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Leinster are hoping European Rugby Champions Cup history does not repeat itself when they welcome Northampton Saints back to the Aviva Stadium.
The three-time European champions sent a statement of intent to their Pool 4 rivals with a thumping 37-10 triumph at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend. A repeat result would put Leo Cullen;s men in pole position to qualify for the quarter-finals.
But they know the dangers of writing off a wounded Northampton Saints side after their back-to-back clashes in 2013. Leinster ran riot to claim a 40-7 victory at Northampton, but the Saints were resurrected a week later and shocked the Aviva Stadium 18-9. And scrum coach John Fogarty knows not to write-off a wounded Northampton side on Sunday.
He said: “We’re very conscious of Northampton. The last three seasons they’ve played their back-to-backs in December they’ve lost home games and come back the following week and done very well.
“For us it’s important that we’re prepping a whole new game for this week and we get the mindset right to take on what’s going to be an angry pack in the Aviva.”
Northampton are playing catchup in Pool 4 after a win and two defeats so far. Leinster lead the way on 11 points with Montpellier just behind on 10. The Saints will have to win their three remaining fixtures to stand a chance of qualifying for the knockout rounds. And director of rugby Jim Mallinder wants to see his men take the game to Leinster.
He said: “We’ve got to go out there and play some rugby; we’re not going to beat them playing 10-man rugby. They’ve clearly got a good pack who put our forwards under pressure in the set piece, particularly the scrum, although we did well on our lineouts and they did well on their lineouts.
“We’ll be looking to be better there and we’ll be looking to play some rugby. I saw some improvements in our game, in our accuracy and getting the ball wide at certain times. We need to keep building on that. Discipline is of course a major area, and if we don’t improve there we’re going to suffer.”
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Northampton Saints forced Leinster to come from behind at the Aviva Stadium, but they made such a good recovery they had the bonus point in the bag by half-time.
After that the three-time winners marched to a nine try triumph that sent the Saints marching home with a sack full of unwanted records – most points conceded (60), biggest margin of defeat (47), most tries conceded (9) and most conversions conceded (6).
Having been hammered 37-10 in Round 3 at Franklin’s Gardens the previous weekend, a much changed Saints side travelled with a lot of work to do and a lot of pride to restore. They managed to do that and more in the first quarter.
Forced to respond to a fourth minute try by right wing Adam Byrne for the home side, Saints found themselves 6-5 ahead after 16 minutes and then 13-5 to the good midway through the half. Steve Myler made up for an earlier miss, his first in the Champions Cup off the tee this season, to land two penalties and then he converted a near length of the field interception try from Ken Pisi.
That was a 14 point turn around given that Leinster were going in for the kill at the other end and no sooner had Romain Poite award the try than home fans were thinking of what happened three years ago when the Premiership side came to Dublin and won a week after taking a hiding at home.
The greasy pitch was making life difficult for the home runners, but it was the brilliant work at the breakdown by Calum Clark, Jamie Gibson and Teimana Harrison that caused the most difficulties. They slowed the ball down and made it a far more physical contest than a week earlier.
But when Leinster finally got to grips with what was going on they became ruthless. By half-time they had converted six raids in the Saints’ 22 into four tries, with Byrne bagging two of them.
Scrum half Luke McGrath and Sean O’Brien added the other first half tries and skipper Isa Nacewa took his Leinster points tally over the 600 mark with a penalty and here conversions. That made it 29-13 at the interval and the onslaught didn’t stop there.
Front row men Tadhg Furlong and Sean Cronin joined the party with tries in the first six minutes of the second half and then it became a long march to the death for the visitors as Leinster piled on the agony with three more tries, two of them when Gibson was in the sin-bin.
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