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The curtain call: It’s no surprise drapes are making a big comeback

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Prized for warmth and statement style, curtains are making a comeback. Choose the right fabric, get the perfect hang and your windows will be the star of the show.

Since the turn of the millennium, we’ve been taking down our curtains in favour of putting up Scandi-style blinds and an array of shutters. But this year, they’re set to make a comeback.

Curtains have always introduced a sense of cosiness. Versatile and sumptuous, they set the tone of a room, adding colour, interest and warmth. 

Kiss the floor: Cabbages & Roses Paris Rose curtains, £50, www.terrysfabrics.co.uk. Curtains can set the tone of a room, adding colour, interest and warmth

Kiss the floor: Cabbages & Roses Paris Rose curtains, £50, www.terrysfabrics.co.uk. Curtains can set the tone of a room, adding colour, interest and warmth

Keen to invest? Rather than buying the most expensive fabric, pay attention to texture, fullness and finish.

Curtain up

The cosseting nature of curtains is perhaps part of their appeal.

‘Right now, they create a sense of familiarity and calm,’ says interior designer Lisa Bradburn. ‘There is something comforting about drawing the curtains at night and shutting out the world.

‘The pandemic has made us crave a return to nature, too. I’m finding that clients are drawn to linens, soft wools and cottons, which all induce a sense of wellbeing.’

Choosing the right curtain depends on the purpose; are they to filter the light, provide privacy, or to add warmth or softness?

‘Assessing these priorities will help guide fabric choices as there are so many options from natural plains to embroidered prints and luxurious weaves,’ says Thomas Sanderson’s Laura O’Connell. 

Bear in mind that curtains can add drama to a room or act as a subtle, but unifying decorative note. Bold patterns can work brilliantly but large drapes will become a substantial feature when drawn. So choose a print that you can live with.

‘If you have a lot of colour and pattern in a room already, then picking a complementary yet muted design with a decorative border or trim will help balance the space out,’ says Kelling Designs’ Emma Deterding. 

‘Conversely, a neutral scheme benefits from bolder drapes, whose colour or pattern can be picked up in cushions and accessories.’

Drawn and altered

Made-to-measure or ready-made? There are some quality, affordable choices among ready-to-hang, but don’t assume that bespoke will be out of your price range.

‘You can use an inexpensive linen with which to have curtains and blinds made, without breaking the bank,’ says curtain specialist Stephanie Douthwaite. 

‘And there are also some online warehouses selling designer fabrics at a fraction of the cost.’

Whether you go for off-the-peg or bespoke, consider length, too. Full-length curtains, even at small windows, look more modern than half-height curtains.

‘In a busy kitchen with garden doors, you may prefer to keep the curtains just skimming the floor, but in cosier spaces such as living rooms and bedrooms, options that ‘kiss’ the floor, using an extra 2cm to 5cm in length, work well,’ says Alice Mackenzie-Charrington.

Lined curtains can help create a fuller look and block out much of the light. Interlined curtains, which have an additional layer, provide extra insulation and light reduction.

‘Some fabrics, such as silk or velvet, are more affected by sunlight than others, which can cause them to fade or deteriorate,’ warns interior designer Louise Robinson (louiserobinsoninteriors.com). ‘At a west or south-facing window, a lining is advisable to act as a protective barrier.’

All the trimmings

Don’t neglect trimmings and fittings. ‘Trimmings can turn everyday curtains into something extraordinary,’ says Samuel & Sons’ Marisa Gutmacher (samuelandsons.com). ‘A large-scale high contrast geometric border creates a bold statement, while a waterfall of cascading tassels or pom-pom fringing introduces a playful note.’

How your drapes hang is also determined by their heading. Traditional pleats — pinch, double, triple and cartridge — produce a curtain that hangs uniformly from top to bottom. More contemporary wave styles, which stack back neatly, work well with large windows.

If you are hanging curtains from a pole, think about size and scale. Use narrow rods with sheers and weightier rods for substantive fabrics.

‘Try adding a pelmet to the top of the curtains instead of a pole if you would like to have blinds too as this offers added depth for fitting or helps to project curtains over shutters, for example,’ advises Nicole Salvesen (salvesengraham.com).

