With Saracens in salary cap trouble, Toulouse and Racing languishing in the bottom half of the top 14 and Exter slow out of the blocks in England, Leinster's quest for a European crown looks promising and they set their stall out with a hard-fought victory over Benetton in the RDS Arena.
A Garry Ringrose hat-trick as well as tries from Ronan Kelleher and Johnny Sexton got the job done on a 33-19 scoreline. It was Sexton who secured the bonus point with a try he started and finished. After a difficult six months, the 34-year old celebrated strenuously as he got back to what he does best.
Johnny Sexton that is just superb ?
A brilliant break creates a brilliant try for @leinsterrugby!
34 years young and still tearing defenses apart ? pic.twitter.com/TdB1ZB8yRJ
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) November 16, 2019
In a pool that also contains Lyon and Northampton Saints, a bonus point was always required today and while Leo Cullen's outfit were made to work for it, they achieved that aim before the hour mark.
There was plenty of pressure and possession applied by a well-drilled Italian side but last year's finalists held strong with James Ryan and Rhys Ruddock racking up the tackle count. Of the exciting youthful contingent, Ronan Kelleher once again performed brilliantly as he finished with 12 tackles and a 100% accuracy rate in the lineout.
The 21-year-old always added his seventh try of the season.
A late Luca Sperandio try was a deserved consultation for Kieran Crowley's side. As for the home team, it wasn't always a pretty performance but they are off the mark with the result they wanted. Next up is an away trip to France.