Leinster too strong for Castres
December 6, 2008
Leinster's Simon Keogh hauls down Castres' Charles Sika during the clash at RDS
© Getty Images
Leinster remain on course for a Heineken Cup quarter-final berth after notching a 33-3 victory over Castres in their Heineken Cup Pool 2 clash at the RDS in Dublin.
Bernard Jackman, Brian O'Driscoll and replacement Simon Keogh all dotted down but they were thwarted in their attempt for a bonus point that would have flattered the hosts who for long periods were lacklustre in attack.
Castres, currently second from bottom in the French Top 14, opted to field an under-strength side with All Blacks Chris Masoe and Carl Hoeft and kicker Romain Teulet held back for next week's return clash while captain Lionel Nallet was also sidelined through injury.
But they began brightly and had an opportunity to open the scores when Malcolm O'Kelly was penalised at the breakdown but Anthony Lagardere's effort dropped short.
Leinster struggled to find the form that had seen them power past London Wasps in their last euro outing and they made some uncharacteristic handling errors early on. However some assured play from man-of-the-match Devin Toner ensured they remained in control at the lineout.
With Felipe Contepomi absent due to a hand infection, Jonathan Sexton started at fly-half for the Irish province and he slotted three first-half penalties to put his side in control at the break but in the whole it was a frustrating opeing period for Michael Cheika's side.
The hosts' try-scoring opportunities were limited in the opening half. After lineout steals from Elsom and O'Kelly, the former spilled the ball in contact just inches from the line. Stan Wright also went close to breaking the deadlock and Lagardere had to be alert to thwart an advancing O'Driscoll.
Castres lost South African flanker Darron Nell to what looked like a serious knee injury before the interval and his side's resolve would eventually break in the secon-half.
Shane Horgan kicked into space, got a favourable bounce and was able to off-load for the supporting Jackman to score close to the posts in the 47th minute. Sexton slotted the conversion and though Lagardere replied with a well-struck penalty for Castres, Sexton was able to cancel that score out with his fourth penalty success after replacement prop Yannick Forestier had been sin-binned.
After a near miss when Jamie Heaslip almost embarrassed Lagardere on his own try-line, Leinster took their chances in the final 13 minutes, adding two more tries.
O'Driscoll, scoring his fourth try in this season's tournament, touched down from close range before a hamstring injury ended his afternoon. Then Keogh darted over with three minutes remaining, after linking with Wright and fellow replacement David Holwell.
Leinster coach Michael Cheika brushed aside any talk of disappointment over a missed bonus point following the win. "The minute I get disappointed with winning, I've got a problem as a coach," Cheika said. "That is not the message you want to give to your players. You have to try to perfect your technique under pressure.
"There is a technique to passing and we didn't pass very well today in a lot of circumstances. In a very simplistic form, it cost us getting an extra try. I think we passed very poorly," Cheika added. "There were some opportunities we created that needed a better pass out in front, a couple of balls went to ground and just finishing a little better, accuracy in that area. We know we could have made more of some of our opportunities. We dominated the possession and the game and sometimes it just didn't happen.
"One thing we have tried to do this season is to take every match as a final," Cheika added. "No matter what happened today, extra point or not, we have to go down there and win next week. People maybe expected this while they didn't really expect the Wasps one."
Castres forwards coach Jeremy Davidson admitted the emphasis for the club is staying in the French top flight. "Our main focus is the championship but we will look to build into the Perpignan game before Christmas. We won't want to go into the Perpignan game with a defeat," he said.
Leinster know their destiny is in their own hands and Cheika will look to the return of a number of key players for next week's game.
"We're hoping (Shane) Jennings, (Isa) Nacewa and (Felipe) Contepomi will be available," he added. "That will be assessed on Monday. What that will do is give new energy into the squad and another healthy bite of competition. If I can get that situation and that scoreline in all the games we play in this tournament, I will be happy enough. It's about making sure we improve on those issues for next week."
Leinster: G Dempsey (S Keogh 71), S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (B Blaney 72), L Fitzgerald, R Kearney, J Sexton (D Holwell 61), C Whitaker [capt] (C Keane 67), S Wright (C Van Der Linde 76), B Jackman (B Blaney 1), C Van Der Linde (C Healy 68), D Toner (T Hogan 68), M O'Kelly, R Elsom, S O'Brien (S Keogh 71), J Heaslip
Castres Olympique: C McIntyre, C Sika, S Kefu, L Mazars, R Carballo (T Bouquié 15), A Lagardere, K Senio, G Lensing (Y Forestier 59), M Bonello (A Giorgadze 55), L Ducalcon (F Staibano 57), L Michaux (J Tekori 70), C Gaston [capt], L Tomiki, D Nell (S Malonga 27), F Faure
Yellow Card - Y Forestier (64)
Man of the Match: D Toner (Leinster)
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)