Cape Town - Their international players were away on Six Nations duty but that did not prevent Leinster from retaining their impressive momentum with an overwhelming 59-19 win over the Southern Kings in a one-sided PRO14 match at the Ros Arena in Dublin on Friday night.
Leinster and the Kings occupy opposite ends of the spectrum in the competition, with Leinster comfortably ahead of their conference and the Kings footing the log table in theirs, and no-one who watched this game would have needed to have that pointed out.
Apart from a period in the first half where the Kings strongly challenged them up front, Leinster were streets ahead of their South African opponents as they ran in nine tries to three.
The Irish provincial team are now on the cusp of ensuring top place in their conference, something they will achieve if they pick up bonus-point wins in their next game, and that with a full four games to play after that.
On their current form in all competitions you wouldn't bet against them managing it.
Leinster have made a bit of a habit of picking up bonus-point tries before halftime so that they managed it against the Kings wasn’t a huge surprise.
The Kings did threaten briefly though in the first half, and there was some impressive lineout driving as the visitors from Port Elizabeth found that they could get some profit from being direct.
Leinster scored their first try in the sixth minute, with their inside centre Noel Reid scything through a hole and capitalising on some sloppy defence from the Kings.
Ross Byrne’s conversion made it 7-0 and the sizeable crowd that had turned up at the Dublin ground on a cold night settled in for the anticipated rampage.
It didn’t materialise, at least not straight away. If the Kings could be accused of being sloppy in their ineffectual attempt to defend the first try, you could say the same about Leinster for the try they conceded to Kings left wing Bjorn Basson.
The Kings had made an impression by going the direct route as they took the ball up through 12 phases with their forwards, and perhaps Leinster were expecting them to maintain that approach, for they seemed surprised when the ball was spun wide from the breakdown and Basson went over.
There were a couple of defenders around Basson when he got the ball but he appeared to wrong foot Leinster as he wriggled through for a try that had an individual touch to it at the finish even though it was good teamwork from the Kings that set it up.
Bader Pretorius wasn’t able to convert but he was on target with his second conversion attempt, which came after Sarel Pretorius had wriggled around the fringes of a strong mauling drive from an attacking lineout, as the Kings took a surprising but at that point deserved 12-7 lead.
That lineout was set up by a penalty that the Kings could easily have kicked for posts, but their confidence in going for the touchline was a measure of how well their lineout was functioning.
However, while the Kings were impressive up until the middle stages of the first half - the Pretorius try came after 19 minutes - the hosts soon started to put it together and find their attacking range as their forwards took control.
Loosehead prop Ed Byrne crashed over after 24 minutes and then the big man did it again not long after that as Leinster soothed the nerves of those many who’d taken the win for granted in the build-up.
Byrne was the pick of a hard-working home pack and deservedly walked away with the man of the match award for his high work-rate around the field and powerful contribution to the set pieces.
The Kings, after conceding 15 penalties to nil against Munster in the previous game, started quite well with their discipline (they managed to get their first penalty of this two match tour after just 65 minutes), but then as the pressure on them was ratcheted up so they began to give penalties away.
By the third quarter the Kings’ scrum occasionally looked close to disintegration as Leinster showed their all-round pedigree.
Still, the discipline was much better than last week, so full marks to the Kings for improving that area of their game.
Reid followed up his earlier try by crossing for his second, and the team’s fourth, to ensure the bonus point was safely pocketed by them with four minutes left in the half.
Leinster led 24-12 at the break.
It appeared the champions were set for a big win, and that did prove to be the case, but not before the Kings had shown another glimpse of their attacking capabilities shortly after the restart, when the two halfbacks with Pretorius as a surname, scrumhalf Sarel and flyhalf Bader, put together an impressive attack down the left flank that was rounded off by fullback Ulrich Beyers to close the gap to five points (24-19).
The Kings are always more dangerous when the game loses shape a bit and that was the case here, but the score turned out to be just a cue for Leinster to tighten up and recommit to their attacking structures and their largely forward based approach.
It didn’t take them long to stretch their lead again, with fullback Barry Daly going over for a converted try that re-established the 12-point buffer. The Leinster tight five players were the stand out performers in all aspects of their play on the night, so it was quite fitting that another prop, Andrew Porter, should add a try to the brace scored by his partner Byrne earlier in the game.
That was in the 56th minute as Leinster established a 19 point bulkhead and began to draw away from their plucky but outgunned opponents.
Tries: Noel Reid (2), Ed Byrne (2), Barry Daly, Andrew Porter, Max Deegan, Patrick Patterson, Rory O’Loughlin
Conversions: Ross Byrne (7)
Tries: Bjorn Basson, Sarel Pretorius, Ulrich Beyers
Conversions: Bader Pretorius (2)