Measuring is often best left to the experts. John Lewis & Partners (johnlewis.com) offers a complimentary service which is available virtually, too. And Hillarys (hillarys.co.uk) has advisers who offer home visits.

Choose curtains with these tips in mind and you’ll have a result that adds up to more than just window dressing.

What your home really needs is a… storage basket 

The £40 Idaho black basket, pictured, from Habitat is at Argos (argos.co.uk)

The £40 Idaho black basket, pictured, from Habitat is at Argos (argos.co.uk)

Basket weaving, the world’s oldest craft, rose to popularity because the materials (grasses and reeds) were freely available, but also because these containers were handy for carrying and storing stuff.

Not much has changed, although back in 27,000 BC when baskets were first made, nobody envisaged their use as the place to stash ugly working-from-home kit in the 21st century.

But this is one of the reasons that your home needs some large baskets now.

In an ideal world, we would all be tidying up and ridding ourselves of unwanted impedimenta. But, in practice, we don’t have the inclination, and baskets give the impression of order.

The Cotswold Company (cotswoldco.com) has a £225 hall bench with three large baskets.

And Not On The High Street (notonthehigh street.com) has square handwoven baskets for £45. Ikea’s £12 Branas basket comes in natural, grey or white rattan (ikea.com). 

The £40 Idaho black basket from Habitat is at Argos (argos.co.uk). A small price to pay to hide laptops, cables and other unlovely items.

ANNE ASHWORTH

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‘I learned a lot from Michaela’

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‘I lived through the darkness and learned how to move away’: The football manager looks back on the 10 turbulent years since his daughter’s murder

“I hope it is useful to people, that is what I really hope,” Mickey Harte says on the publication of his memoir Devotion, an account of what has been a turbulent and often heart-wrenching decade for the Ballygawley man and his family.

“I lived through the darkness and learned how to move away” are the stark words on the back of the book. It’s a coda for the shocking murder of Harte’s daughter Michaela McAreavey while on her honeymoon with John McAreavey in Mauritius in January 2011

That tragedy, while Ireland was still in a post-Christmas slumber, was a reminder that the country is a village: the outpouring of sympathy was national. There followed a protracted trial of two resort employees and their controversial acquittal, an ongoing quest for justice and, as chronicled here, the family’s attempts to fight their way through seasons of bewilderment.

A strong Catholic faith, which Harte has always openly espoused, runs through the narrative. His daughter had been an ardent supporter of the Tyrone senior football team since he became manager in 2003, the year they won the first of three senior All-Ireland titles in six years. Father and daughter were fast friends.

He stayed on as manager after the tragedy, the team winning two further Ulster titles and reaching the All-Ireland final of 2018. Harte coached the side through a serious cancer diagnosis, turning up for games when he should really have been in bed.

Harte’s 30-year involvement with Tyrone came to an end last November when he sat in a car in the dark with team captain Mattie Donnelly for 90 minutes during a county board meeting in Garvaghey, waiting for a text that never arrived.

He was always one to keep moving and was soon appointed Louth manager. He watched Tyrone win its fourth All-Ireland last September. “I’d a good seat in the Hogan Stand and enjoyed every minute of it.”

Harte now has more time to play golf and knocks down kilometres on a time-battered treadmill in the shed. Apart from an early morning daily visit to the local chapel, he doesn’t really know where the day will take him.

The room in which he is sitting for this interview, talking into a laptop screen, is filled with sunlight. More often than not, the house is teeming with grandchildren. It is, he says, a good time for his wife, Marian, and himself. And the publication of this book marks the end of a project that was intense and revelatory.

“It was an organic evolution of a conversation,” he says of the collaboration with the Kildare journalist Brendan Coffey. It began with a casual chat; they sparked, a sense of trust and friendship developed, and over the course of several years they talked about Harte’s life through the prism of the past decade.

The book is told in Harte’s words but also includes short, piercing first-person accounts of the days after Michaela’s death from her brothers and husband.

“It was enlightening for me, too, the way Brendan dealt with this and had these interviews with our sons and with John,” Harte says now.

“That, I suppose, told a tale for me that was very valuable because we had never sat down and had that individual in-depth conversation with each other. You felt you knew what was going on in everybody’s mind but you didn’t see it through their eyes.”

