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Heineken Cup Pool 1: Leinster find daylight with victory over Castres
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Leinster seized control of Heineken Cup Pool One with a 19-7 victory over Castres at the RDS on Saturday.
Traditionally poor travellers in this tournament, the reigning French Top 14 champions leaked three penalties to Jimmy Gopperth before a converted try from Rory Kockott gave them a shot in the arm before the interval.
But Castres crucially failed to turn pressure into points in the third quarter and with centre Remi Lamerat in the sin-bin, Jack McGrath wrestled free to grab the game's decisive score in the 62nd minute.
Gopperth converted and tagged on a fourth penalty and frustrated Castres suffered a second sin-binning in the closing stages - replacement scrum half Julien Tomas saw yellow for a succession of crooked feeds.
There was a welcome blast of sunshine for the kick-off, replacing the earlier heavy rain, and Gopperth capped off a similarly bright opening for his side with a third minute penalty.
Rob Kearney did well to hack on a Gopperth cross-field kick before Castres broke from deep, Kockott and centres Remi Lamerat and Romain Cabannes all featuring in a rare free-flowing attack from the French outfit.
But, for the most part, Leinster controlled the opening half hour's play and an offside decision allowed Gopperth to make it 6-0 in the 12th minute.
The New Zealander's third successful penalty rewarded a solid home scrum which included young tighthead Martin Moore, and Kockott snatched badly at his first chance to respond.
Castres stole an opportunist try from Kockott in the 33rd minute, the scrum-half streaking away down the blindside after a wheeling scrum and a well-timed feed from Antonie Claassen.
McFadden was left isolated as the visitors executed a two-on-one break and Kockott confidently knocked over the 40-metre conversion to close the gap to 9-7.
The addition of Karena Wihongi further boosted the Castres scrum and their dominance of the third quarter should have led to points, but Kockott sent a long range penalty wide.
Leinster relieved the pressure as Luke Fitzgerald and David Kearney got ball in hand, the latter being the victim of a 'no arms' tackle from Lamerat that saw the Castres centre sin-binned.
Fourteen-man Castres showed no signs of wilting, but a tenacious turnover from replacement Eoin Reddan launched Leinster forward and needed no second invitation.
McFadden drew a defender to release David Kearney on the left and his brother Rob got involved in the Castres 22, before McGrath broke Wihongi's initial tackle and crashed over beside the right hand post.
Gopperth's conversion gave Leinster some much needed breathing space at nine points up, and the man-of-the-match completed his 14-point tally as Matt O'Connor's men remained workmanlike - if unspectacular - until the end.
They needed to be resolute in defence late on as despite losing Tomas in the 70th minute, Castres almost landed a losing bonus point with TMO Graham Hughes ruling out a lunge at the line from Pedrie Wannenburg who was adjudged to be inches short.
Victory gives Leinster the upper hand in Pool 1 after both sides entered the clash having won their respective games against Northampton Saints and Ospreys in the opening round.
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|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|Sunday 25th January|
|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|Munster 65 - 10 Sale Sharks|
|Clermont Auvergne 18 - 6 Saracens|
|Bath 20 - 15 Glasgow|
|Montpellier 27 - 26 Toulouse|
|Saturday 24th January|
|Scarlets 3 - 26 Toulon|
|Ulster 26 - 7 Leicester|
|Northampton 8 - 32 Racing Metro 92|
|Benetton Treviso 23 - 20 Ospreys|
|Castres 19 - 47 Harlequins|
|Wasps 20 - 20 Leinster|
|Sunday 18th January|
|Ospreys 9 - 20 Northampton|
|Racing Metro 92 53 - 7 Benetton Treviso|
|Toulouse 18 - 35 Bath|
|Glasgow 21 - 10 Montpellier|
|Saturday 17th January|
|Harlequins 3 - 23 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 13 - 22 Clermont Auvergne|
|Leinster 50 - 8 Castres|
|Toulon 60 - 22 Ulster|
|Saracens 33 - 10 Munster|
|Friday 16th January|
|Leicester 40 - 23 Scarlets|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com