Sexton enjoys Bath time
Leinster stand-off's six penalties enough at the Rec
By Graeme Mair - Twitter: @gmair 1. Last Updated: December 11, 2011 4:11pm
Defending champions Leinster twice came from behind to earn an 18-13 win over Bath at the Recreation Ground in Heineken Cup Pool Three.
Jonathan Sexton kicked six penalties, including two in the final eight minutes, to settle a hard-fought encounter in favour of the Irish province.
Bath dominated the first half but had only two Olly Barkley penalties to show for their efforts.
Matt Banahan scored the game's only try, against the run-of-play, in the 68th minute and Barkley's conversion gave Bath a 13-12 lead.
But Sexton was on target in the 74th and 80th minutes to turn things around just in time for Leinster, who are now three points clear of Glasgow at the mid-point of the group stage.
Bath, who are dealing with an injury list that runs to double figures, are now five points adrift and travel to Dublin's Aviva Stadium next Saturday for the return fixture.
Leinster had to be resolute in defence during the first half but always offered a threat on the counter, wing Luke Fitzgerald breaking out down the left in the fifth minute to start an end-to-end move.
Fitzgerald offloaded to Jamie Heaslip on his inside and the No.8 in turn found Sexton, whose long pass narrowly failed to go to hand, giving the defence just enough time to regroup.
Bath put more than 10 phases of attack together but failed to breach the try-line, eventually settling for a Barkley penalty after Leinster blindside Kevin McLaughlin infringed.
The Aviva Premiership team's dominance continued with a series of scrums in attacking position but again a three-pointer from Barkley's boot, this one from in front of the posts, was all they came away with.
And Leinster enjoyed their best period as half-time loomed, Sexton missing one penalty from wide on the left before making no such mistake from the other side of the pitch to halve the deficit to 6-3.
The Irishmen continued from where they left off after the interval, Sexton soon levelling matters with his second penalty after Dave Attwood entered from the side of a ruck.
Sean O'Brien was causing plenty of problems with his hard-running and he powered straight through Stephen Donald's tackle before Michael Claasens bundled him into touch five metres short.
But the Leinster flanker was at fault in the 49th minute when he wasted a three-on-one overlap by opting to go for the line himself, only to cough up the ball in the tackle as Donald redeemed himself.
Sexton slotted a pair of penalties to edge the visitors in front for the first time at 12-6 but they were again denied a try when replays failed to show if prop Mike Ross had managed to get the ball down under a pile of bodies.
And they were behind again in the 68th minute when Bath wingers Jack Cuthbert and Banahan combined to score off turnover ball.
Cuthbert cut in from the left and unloaded in the tackle to Banahan, who powered over from short range. Barkley added the conversion for a 13-12 advantage.
Indiscipline from Bath skipper Francois Louw reopened the door for Leinster. Sexton landed his fifth penalty in the 74th minute after the South African flanker was spotted off his feet at a ruck.
And another infringement from the same player saw him finish the match in the sin-bin as Sexton's sixth penalty sealed Leinster's win with the final kick.