Although the subject matter of the book is harrowing in places, one of its achievements is to present a rounded memory of Michaela Harte, later Michaela McAreavey: kind, mischievous, a chatterbox, into glamour, a sister who could offer sound advice to her brothers and also drive them up the walls; a young woman who, in high-octane Celtic Tiger Ireland, was completely unfazed by the fact that her values and beliefs were not always in step with those of broader society.

“Aye. She was loyal to the faith she believed in and grew up in. And she held fast to the traditions and standards of the church as she saw it. She was that kind of person. And that made me very proud of her. I liked her single-mindedness. I liked her ability to say: the right thing is more important than the popular thing in her eyes.”

I learned a lot from Michaela’s life in the things she liked. She loved older people. She loved her granny and grandad

Marian and Mickey Harte had three boys and one girl. Although a broken finger as a child ended Michaela’s interest in playing Gaelic football, she began accompanying her father to team training when she was a kid and never lost the habit. It was their thing long before he became senior manager.

The Hartes raised their children in an orthodox Catholic tradition. It was and remains a central element of how they live. Throughout his new book, Harte remembers how his daughter practised her faith .

“Did I learn anything? Well, maybe not from her faith. I learned a lot from Michaela’s life in the things she liked. She loved older people. She loved her granny and grandad. She was attracted to older people – to stewards at gates at games, say, maybe because she could work her way past all of them with her charm and get to places she couldn’t otherwise get to.

Mickey Harte with daughter Michaela and son-in-law John McAreavey on their wedding day in Ballymacilroy, Co Antrim in January 2011. ‘He was one of our family. He was special in Michaela’s life so he is always going to be special in our lives too.’ Photograph: Irish News
Mickey Harte with daughter Michaela and son-in-law John McAreavey on their wedding day in Ballymacilroy, Co Antrim in January 2011. ‘He was one of our family. He was special in Michaela’s life so he is always going to be special in our lives too.’ Photograph: Irish News

“And she had an equal love for children. Young children would gravitate to her, and she would be all over them. So she had a love for both age groups. I noticed the connection with the grandparents, the sheer love she had for them, and learning and hearing from things of theirs back in the day. More so with Marian’s because my parents died when she was young.

“And I noticed the sheer love between a grandparent and grandchild. And she taught me that – I am that grandparent now.”

Her death naturally asked different questions of how each of the family relied upon and practised their faith. His son Mattie had begun to ask himself serious questions in the aftermath: it seemed as if he might be on the verge of quitting religion. Instead, he took a dive into the doctrine and experienced what is described as a profound spiritual crossing.

Harte speaks as openly and naturally about Catholicism as he does Gaelic football. But he smiles at the idea that he might judge how others do or don’t practice.

“It would be no business of mine to judge anybody else in what they do with their faith. I would see it as a faith handed on to me from previous generations who probably weren’t as questioning as today. But there is probably a lot to be said for the way they believed even if it wasn’t a searching belief, if you like. And I would think that because some people throw that out as archaic, they haven’t replaced it with much of substance. That’s an issue, I feel.

“And I never could see that if you are a Catholic and there are certain things the Catholic faith teaches, why would you be considered sort of rare because you do that?”

Because certain people within the church did certain things that weren’t right… does that destroy all the good work that went on? There has to be a sense of balance

He nods at the obvious response: that if the visit of Pope John Paul in 1979 was the high-water mark of mass-movement Catholicism, the litany of abuse scandals and the gradual erosion of influence has seen a big retreat.

“Is there not a slight sense of imbalance there?” he reasons. “That because certain people within the church did certain things that weren’t right and weren’t good… does that destroy all the good work that went on? There has to be a sense of balance.

“I think that far and away the people in religious life are very good people who have a serious impact on people’s lives. It is so easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater. To say these things went on – so is the get-out clause not living your faith because someone did it in a poor fashion? That does a great disservice to the great number of really good priests and religious who have been part of our lives.”

There has always been a radical aspect to Harte’s public profile. His first All-Ireland-winning Tyrone team was sensationally confrontational in its antic, chaotic style, which sent the sport itself in a different direction.

