European Rugby Champions Cup: Leinster 33-15 Castres

Leinster fullback Rob Kearney is tackled by Alex Robert Ebersohn
Leinster fullback Rob Kearney is tackled by Alex Robert Ebersohn
Leinster (19) 33
Tries: Cronin 2, J McGrath, Nacewa, penalty try Con: Nacewa 4
Castres (10) 15
Try: penalty try, Jelonch Con: Urdapilleta Pen: Urdapilleta

Leinster kicked off their European Champions Cup campaign with an emphatic home win over Castres at the RDS.

Sean Cronin's brace of tries and one by Jack McGrath had the three-time winners 19-3 ahead after 34 minutes.

Castres were awarded a penalty try just before the interval with Luke McGrath sin-binned for the indiscretion.

Isa Nacewa's try wrapped up the bonus point for 14-man Leinster and a penalty try put them 33-10 up before Anthony Jelonch's consolation try for Castres.

Mindful of how crucial points differential could be in a tight Pool 4 which also contains Montpellier and Northampton Saints, Leinster continued to press, with rookie fly-half Joey Carbery delivering a sparkling performance in the absence of injured Johnny Sexton.

Leinster hooker Sean Cronin scored two tries for the first time in a European Champions Cup match
Leinster hooker Sean Cronin scored two tries for the first time in a European Champions Cup match

Leinster's forward might

Castres hadn't won a game in nine attempts in European competition in Ireland and they never looked likely to end that miserable run of results.

Leinster easily won the battle up front and dominated the set-piece exchanges in the opening half.

All three first-half tries came courtesy of the front row, Cronin capitalising on Leinster's powerful maul to bundle over in the ninth minute.

A dynamic bit of play in the loose allowed the hooker to nail a second try after 26 minutes which Nacewa converted, having missed his two previous goal kicks.

On his 100th appearance for the province, loosehead prop Jack McGrath was shoved over the line after another successful lineout maul.

Luke McGrath was sin-binned for coming in at the side and Castres handed a penalty try to reduce the deficit to 19-10 at half time.

Classy Carbery

With Johnny Sexton ruled out with a tight hamstring, the spotlight was on his 20-year-old understudy to produce the goods on his European debut. He did not disappoint.

A series of dummies and jinking runs, commanding kicks from the hand off both feet and a clever intercept were among the highlights of his impressive first display.

Nacewa stepped in to scrum-half whilst Luke McGrath was in the bin and showed great speed and alertness to pick up from the back of a ruck and dart over the line to secure the all-important bonus point after just 48 minutes.

Replacement lock Thibault Lassalle was sin-binned for Castres in the 61st minute but they too scored when down to 14 men with Anthony Jelonch crossing for a consolation effort after 69 minutes.

Leinster: R Kearney; Z Kirchner, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, I Nacewa (capt); J Carbery, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, I Nagle; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Heaslip.

Replacements: M Ross for Furlong (37), D Leavy for Ruddock (50), C Healy for J McGrath (53), J Tracy for Cronin (53), R Molony for Nagle (59), J Gibson-Park for L McGrath (59), N Reid for Nacewa (68), C Marsh for Kearney (71).

Castres: G Palis; R Grosso, T Combezou, R Ebersohn, D Smith; B Urdapilleta, A Dupont; A Tichit, J Jenneker, D Kotze; V Moreaux, R Capo Ortega (capt), M Babillot, S Mafi, A Tulou.

Replacements: B Mach for Jenneker (38), M Lazar for Tichit (53), R Kockott for Dupont (54), T Lassale for Capo Ortega (54), D Tussac for Kotze (59), M Jelonch for Moreaux (60), F Vailelle for Ebersohn (61), M Javaux for Urdapilleta (71).