Shane Horgan celebrated his signing of a new two-year contract with Leinster by grabbing two tries in the Irish province’s deserved Magners League victory over Glasgow Warriors at the RDS on Friday.
On a brisk night, Leinster warmed up the 11,717-strong crowd with an entertaining five-try display which, coupled with Cardiff’s defeat to Llanelli, has moved them ten points clear at the top of the table.
Tries from returning Ireland internationals Shane Horgan and Jamie Heaslip powered Leinster to the bonus point, after first half efforts from Shane Jennings and Michael Berne.
Glasgow were game opponents but tries in the final quarter from Moray Low and Johnnie Beattie proved to be only consolation scores.
Buoyed by their win over the Ospreys last time out, the wind-assisted Warriors got up an early head of steam thanks to two Colin Gregor penalties.
Leinster flanker Keith Gleeson, who will retire at the end of the season, was pinged for holding onto the ball at a ruck and Gregor mopped up with a smartly struck kick for a seventh-minute lead.
The Leinster pack showed good cohesion in the tight, with some short snappy runs from front rowers Bernard Jackman and Ollie Le Roux getting them within range.
But when a Leinster attacking move broke down, Glasgow’s Tom Evans did well to chase down a kick and force Horgan and Rob Kearney into a blunder which allowed Gregor to put his side 6-0 up.
Under pressure from the advancing Bernardo Stortoni and Gregor, Kearney had been forced to slap the ball into touch which could have been ruled as a professional foul.
However, Leinster took control for the remainder of the first half with Kearney, Heaslip and the electric Luke Fitzgerald lighting up their attacking play.
Fitzgerald was proving too hot to handle for the Glasgow defence and he managed to shrug off five tacklers before being brought to ground near the visitors’ 22. Standing offside, prop Low kicked the ball free from the ensuing ruck and Felipe Contepomi stepped up to land his one and only penalty goal.
Two minutes later, Glasgow’s doughty defence gave way. After a great right wing surge involving Heaslip and Kearney, flanker Jennings broke through two tackles and his momentum helped him dive over the try line.
Contepomi converted and with Glasgow struggling to get out of their half – Beattie was notably shunted back as he tried to break off the base of a scrum – Leinster struck for try number two.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Contepomi dinked a grubber kick through and with the Glasgow defenders concentrating on Horgan, stocky centre Berne was able to reach the bouncing ball first and score close to the posts.
The extras arrived from the boot of Contepomi, pushing his side 17-6 ahead at the break, and Michael Cheika’s men moved further clear on the hour mark when another delicious kick through from Contepomi was dotted down by Horgan.
Leinster had the bonus point in their sights but a defensive lapse from stand-in captain Leo Cullen allowed Low, who was set up by Pinder, to burrow over off a ruck for a 68th-minute try for Glasgow.
Gregor converted to narrow the gap to 22-13 but that was as close as the Scots could get as late tries from Heaslip, who was notching his fifth in nine league games, and Horgan, who benefited from a lovely midfield exchange between Contepomi and Jonathan Sexton, sandwiched Beattie’s breakaway effort.
The Glasgow number 8 showed admirable pace, so late in the game, to take a pass from Gregor and score to the right of the posts after the ball has squirmed away from Chris Keane at a midfield ruck.
However, there was no denying Leinster their eighth successive league win, which was topped off in the third-minute of injury-time by Horgan’s 52nd try for the province.