Feted as an innovative manager, Harte was a gifted footballer whose Tyrone career was sabotaged by an internal club row that opened a chasm within the community. A full decade of friendships frosted over, and the Ballygawley community was effectively locked out of official football in the 1980s. The only reason it was patched up was because the elders realised that the juvenile Peter Canavan was a once-in-a-century proposition – that it would be immoral not to have him playing for Tyrone.

Harte has never regretted a second of that standoff because, as he outlines, he believes he was doing the right thing on principle. It’s his first and only arbiter. He has broken from convention, such as his appearance at a rally for Seán Quinn in 2012. He is completely indifferent to the court of public opinion in expressing his beliefs, Catholic or otherwise.

His standoff with RTÉ, which has parallels with the club football row, is now a decade long, and Harte is adamant that he won’t speak or deal with the Irish state broadcaster again. Ever.

Until 2010, his relationship with RTÉ was cordial if unremarkable. In that year, he sent a private letter to the director general and board chairman to protest what he felt was a demotion in the games assigned to Brian Carthy, the Gaelic Games correspondent for RTÉ Radio.

Carthy was and remains a popular and highly-regarded figure on the GAA circuit, and other managers voiced the same concerns. Harte heard nothing back for over a week. Some kind of conciliation was then reached through Tyrone county board officials but, shortly after that, the contents of the letter appeared in a national newspaper. RTÉ denied that it was responsible for the leak. Harte cannot believe this is the case.

“That’s fair to say. From where it landed anyway, whether it was the individuals it was sent to, I’m not prepared to say that. But it was sent as a private and confidential correspondence. And someone got a good look at it.”

The point of no return occurred in the summer of 2011. An ill-devised sketch lampooned Harte for attending the Dalai Lama conference in Limerick with his son-in-law. The sketch closed with the playing of Pretty Little Girl from Omagh, which the family felt was grossly insensitive.

While he refused to communicate with RTÉ, he emphasises that he never stopped the Tyrone players from doing so. “They were supporting me, which I really respected. But I never stopped the players from talking.”

It appears that at an institutional level they were saying we have to put manners on this boy because otherwise he is going to cause us bother. That is how it appeared to me

His belief remains that the breakdown originated in the letter of support he sent, and he rejects the idea that having made his point, it might be easier to just let it go.

“Naw, there is a time to do that and a way to do that,” he says. “And when that time and that way passes, it isn’t there anymore. It appears that at an institutional level they were saying we have to put manners on this boy because otherwise he is going to cause us bother. That is how it appeared to me.”

 

These are the two sides of Harte. He is utterly rigid on points of principle yet completely adaptable in unexpected ways. Somehow, there is plenty of laughter in a book dealing with such weighty subjects.

He never visited Mauritius. Their son Mark volunteered to fly out in the nightmarish aftermath and attended the trial. But he says he would, in theory, like to ask the two men charged with his daughter’s death if it had been worth it, just to cover up a thieving ring. His hope would be that they would at least acknowledge that what happened in that room was not intentional.

Michaela and John McAreavey on their honeymoon. Photograph: McAreavey family handout/PA Wire
Michaela and John McAreavey on their honeymoon. Photograph: McAreavey family handout/PA Wire

“Because I think it would be better if that were the case. And of the two men implicated in this –albeit they were acquitted – of the two, I feel there were two different personalities and people. And I think one of them found himself in a place that he happened to be in and might not have wanted to be in. I am not so sure about the other one.

“So I think I might hear two different stories there. I think one of them would be capable more than the other of doing whatever he felt necessary to save his face or the vice ring that was going on in terms of the stealing that was there. So I just have a picture of two different people being there. That is my impression. One knew what he was doing and the other happened to be implicated by his presence.”

The passages where he recounts the six weeks John McAreavey spent living with the family after the murder are very pure and sad. They walked early in the morning, made simple breakfasts, and talked and talked. Harte asked his son-in-law if he was okay for that to be included.

“He was one of our family. He was special in Michaela’s life so he is always going to be special in our lives too. And he gave that sense of Michaela’s presence still being there. He was so important to her and he meant so much to her in life that it was good to have him around in those darkest days. I think it would have been a mutual feeling in that it made him feel he had some connection with Michaela. It was very difficult but thank God we are well beyond it now.”

