do nothing. YEP that's exactly what he does.  
  • 17:54
    16 mins: Leinster elect for another scrum. They're not afraid to gamble but they desperately need points for their dominance. Two disallowed tries now and a missed penalty. Another penalty. This time Harry Williams gets a yellow card.    
  • 17:55
    The Chiefs down to 14 players. Phil Dollman will also be leaving the pitch with a rib injury. Some bloke...........Jack Nowell, you know the England international wing will be replacing him.  
  • 17:56
    Chiefs have to bring on a prop so Welsh international Tom Francis is summoned. Nowell will wait until the sin bin is over.  
  • 17:56
    Unbelievably we are still in the 16th minute of the match.  
  • 17:58

    19 mins: There is a massive psychological shift there. Chiefs put in a big scrum and Matt Kvesic nicks the ball. Nic White clears. Leinster lose the lineout but Mitch Lees knocks on in the process. Leinster scrum.


    Chiefs 0 Leinster 0

  • 18:00
    Good Exeter defence but brilliant vision from Sexton.
  • 18:00
    TRY: Sexton.
  • 18:01

    Great cross-kick from Sexton to Nacewa, the Leinster captain powers towards the line with the assistance of Garry Ringrose and McGrath pops the ball to Sexton who plunges over on the blindside. Sexton misses the conversion, it drops short.  


    22 mins: Chiefs 0 Leinster 5  

  • 18:02
    It sounds ludicrous to say but Leinster should be 15 points up at this stage.  
  • 18:03
    Exeter get to Leinster's 22. Remenber they're a man short with prop Harry Williams in the sin bin. Healy penalised for not releasing in the tackle. For all Leinster's dominance they'll be just two points up when Steenson kicks this 22-metre penalty.    
  • 18:04

    Steenson makes no mistake, not a surprise from a player who has kicked 24 from his last 24 place-kicks.  


    24 mins: Chiefs 3 Leinster 5

  • 18:05
    Leinster dominate the first 20-minutes, have two tries disallowed, miss a penalty and a conversion and have a two-point advantage. They've now conceded another penalty for being in front of the kicker.  
  • 18:06
    The sin bin is over. The Chiefs won it 3-0 and they have a lineout 20-metres from the Leinster line. They're rolling maul is among the best in northern hemisphere rugby.  
  • 18:07
    Good defence of the maul from Leinster, good tackling in midfield and they eventually force a handling error. Intetesting scrum now, even though it's on Leinster's 22. Williams is just back on the pitch and he won't gfancy this one.  
  • 18:09
    Henshaw takes it up, McGrath box-kicks but Nowell takes comfortably. Slade kicks the ball through. Wonderful break there from the Leinster scrumhalf McGrath but maybe he shouldn't have kicked through with support alongside him. Chiefs win the lineout and clear.  
  • 18:10
    Toner takes the lineout and Leinster maul their way into the 22, McFadden appears between the centres but Chiefs stopped him.  
  • 18:11
    Chiefs hooker Luke Cowan Dickie may be in trouble here for a no-arm tackle on Cian Healy.  
  • 18:11
    The TMO and Poite are looking at it.  
  • 18:12
    They've penalised White who also didn't use his arms.  
  • 18:13

    30 mins: Nacewa points at the posts and Sexton will knock this over from 15 metres in front of the posts.


    Chiefs 3 Leinster 8

  • 18:14
    Chiefs haven't really played and they are only five points behind. They won't be too unhappy considering the deficit they probably should be facing.  
  • 18:15
    Nacewa knock-on and a scrum to the Chiefs on the halfway line. Exeter get a scrum penalty.  
  • 18:15
    Steenson puts the ball five metres from the Leinster try line.  
  • 18:16
    Lees wins lineout but Leinster stop the Waldrom short and the chiefs are given a scrum five. What way will the penalty go this time?
  • 18:17
    Chiefs probing, eking out a few metres.  
  • 18:18
    We're into the 13th phase and the CHiefs are four metres from the Leinster line.  
  • 18:18
    Make that two metres.  
  • 18:20
    37 mins: That should have been a Leinster penalty, two Chiefs players dive on the ball on the ground. Conan tackle forces a handling error. Great defence.  
  • 18:20
  • 18:21
    At this point Leinster have made 52 tackles and missed two.  
  • 18:22
    There will be one minute to the interval when this scrum is completed. Huge scrum from Tadhg Furlong. Conan carries and Leinster clear to outside their 22 but here come the Chiefs again.  
  • 18:23

    Break by James Short goes back three Leinster tacklers but then loses possession as he hits the ground. Fardy hoofs it into touch.


