Leinster 50-21 Northampton: Garry Ringrose stars in Champions Cup rout
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 14/12/19 7:39pm
Garry Ringrose ran in a hat-trick as Leinster booked their place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals in style with a 50-21 win at home to Northampton Saints.
Ringrose's quickfire double got Leinster off to a flying start at the Aviva Stadium, and further first-half tries from Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kearney ensured they had the bonus point sealed with little over 35 minutes played.
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The Ireland international added a third in the second half as the 2019 Champions Cup runners-up cruised to a victory which ensured they went 10 points clear at the top of Pool 1 and secured their knock-out stage place with two matches remaining.
There were barely 90 seconds on the clock when Ringrose opened the scoring for Leinster, charging down Andy Symonds' attempted clearance kick inside the 22 and regathering the loose ball to dive over for a try converted by Ross Byrne.
The centre added his and his side's second just four minutes later when Leinster worked a quick attack from a line-out on the edge of Northampton's 22, with James Lowe's offload sending Ringrose scampering over.
Byrne converted again and kicked a penalty in the 12th minute, although the travelling Saints fans did have something to smile about seven minutes later when the visitors' first meaningful attack led to Symonds sending Dan Biggar over for a try the Wales fly-half also converted from close range.
Those smiles were soon wiped off though when Ahsee Tuala was sin-binned for taking out Lowe off the ball and the resulting penalty saw Leinster kick to touch and set up a powerful line-out drive from which prop Furlong finished.
Things went from bad to worse for Northampton on the half-hour mark when skipper Tom Wood was sin-binned as well for persistent infringements, leaving them temporarily down to 13 men.
Leinster seized on this opportunity to make certain of the try-scoring bonus point, with Ringrose involved again by sending Kearney streaking away down the right touchline to finish after Rhys Ruddock had turned the ball over close to halfway.
Lewis Ludlam's rampaging counter-attacking run led to Northampton pulling another converted try back just before half time when full-back Tuala sent young winger Ollie Sleightholme over, but the second half was just three minutes old when Leinster struck once more.
Jordan Larmour got the ball rolling with a scything run after the Saints had lost possession in the opposition 22, followed by fly-half Byrne dabbing a grubber through the defence which sat up perfectly for Lowe to gather and score.
Ringrose completed his hat-trick in the 49th minute when he gathered up a loose ball and scampered over after Northampton's Taqele Naiyaravoro tried to affect a tackle close to his line and Kearney had a possible score ruled out three minutes later for an infringement in the build-up.
That allowed the Saints a spell of pressure deep in Leinster territory which eventually told when Tuala burst through a gap to dot down under the posts, but Leinster reached the half-century mark inside the final 15 minutes through Caelan Doris' try and replacement Ciaran Frawley's conversion.
The defeat means Northampton's hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals now rest on them being one of the three best second-placed teams, with a home match against Benetton and a trip to Lyon to come.