That comes across. It’s clear the Hartes have an intricate and steadfast network of friendships within the Ballygawley and greater Tyrone community. Disappointed as Harte was with his closing hour as Tyrone manager, he holds no recriminations and looks back on the 30 years with pride. In the end, he was happy to be just another Tyrone fan last September.

“Yes, it would have been lovely to be there on the sideline. You can’t deny that. But the next best thing is to be there when Tyrone win it. I told the group of players before I left that I wanted to win an All-Ireland for them. Because we did soldier a long time and I think we built those players up over a number of years to get to that level so yes it would have been nice to cross the line with them again. But I am so glad that they got there.”

Now it is autumn and Mickey Harte has time to sit back. He has reached a stage where, he says towards the end, he is “mad about life, savouring every minute”. Louth training will resume in the new year. In the meantime comes the publication of this book and his hope that it might bring solace to other people.

“It is very emotional, obviously,” he says. “That is the big thing. It is not even the heavy parts, if you like. There are little times and phrases and sentences. Like when my son Michael wrote the letter to me . . . I mean, that was a big thing that I didn’t think would affect me the way it did. But it did. And other times you just read little lines and nuances and the in-depth treatment of that time and how things were. It is an emotional read.

“But I would balance that off with believing there can be some great value to others when they read this and that there can be a sense of hope from difficult and dark places. And to me that is a price worth paying. Going through the emotion again is a price worth paying if I can help someone else have a sense of hope in their life when that seems all nigh impossible.”

Devotion: A Memoir by Mickey Harte with Brendan Coffey is published by Harper Collins Ireland

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Everlasting appeal of dried flowers: Chic, sustainable and great value

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The roots of the dried flower revival, one of this season’s biggest style movements, lie in the new love affair with floral patterns. 

At this week’s Decorex, the London trade show that features the key trends for the year ahead, blooms and foliage adorned cushions and wallpapers, as the era of minimalism retreats further into history.

But there are other reasons why dried flowers — which were one of the smartest home accessories of the 1980s — have returned from obscurity, making the latest in a long series of comebacks.

On trend: Dried flower bouquets - which were one of the smartest home accessories of the 1980s - have returned from obscurity

On trend: Dried flower bouquets – which were one of the smartest home accessories of the 1980s – have returned from obscurity

The ancient Egyptians were the first to dry flowers, decorating tombs with sacred lotus blossoms. The drying and pressing of flowers was also a favourite Victorian pastime.

Today, amid growing concern for the planet, dried flowers are increasingly considered to be the eco-friendly choice.

Interiors expert and entrepreneur Alison Cork says: ‘Thanks to new techniques, dried flowers are more beautiful than ever before; they are no longer the second-class citizens in the floral hierarchy.

‘Also the zeitgeist is changing. Dried flowers are seen as more sustainable. People do not like the waste involved in fresh flowers — or how expensive they can be.’

Bouquets, particularly those with orchids or out-of-season roses, can harm the environment, either through the use of pesticides in their cultivation, or through their transportation. About 86 per cent of cut flowers are imported.

 Anyone raising an eyebrow at the return of dried flowers will be relieved to learn that they are not accompanied by other 1980s’ accessories, such as floor-sweeping curtains and swagged blinds

Cost-consciousness is another major factor behind the rise of what people are calling ‘brown flowers’, although many displays are colourful, and contain twigs and leaves.

With a little maintenance, a £25 bunch of dried flowers will delight for years, while a fresh flower bouquet may be consigned to the bin only a few days after its delivery.

Anyone who is raising an eyebrow at the return of dried flowers on snobbish grounds will be relieved to learn that they are not accompanied by other 1980s’ accessories, such as floor-sweeping curtains and swagged blinds.

The interiors of the lavish homes in the shoulder-pad TV saga Dynasty were the influence for these pieces, which, for the moment, are not predicted to burst back into fashion… although never say never.

Pick of the bunches: John Lewis offers the Luxury Brights priced at £69.95

Instead, those people who always prefer an understated interior style will choose a dried flower arrangement as a nod to the vogue for florals. 

If you prefer neutral shades, Phohm, a business based in Brighton, offers the £45 Ombre, a bunch of Pampas grass, palm leaves and reeds.

