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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 18:11 GMT
Leinster beat brave Bristol
Heineken Cup - Pool 4
Bristol 12-25 Leinster
Leinster completed a 100% record in Pool Four of the Heineken Cup with a hard-earned victory over a battling Bristol outfit.
London Irish's surprise victory over Toulouse on Sunday means that Leinster have avoided a last eight-tussle against their Irish rivals Munster.
Instead, Leinster will have a home quarter-final against Biarritz.
Bristol started the match knowing that they had to win by 45 points and score nine tries into the bargain - or by 46 points and eight tries to qualify for the last eight.
The home team made the running early on with Felipe Contepomi putting the Leinster defence under pressure with a number of probing kicks.
However, Leinster then broke downfield to score a try in the ninth minute from their very first attack.
Aidan McCullen, a late replacement for Leo Cullen, stormed over the line unopposed after a ruck which must have sickened the Bristol players after their lively start.
O'Meara added the difficult conversion to extend Leinster's advantage.
With Leinster now firmly in gear, Brian O'Driscoll crashed over for a second try on the quarter-hour after Denis Hickie's break had set up a ruck near the Bristol line.
To their credit Bristol kept battling and a 25th minute attack was finished by recalled Phil Christophers crashing over the Leinster line after a superb long pass by centre Daryl Gibson.
However, Christophers picked up a knee injury in scoring the try and had to leave the field shortly afterwards to be replaced by England A international Martin Shaw.
Argentine star Contepomi then produced a superb break from his own half but his attempted grubber kick for David Rees bobbled into touch.
Leinster lost Irish international full-back Girvan Dempsey in the second quarter with David Quinlan introduced and Gordon D'Arcy switching from the wing to full-back.
However just as earlier on, Bristol's period of supremacy was ended by a Leinster try.
Fly-half Christian Warner produced a deft kick ahead from inside the Bristol 22 which enabled Shane Horgan to claim the touchdown.
In first half injury-time, Leinster lock Aidan McCullen was sin-binned after committing a blatant offside offence in a ruck.
With Leinster a man down, Bristol sensed a chance to notch a try before the break and so it proved with winger David Rees diving over in the corner after a slick back movement.
Contepomi's conversion left brought Bristol to within five points of Leinster at the break.
Bristol bossed the opening 10 minutes of the second half but failed to score.
Contepomi threatened the Leinster line with another superb break and from the resulting line-out, Bristol drove over the opposition line but were held up.
But the Argentine star was sin-binned in the 64th minute for an offence which led to O'Meara extending Leinster's lead to eight points.
Despite losing Contepomi, Bristol charged downfield and Martin Shaw seemed certain to score a try only for Shane Horgan to produce a sensational tackle and avert the danger.
At the other end of the field, McCullen made the game safe for Leinster by scoring his second try of the afternoon six minutes from time.
The score had an element of controversy with McCullen appearing to have been held up after crashing over the Bristol line but referee Nigel Owens thought otherwise.
Bristol: L Best, D Rees, A Higgins, D Gibson, P Christophers, F Contepomi, A Pichot, A Sheridan, P Johnstone, J White, G Archer (capt), A Brown, M Salter, R Beattie, R Oakley. Replacements: S Nelson, E Bergamaschi/S Morgan, D Crompton, M Lipman, P Richards.
Leinster: G Dempsey, D Hickie, B O'Driscoll, S Horgan, G D'Arcy, C Warner, B O'Meara, R Corrigan (capt), S Byrne, E Byrne, A McCullen, M O'Kelly, E Miller, V Costello, K Gleeson. Replacements: P Coyle, G Hickie, A Kearney, D Dillon, B O'Riordan, N Spooner, D Quinlan.
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