Leinster pick up bonus point victory over Castres in Champions Cup opener

Sean Cronin crossed twice as Leinster ran out 18 point winners

Jack McGrath

Image: INPHO

Leinster 33

Castres 15

Leinster were determined to put last year's disastrous Champions Cup campaign behind them and did so successfully after they picked up a bonus point try over Castres Olympique this afternoon.

On an afternoon where the weather switched between rain and sun, Leo Cullen's side showed streaks of brilliance, but will know they still have much to work on if they are to try and win the group.

Isa Nacewa's second half try was a return to the Leinster we have seen in recent years, a mixture of skill and determination helping him put the gloss on the scoreline and add the bonus point try for the Irish province.

He excellently exploited the gap in the Castres' defence before evading two tackles to complete an impressive personal performance.

Leinster got themselves off to a fast start at the RDS, Joey Carbery looking lively in the opening 10 minutes as he picked up an interception which helped Leo Cullen's build from the back. 

Isa Nacewa crosses for Leinster at the RDS this evening. Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

IN an effort to relieve the pressure on the young man, Carbery wasn't put on kicking duty, with Nacewa taking to the tee to try and put the Irish province ahead. The Leinster captain didn't get off to a good start, sending his first kick wide from a decidedly tricky angle.

They would take the lead just minutes later through Sean Cronin, who joined the maul after Devin Toner reached highest to collect the line-out and broke away from the back of the pack, allowing his team-mate to cross over the line.

Nacewa couldn't build on the advantage and missed the conversion. Again, the kick was from a tricky angle, so he could be considered unfortunate to have had such difficult chances to add an additional five points to his side's tally.

Cronin doubled his try-count a short time later. Castres had grown into the game after conceding the try and found some momentum with their ability from the scrum. On more than one occasion did they venture into the Leinster '22 to put pressure on the Leinster line-out.

But Cronin was clinical once again, moving well with the ball in hand after picking it up inside the '22 and dived for the line. The maul again splitting to allow him the room to touch down.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Benjamín Urdapilleta tacked on three points from a penalty after a high tackle from Rob Kearney to get them on the board after 28 minutes of play.

Leinster would cross once more before the end of the half, with Jack McGrath doing the damage this time. Again, they used the tried and tested formula from the maul, with Luke McGrath splitting away from the pack. As players moved in to support him, the ball found its way back to the scrum half who used all of his power and strength to touch down.

Catres were thrown a lifeline at the end of the half, which looked all the more crucial when Urdapilleta missed a second kick to close the gap on Leo Cullen's side.

As the French outfit rumbled toward the line, the maul was pulled down and they were awarded a penalty try.

However, Leinster showed their organisation and resilience after the break, with Nacewa touching down again to add another to his tally, and Cullen's side were awarded a fifth score of the evening after some relentless pressure led to a penalty try.

Castres pegged Cullen's side back again, with replacement Anthony Jelonch crossing to subdued celebrations from the visitors.

Although he had been quiet in stages, Carbery showed some real promise, including a a run full of ingenuity and guile after Leinster turned the ball over in the last five minutes of the game. The move was reflective of his performance; clever, alert and undaunted by the stage he was performing on.

After the game, Leo Cullen was quick to point out the importance of home games in the competition, and how much it means to make them count. While he'll be aware that there is still some work to be done, he will be happy with a bonus point victory and five tries - an extremely positive start to the competition, in particular given how difficult they found it in Europe last season.