Beards & Daisies has the £32.99 Wild Honey, a mix of papaver, plume, protea and ruscus (beardsanddaisies.co.uk). The £50 Sinead from Bloom & Wild contains a blend of blues and autumnal hues.

John Lewis has a wide selection including the Ixia Meadow (£44.99), ideal for a pine table in a cottage kitchen; and the Luxury Brights (£69.95), whose pinks and purples would provide a bolt of colour in a pale bedroom.

If off-the-shelf bunches are not to your taste, making your own dried flower arrangements can provide an outlet for your creativity — and also a form of therapy. This is how it has always been regarded in Japan, where Oshibana, the pressing of flowers, is considered an art form.

Learning the finer points of this craft was part of the training of 16th-century Samurai warriors, who needed better powers of concentration, rather than ways to beautify their homes.

Jennifer Stuart-Smith of Blooming Green, a floristry business, based in Yalding, Kent, which grows all its own flowers using chemical-free methods, says that it is easy to dry your flowers in an airing cupboard or in a warm, dry place in your home.

She says that one of the best guides on the subject is Cut & Dry: The Modern Guide To Dried Flowers, From Growing To Styling, by Caroline Dunster.

Stuart-Smith adds: ‘I had always been a bit sniffy about dried flowers, considering them to be dusty and old-fashioned, but then I started to see how they were being used in interiors in hip East London homes and restaurants.

‘We were also getting requests for wedding bouquets with pampas grasses.

‘I realised this was a trend that we could not ignore — and that we could dry our own flowers and also reduce waste, which is one of the goals of our business. We now supply dried flowers to Planet Organic, the organic supermarket.’

Such is the interest in the DIY approach to dried flower decor that Blooming Green is running £180 one-day courses on the subject, which combine practical skills with mindfulness. The next will be held on November 7.

Besides busting stress, dried flowers also provide an excuse to show off vases which sit unused in the winter months when your garden is no longer an easy source of greenery.

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Leinster power past Scarlets to make it five wins from five

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Leinster 50 Scarlets 15

The Leinster pack can legitimately claim ownership of this victory. Seven tries and five try-scorers (all forwards), best encapsulated where a fourth victory started and finished. That’s not to say that the backs didn’t contribute; as the game broke open late-on, they chipped in with some searing line-breaks but the pack deserve the kudos.

Dominant in the scrum, they emphatically outmuscled the visitors, often from close range. Once they got the hang of using footwork to win the collisions, they cut the Scarlets open time and again. It could have been a great deal worse for the visitors on the scoreboard but not too many in the crowd of 14,055 will grumble.

Leinster didn’t start slowly, there were times when their handling and decision-making was a little forced but for the most part, there was enough to admire in the performance. The tempo and width were good and when they got into the Scarlets 22 most of the time they came away with points.

The home side started slowly and a penalty try in first half injury time put a bit of a sheen on a first half performance that was fitful. The Scarlets produced one or two moments of enterprising back play but dominated up front they were always going to be second best.

The Leinster pack was largely excellent, Garry Ringrose the pick of the backline, while the bench provided the desired impact, Ryan Baird’s athleticism and Dan Sheehan’s brace of tries providing the headlines.

Scarlets’ Gareth Davies and Ryan Conbeer compete in the air with Hugo Keenan. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Scarlets’ Gareth Davies and Ryan Conbeer compete in the air with Hugo Keenan. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

After last week’s shellacking, the Scarlets would have been keen for a positive start to the match and they managed it as the home side lost a couple of aerial duels and when man of the match Ciarán Frawley was pinged for not rolling away at a ruck on the Leinster 22; Sam Costelow kicked the resultant penalty.

Johnny Sexton’s chip and chase was the catalyst for Leinster’s response on seven minutes, the Leinster captain posting a penalty after the visitors transgressed at a ruck and his boot almost provided a conduit to the game’s first try, a cross-kick towards Caelan Doris was just undercooked, allowing Ryan Conbeer to get his fingertips there first and crucially divert the flight path.

It was the visitors that registered the first try, a well-worked blindside move that owed hugely to a lovely offload from Scarlets centre Johnny Williams out of the tackle and the fact that James Lowe bit in unnecessarily. Fullback Ioan Nicholas timed his pass perfectly to allow McNicholl scoot over in the corner.

