Rewarding night for clinical Leinster
Leinster's Darren Hudson is held by Cardiff Blues' Jason Tovey during last night's clash at Cardiff Arms Park. photograph: huw evans/inpho
Cardiff Blues 11 Leinster 26:If you want to win titles then you have to turn up on the unfashionable nights, do the hard work on the worst of pitches and never lose sight of what matters most.
With more pressing matches this weekend, this was a game that slipped under most people’s radar. But there was plenty at stake for the two teams and Leo Cullen’s Leinster side showed they had by far the bigger appetite for the fight.
It was a display that allowed them to move up into second place in the RaboDirect PRO12 and close the gap on table-topping Ulster from 12 to nine points as the leaders fell to a shock home defeat to reigning champions the Ospreys.
Ian Madigan took his tally of points in the PRO12 this season to 100 with three beautifully judged first-half penalties to give Leinster a base to build on in a pretty evenly-fought first 30 minutes. Then there was a two-try sting in the tail from the visitors.
Those three successive Madigan goal kicks, on four, 28 and 32 minutes, allowed his side to nose ahead of the single penalty from his opposite number Rhys Patchell. Everything, bar the yellow card picked up by lock Tom Denton was going to plan.
But Leinster exploded into action just before the break with two tries from close range that oozed confidence and power. The first was set up by a barnstorming run from fullback Dave Kearney which left home skipper Gavin Evans counting the stars on his back, and ended with Isaac Boss doing what he does best and sniping over from the heels of his forwards.
Madigan’s conversion was a formality and the pressure began to tell on the young home side. Welsh international wing Harry Robinson carried over a kick ahead to concede a scrum five metres out and Jordi Murphy picked up and bulldozed his way over for a second try.
Madigan added the extras to make it 17 points in eight match-turning minutes for Leinster and the groundwork had been laid for a second major PRO12 away win of the year.
Owen Williams had looked dangerous on the right wing for the Blues, but they made too many handling errors to cause any major damage to the Leinster defence. On top of that, Patchell was wide with his second and third shots at goal when the Blues desperately needed the points and, apart from a few sorties from No 8 Robin Copeland, they rarely made headway.
Home coach Phil Davies, brought on two of his Welsh squad members, Josh Navidi and Scott Andrews, to reinforce his pack six minutes into the second half to try to spark a much-needed reaction.
It worked to an extent, Jason Tovey rounded off a great run by Copeland to cross for a try in the right hand corner, and Patchell added a second penalty, but it was much too little too late for the Blues. Madigan maintained his 100 per cent kicking ratio with a fourth penalty to end the mini-revival.