Leinster ease to seven-try win over Zebre
PRO14 REPORT: Max Deegan scored two tries in an impressive display as Leinster cruised to a bonus-point victory over Zebre at the RDS Arena.
The Conference B leaders never seemed to get out of first or second gear, but secured a maximum five points as they look to secure a crucial home semifinal in the play-offs.
James Lowe and Rory O'Loughlin gave Leinster the lead at half-time before Deegan's opportunistic first try and well taken second really took the game away from the Italians.
Lowe added a second of his own after good work from Ross Byrne, before substitutes Vakh Abdaladze and Bryan Byrne finished the scoring.
Zebre started the game well, but found Leinster's defence difficult to break down and the home side took the lead with their first real attack of the game.
Lowe kicked forward, forcing Matteo Minozzi to clear his lines, and from the ensuing line-out, Leinster won a penalty.
Lowe took quickly and a couple of phases later, the winger muscled his way over the whitewash, with R Byrne adding the conversion.
Zebre nearly hit back as Leonard Krumov thundered towards the try line, but Jamison Gibson-Park hauled him down and Leinster regrouped.
Zebre put points on the board through a Carlo Canna penalty late in the half only to allow Leinster in minutes later to extend their advantage.
Barry Daly broke through the Zebre defence and streaked into the opposition 22, where a few phases of quick ball and an excellent offload from hooker James Tracy eventually led to O'Loughlin sliding over in the right corner.
Any Zebre hopes of mounting a second-half comeback were dented 40 seconds after the break as Deegan capitalised on Marcello Violi's dawdling at the back of a ruck to cross for Leinster's third score.
The Italian side found themselves bearing down on the Leinster try line once more as Valerio Bernabo charged through, but they failed to make the most of the territory, coming away with another Canna penalty.
Leinster secured the bonus point on the hour mark as another quickly taken penalty undid Zebre.
Deegan's quick tap set the backs in motion with O'Loughlin crashing over the gain line before the No.8 got himself out on the right flank to finish off the move in style.
Zebre faded after that and Leinster showed their strength in depth as Abdaladze and B Byrne muscled over to make the scoreline very healthy from the home side's point of view.
Tries:Lowe 2, O'Loughlin, Deegan 2, Abdaladze, B Byrne
Cons: R Byrne 3
Leinster: 15 Barry Daly, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Conor O’Brien, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Devin Toner (captain), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 James Tracy, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Vakh Abdaladze, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Peadar Timmins, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Gavin Mullin.
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Gabriele Di Giulio, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Faialaga Afamasaga, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 David Sisi, 7 Jacopo Sarto, 6 Valerio Bernabò, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Roberto Tenga, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Cruze Ah-Nau, 19 Eduardo Bello, 20 Luhandre Luus, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)