    HALF-TIME: Chiefs 3 Leinster 8

  • 18:25
  • 18:25
    How could Leinster be unhappy I hear you ask? After all they're leading in the home of the English champions but with a modicum of good fortune this game could be over by now if the two tries hadn't been disallowed from a Leinster context.
  • 18:27
    The first the TMO ruled that Sexton's foot touched the touchline and the second time when Toner the TMO wanted to give the try but Poite clarified that he hadn't actually seen the grounding. So technically the referee was correct but looking at the incident in real time and after viewing several replays, the probability is that Toner scored but it simply fell to the question that the referee asked.    
  • 18:28
  • 18:30
    Luke McGrath has had a very impressive half for Leinster, Henshaw's been impressive while the pack have certainly worked hard to shut down the Chiefs.  
  • 18:30
  • 18:34
    The Chiefs know that they have dodged a bullet twice in that half and if they can get some field position then they have shown in snatches that they are dangerous. Leinster produced some epic goal-line defence to deny the home side a try in the final 10-minutes of the half and had to be grateful to a brilliant McGrath tackle that pulled Short down.  
  • 18:34
  • 18:36
    Time for the second half.  
  • 18:39
    Sexton to get the second half under way.  
  • 18:39
    It's almost a year to the day since Exeter last lost at home.  
  • 18:42
    Sexton up and under, Short takes, Chiefs box-kick, Kearney hit hard in a double tackle. McGrath box-kicks. Short again makes serious yardage and I think there's a penalty try coming up to the Chiefs.  
  • 18:43
    Great counter-attack from the Cheifs and Nowell is put away 10 metres from the Leinster line. The covering Cronin goes high in the tackle, a seat belt tackle as they call it. It's a yellow card, a penalty or potentially a penalty try.  
  • 18:44
    YELLOW CARD: Cronin.............and a penalty but NO PENALTY TRY.  
  • 18:45
    Mr Mo Mentum has just swtiched jerseys. Rhys Ruddock has been helped off with a hamstring injury so Josh van der Flier is on.  
  • 18:46
    Leinster defend the maul but the Chiefs will have a five metre scrum. Leinster are taking off wing Fergus McFadden to get replacement hooker James Tracy on the pitch.  
  • 18:47
    44 mins: Chiefs scrum five metres out.  
  • 18:47
    Superb Leinster scrum but Chiefs still have the ball.  
  • 18:48
    Great tackle vn der Flier on Armand
  • 18:49
    46 mins: The Fantastic Mr Fardy forces a penalty turnover. Brilliant bit of work from Leinster's Aussie.  
  • 18:49
    Chiefs change their props.  
  • 18:49
  • 18:50
    There are six minutes left on Cronin's sin bin.  
  • 18:51
    Leinster's kick/chase game needs to improve. Giving away possession too cheaply. The Irish province have stopped playing in this half.  
  • 18:53
    Another box-kick that's drifted too long. The Chiefs are being invited back into this match.  
  • 18:53
    48 mins: The Chiefs are building nicely.  
  • 18:54
    Leinster are going to be penalised if they have any more site meetings ahead of lineouts.  
  • 18:55
    Nice little lineout move gets the ball back to Tracy who makes progress up the wing. McGrath kicks it away again. That's not good.  
  • 18:56
    51 mins: Too much poorly directed hoofing. Mind you great chase Kearney and tackle Henshaw but then Tracy is penalised for a crooked throw at the lineout.  
  • 18:57
    Simmonds is on for Waldrom; he's a player as they say. Really excellent ball carrier with loads of pace.  
  • 18:58
    Leinster give away a scrum penalty. the visitors have been sloppy in the opening 12 minutes of the half. Jack McGrath for Healy. Good shift by the latter.  
  • 18:58
    53 mins: TRY SHORT
  • 19:00

    54 mins: Nacewa sells himself in defence and Steenson times the pass to Woodburn beautifully and he in turns gives Short a run-in. Steenson misses the conversion.