Leinster might have snatched an equalising try when Nicholas made a hash of a cross-kick for which he should have been odds-on favourite. Jordan Larmour did well to force the Scarlets fullback to lose the ball but following a TMO review Hugo Keenan, hunting the bouncing ball, was adjudged not to have grounded it correctly in the in-goal area.

The Scarlets respite was short-lived. A brilliant 40 metre surge from Jack Conan was the most telling part of the preamble to a try from hooker Rónan Kelleher, following a well-crafted lineout drive. A second soon followed, this time Jamison Gibson-Park’s dancing feet close to the Scarlets line, allowing the outstanding Andrew Porter to power over from close range.

Leinster’s Rónan Kelleher scores a try at the back of a maul. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Leinster’s Rónan Kelleher scores a try at the back of a maul. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Sexton converted the latter to give the home side a 15-8 lead after 29 minutes. Leinster’s enterprise could not be faulted but a lack of accuracy prevented them from extending that advantage on a more regular basis. They did finish the half with another scoring salvo.

The Scarlets conceded two scrum penalties five metres from their line and, from a third, referee Marius van der Westhuizen, having issued a collective warning to the visitors, walked under the posts to signal a penalty try. Leinster’s 22-8 lead was a fair reflection of their dominance.

Once Porter, Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong and Conan started to win the collisions on the gainline – Garry Ringrose was excellent in beating the first tackle time and again – the home side had the platform they needed to inject pace and width that allowed them to corral the Scarlets in their 22 for large periods of the half.

Doris grabbed the bonus point try five minutes after the restart which owed to a touch of good fortune initially as the ball pinballed around until Kelleher took control, surging 20 metres before passing inside to his teammate to touch down. Frawley kicked the conversion but was forced off from the restart following a clash of heads with Scarlets scrumhalf Gareth Davies. He was replaced by Tommy O’Brien but later returned.

The Scarlets responded with a try from flanker Tomas Lezana, converted by Dan Jones on 49 minutes, but Leinster’s power game was soon in evidence once again, first earning a scrum penalty with the pack collaborating again soon after to shunt replacement prop Cian Healy over the line.

Dan Sheehan crossed for Leinster’s sixth and seventh tries, the first another example of their physical superiority. A lineout maul enabled the replacement hooker to force his way over from close range; the second came from a Byrne cross-kick after excellent work by Larmour and Ringrose in which Sheehan re-gathered the breaking ball to dot down.

Scoring sequence – 2 mins: Costelow penalty, 0-3; 7: Sexton penalty, 3-3; 17: McNicholl try, 3-8; 23: Kelleher try, 8-8; 28: Porter, Sexton conversion, 15-8; 40 (+3) penalty try, 22-8. Half-time: 22-8. 45: Doris try, Frawley conversion, 29-8; 49: Lezana try, Jones conversion, 29-15; 61: Healy try, Byrne conversion, 36-15; 69: Sheehan try, Byrne conversion, 43-15; 77: Sheehan try, Byrne conversion, 50-15.

Leinster: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, C Frawley, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), J Gibson-Park; A Porter, R Kelleher, T Furlong; R Molony, J Ryan; C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: T O’Brien for Frawley 47-57 (HIA) and 65 mins; R Byrne for Sexton 50 mins; L McGrath for Gibson-Park 56 mins; D Sheehan for Kelleher 56 mins; C Healy for Porter 56 mins; M Ala’alatoa for Furlong 56 mins; R Baird for Molony 60 mins; Moloney for Ryan (HIA) 68 mins; R Ruddock for Doris 69 mins.

Scarlets: I Nicholas; J McNicholl, J Davies (capt), J Williams, R Conbeer; S Costelow, G Davies; W Jones, K Owens, WG John; S Lousi, L Ashley; A Shingler, T Lezana, B Thomson. Replacements: T Rogers for McNicholl (HIA) 20-29 mins; S Lee for John half-time; R Elias for Owens 47 mins; D Jones for Costelow 47 mins; R Evans for W Jones 56 mins; K Hardy for Davies 56 mins; Rogers for J Davies 61 mins; S Evans for Shingler 61 mins; M Jones for Ashley 73 mins.

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa).

Sin Bin: J McNicholl (Scarlets) 68 mins.

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