Madigan opens the door to number 10 with impressive show
Dragons 19 Leinster 26:Ian Madigan gave Ireland a timely reminder of his capabilities by orchestrating a comfortable Pro 12 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.
Madigan pulled the strings as Leinster ran riot with a devastating first-half performance in which Seán Cronin grabbed a double and Dave Kearney also scored.
The Dragons fought back with the boot of Steffan Jones and a second-half try from Ieuan Jones but Kearney wrapped up the bonus-point by completing his own brace.
The maximum points victory sees Leinster keep pace with Glasgow in the Pro 12 table and they face the Scottish province next.
With Jonny Sexton a doubt for next week’s Six Nations clash, Declan Kidney must decide whether to stick guns with Paddy Jackson or make changes. Ireland assistant coach Mark Tainton made the trip to south Wales to cast an eye over Madigan and he would have given the national selectors plenty to consider.
Fergus McFadden also started in his preferred position of outside centre, for just the third time this season, and he produced an assured performance.
McFadden was rock-solid in defence, a handful in attack and created the second try. Leinster were boosted by the return of five internationals, in a side with an abundance of experience and packing far more fire power than the Dragons.
The visitors went into the clash on the back of seven consecutive victories and have not lost to the Welsh region since December 2009.
And while the Welsh were celebrating Saint David’s Day the Dragons gave the Rodney Parade crowd little to cheer about. It took Joe Schmidt’s men just 50 seconds to open the scoring. The Dragons were lost at sea from the word go and Luke Fitzgerald eventually sent Cronin over in the corner.
Madigan converted superbly from the touchline to put the visitors in the ascendancy.
Steffan Jones hit back with a penalty for the Dragons but Leinster quickly struck with their second try. McFadden was the orchestrator, busting the hosts’ midfield to release Cronin to score in the exact same spot.
Madigan failed to add the extras but Leinster continued to run riot . Rhys Ruddock, the son of a famous man of Gwent, Mike, broke off the back of a dominant scrum and bulldozed through two defenders before offloading to Kearney.
Madigan was again on target to establish a commanding 16-point lead but to their credit the Dragons fought back. Jones slotted a quick-fire penalty and drop-goal and the hosts weathered a Leinster storm at the close of the half as the scores remained 19-9 at the break.
The Dragons continued their revival after the break and they demonstrated far more fire and passion in the second-half.
Leinster did themselves no favours by spilling the ball from the restart and following a sustained period of pressure Jonathan Evans sent Jones flying over. His namesake Steffan failed to add the extras but they continued to battle.
But Leinster rediscovered their grove and they landed a knockout blow on the 65th minute when Kearney was on the receiving end of a sweeping move to claim his second try.
Madigan maintained his impressive kicking from wide and Leinster continued to dominate as the Dragons appeared to run out of puff. But the hosts found an extra gear in the closing stages and Jones crashed over to salvage a losing bonus-point.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: D Evans; A Hughes, P Leach, J Dixon, H Amos, S Jones, J Evans; P Price, S Parry, N Buck; I Nimmo, J Groves; L Evans (capt), N Cudd, I Jones. Replacements: A Coundley for Price (52 mins), H Gustafson for Parry, D Way for Buck, A Jones for Nimmo (all 67 mins), W Evans for J Evans, R Sidoli for Groves (both 72 mins), T Prydie for D Evans (75 mins).
LEINSTER: L Fitzgerald; D Kearney, B Macken, F McFadden, F Carr, I Madigan, E Reddan; J OConnell, S Cronin, J Hagan; M Flanagan, D Toner; D Ryan, S Jennings, R Ruddock. Replacements: M Bent for Hagan, L Cullen for Flanagan (both 47 mins), E O’Malley for Macken, J McGrath for O’Connell (both 52 mins), J Murphy for Ryan (61 mins), J Conney for Reddan, A Dundon for Cronin (both 72 mins), A Goodman for McFadden (75 mins). Referee: D Wilkinson (IRFU).