    Chiefs 8 Leinster 8

  • 19:00
    It's been coming. And the Chiefs deserve that even though it was a bit soft.  
  • 19:01
    Leinster conceded about 60 seconds after they have been restored to their full complement of 15 players.  
  • 19:02
  • 19:02
    Leinster have made their way into the Leinster 22.  
  • 19:03
    Patient and to be fair precise through seven phases for Leinster. They are eight metres out.  
  • 19:03
    Good defence from the Chiefs drive Leinster backwards.  
  • 19:05
    Leinster are into phase number 25. You feel the pivotal moment in the game. Leinster still seven emtres out.  
  • 19:05
    Leinster are two metres out.  
  • 19:05
    Armand with a great hit.  
  • 19:05
    Leinster get a penalty. Decision time.  
  • 19:06
    60 mins: Sexton is down injured.  
  • 19:07
    Nacewa will take the penalty and opts for a shot at goal.  
  • 19:07
    It's on the 22-metre line, 15 in from the touchline.  
  • 19:08

    61 mins: Nacewa penalty.


    Chiefs 8 Leinster 11

  • 19:08
    Final quarter of the match.
  • 19:09
    Great tackle by Fardy, he's had a brilliant game. Sexton goes for the cross-kick and McFadden knocks on. Chiefs scrum on their 10-metre line  
  • 19:11
  • 19:11
    Bit of luck from Leinster there. Great covering from McFadden after Nowell kicks through into the Leinster 22; his kick though is half charged down and Leinster get the lineout. McGrath box-kicks too far but Woodburn slices his clearance into touch.  
  • 19:12
    65 mins: Leinster are just outside the Chiefs 22.    
  • 19:12
    The visitors move into the 22 through Tracy.  
  • 19:13
    Through 10 phases again from Leinster but they need something from this pressure.  
  • 19:14
    The visitors are starting to look a little leggy. Not much footwork just straight up body on body.  
  • 19:14
    You thought there was only one Chris Ashton. Sadly there's this guy too. This is the Chiefs earlier try.  
  • 19:14
  • 19:15
    Leinster are three metres out through Toner.  
  • 19:15
    They're a metre and a half out under the posts. Van der Flier goes on his own. Leinster support runners not getting there. Leinster gone back six metres.  
  • 19:17
    Good feet from McFadden, then ven der Flier, then Henshaw, then Toner, THE CONAN. TRY.  
  • 19:17
    70 mins: Leinster go through 40 phases and Conan drives through the tackle of Slade and Simmonds.  
  • 19:17
  • 19:18

    71 mins: Nacewa adds the conversion.


    Chiefs 8 Leinster 18

  • 19:19
    Jamison Gibson Park and Michael Bent on for Luke McGrath and Furlong, two standout players and Ross Byrne is on for Sexton. Jordan Larmour is on for Nacewa. Who takes the next kick at goal for Leinster. My money on McFadden.  
  • 19:21
    Leinster concede penalty, Sean O'Brien. Steenson nudges the Chiefs about 40 metres.  
  • 19:21
    Wonderful steal by Larmour at the breakdown.  
  • 19:22
    74 mins: Leinster are trying to run down the clock.  
  • 19:22
    75 mins: It'll be a scrum to Leinster on the half way line.  
  • 19:22
  • 19:23
    76 mins: Re-set scrum. Leinster won't mind.  
  • 19:23
    James Ryan has been on for about three minutes. He replaced the oustanding Scott Fardy.  
  • 19:24
    77 mins: Another re-set.  
  • 19:24
    Leinster win a free-kick at the scrum.  
  • 19:24
    Tackles made for Exeter..........222
  • 19:25
    78 mins: Another scrum.  
  • 19:25
    Conan bashes it up. and makes metres. McFadden crashes it up. Toner again, superb second half.  
  • 19:26
    Last minute. Leinster are going to win in Sandy Park and become the first side to do so in a year.  
  • 19:27
    FULL-TIME: Chiefs 8 Leinster 18
  • 19:28
    That's Leinster's 100th victory in Europe and few have been harder fought.  
  • 19:29
    Leinster displayed a hard edge to grind that one out. It's only half-time though in the head-to-head as the Chiefs come to Dublin next weekend.  
  • 19:29
  • 19:31

    Tadhg Furlong wins the man of the match award and deservedly so but Fardy was excpetional too while Toner and O'Brien had big second halfs when their team needed them.  


    Ruddock looks doubtful for next week, going off with a hamstring injury.  

  • 19:33
    Gerry Thornley's match report will be here shortly. A great evening in Devon is you're a Leinster supporter and a superb weekend for the four Irish provinces all of whom won, three of them away from home.
  • 19:39
    Thanks for your company and see you next week.  
  • 19:39