By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN, April 1 (Reuters) – Leinster knocked holders Saracens out of the Champions Cup on Sunday as tries from Garry Ringrose, Dan Leavy and James Lowe helped the Irish side to a 30-19 victory that completed the semi-final lineup.
Top seeds after the pool stages, Leinster were rewarded for six wins from six with a clash against the back-to-back winners and had to battle through a tight first half before running away with the second to set up a home semi-final against Scarlets.
Leinster started brilliantly and opened the scoring with a blistering break from well inside own half after four minutes when winger Lowe wriggled out of a tackle to find fellow New Zealander Isa Nacewa who put Ringrose through under the posts.
But Saracens, Europe’s dominant force for the past two seasons, muscled their way into the game and controlled possession for much of the remainder of the half as three Owen Farrell penalties pinned Leinster back.
Johnny Sexton knocked over two penalties of his own before a monster Marcelo Bosch effort from his own half cut the Irish side’s lead to 13-12 at the break.
Leinster, starting with 12 Irish grand slam winners with another two on the bench, began the second half as they did the first, looking to hurt Saracens out wide and handing Sexton the opportunity to put them back into a four point lead.
This time they did not let up and it was two of the younger grand slam winners who combined for Leinster’s second try as man-of-the-match Leavy exchanged passes with James Ryan off the back of the ruck to sprint through a gaping hole in the Saracens defence and widen the advantage.
The three time champions smelled blood and after stretching the Saracens defence once more, Lowe was driven over the line by his pack just before the hour.
Saracens replacement Blair Cowan got a try back to give the visitors a sniff with 15 minutes to go but that was as good as it got as Leinster comfortably hung on to keep open the possibility of a first ever all-Irish final with Munster facing Racing 92 in the other semi-final. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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