Russell’s hat-trick ensures it’s business as usual for Leinster

Head coach Cullen will have a chunk of the Ireland squad available for next weekend’s big game against Ulster at the RDS

Leinster 40 Glasgow Warriors 5

The result supersedes all other considerations in the aftermath, an eighth successive win with a bonus point, one that contained six tries including a hat-trick for man-of-the-match, right wing Rob Russell and the return following injury of Rónan Kelleher and Harry Byrne.

A shoulder injury to the impressive Charlie Ngatai provided the only discordant note in terms of the headlines.

The devil in the detail of the performance review will reveal discipline (14 penalties conceded) and basic tackling issues that on another day might have proved more costly. An ability to scramble in defence to cover the initial breaches provided a saving grace.


Glasgow’s energy wasn’t matched by accuracy and they spurned several promising try-scoring chances and had another chalked off for an illegally constructed lineout maul.

They had oodles of territory and possession, played a touchline-to-touchline game, but were oddly narrow in sight of their opponents’ line.

Leinster played in fits and starts, rattling off 21 points by the time the first quarter had barely elapsed and tagging on two further tries in the last 10 minutes. In between those markers, they gave away penalties in clusters and stuttered in attack, forced passes and handling errors the main culprits.

Still, they had enough in hand on the scoreboard to keep their opponents at arms’ length. Jamie Osborne had a fine game at fullback, Russell was sharp and attentive in claiming his tries; two young players taking the opportunity presented.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said: “He’s [Osborne] a great future in the game. He has a great temperament and a bit of versatility [positionally]. Jamie is a big, young man, still filling out into his frame in many regards. He is a very smart footballer with a massive left boot, which definitely helps.”

Cullen also had a word for Russell, who has scored six tries in six appearances this season.

“He’s improving all the time, a slightly late starter into the (professional) game,” a reference to the fact that the 23-year-old Trinity student and Under-20 Grand Slam winner (2019) only joined the Leinster academy last year.

“That’s the thing, getting him to understand that he can back himself. The hat-trick was fantastic. Hopefully there is a lot more to come from Rob as well.”

It’s a fair point, Russell just needs to believe a little more in his talent and refine his game, like dousing the afterburners on a ‘kick chase’ in time so as not to be easily stepped.

The halfbacks Ross Byrne and Luke McGrath were catalysts for the team’s better moments, while Max Deegan was arguably the best player. The pack pitched in to a man, Scott Penny another to prosper after putting to one side some early missed tackles. Ross Molony was the epitome of industry while Kelleher and Rhys Ruddock gave the team ballast in the carrying.

Dave Kearney made some good defensive reads, Ngatai showed some lovely touches, Liam Turner had one eye-catching break, released by his midfield buddy while the bench added power and momentum.

Cullen confirmed that a clutch of the international contingent would return for next weekend’s game against Ulster at the RDS but one player who put a substantial down payment on a place by dint of his performance against Glasgow was Deegan.

He was athletic (58 metres), powerful in his carrying (11), made a couple of brilliant cover tackles from a tally of a team-leading 18 in total and stole a lineout for his team’s last try.

Leinster led 21-0 at the interval, Kearney started the scoring, with Russell picking up a brace, the first following good work from McGrath, the second by virtue of a brilliant pop-up pass from Ngatai. Glasgow briefly rallied with a try from lively wing Sebastian Cancelliere while Kelleher was in the sin bin.

Once Leinster were restored to their full complement and with momentum provided by the replacements, they added three further tries through Michael Milne and John McKee, in between which was Russell’s hat-trick score.

Ross Byrne’s placekicking too was first class including several touchline doozies.

The post-match debrief inevitably alighted on Ulster’s visit to the RDS next Saturday night. Cullen will have a significant rump of the Irish squad available to him.

“There’s a real edge to the games. They’ll pose plenty of problems for us, the good, physical team that they have, strong around the breakdown and the contact area.

“Their lineout is going particularly well as we mentioned earlier on in the piece. Four tries [against Zebre], it’s going to be a good challenge. There’ll be a good chunk of (Ireland) guys back in the mix. Some of them trained already on Thursday. Stealing a march on a few of the others, which is good to see. They’re excited about the block now that is coming up.”

Will one be Johnny Sexton? “We’ll see how he pitches up. He’s making steady enough progress, but the full extent of that I don’t know. Some guys were just getting away for a few days last week.”

Scoring sequence

7 mins: Kearney try, R Byrne conversion, 7-0; 10: Russell try, R Byrne conversion, 14-0; 21: Russell try, R Byrne conversion, 21-0. Half-time: 21-0. 48: Cancelliere try, 21-5; 54: Milne try, R Byrne conversion, 28-5; 71: Russell try, 33-5; 76: McKee try, H Byrne conversion, 40-5.

Leinster: J Osborne; R Russell, L Turner, C Ngatai, D Kearney; R Byrne, L McGrath; E Byrne, R Kelleher, T Clarkson; R Molony, J McCarthy; R Ruddock (capt), S Penny, M Deegan. Replacements: H Byrne for Ngatai halftime; M Milne for E Byrne 51 mins; V Abdaladze for Clarkson 51 mins; J Jenkins for McCarthy 51 mins; R Baird for Ruddock 51 mins; C Foley for McGrath 59 mins; J McKee for Kelleher 66 mins; C Cosgrave for R Byrne 70 mins.

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; S Cancelliere, K Steyn (capt), S McDowall, R McLean; T Jordan, G Horne; Ó Kebble, F Brown, M Walker; S Manjezi, A Samuel; G Brown, S Vailanu, J Dempsey. Replacements: J Matthews for Brown 55 mins; J Bhatti for Kebble 55 mins; S Berghan for Walker 55 mins; JP du Preez for Samuel 55 mins; R Thompson for McLean 55 mins; L Bean for Browne 66 mins; J Dobie for Horne 66 mins; E Ferrie for Thompson 74 mins.

Referee: M van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

Yellow card: R Kelleher (Leinster) 44 mins.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer