Leinster come from behind to take victory over Scarlets
Jimmy Gopperth scores 22 points as defending champions open season with bonus point win
Jordi Murphy gets the ball away for Leinster during his side’s win over Scarlets. Photograph: Ben Evans/Inpho
Scarlets 19 Leinster 42: Defending champions Leinster came from behind to claim a bonus point victory over the Scarlets in this RaboDirect Pro12 season opener at Parc y Scarlets.
Five tries from prop Martin Moore, number eight Jordy Murphy, replacement Darren Hudson, Dave Kearney and outhalf Jimmy Gopperth, who supplied a total of 22 points, saw Leinster recover from being 13-0 down.
For the Scarlets centre Steven Shingler provided 14 points with their one try coming from captain Rob McCusker. Under-strength Leinster won despite having Kearney, Hudson and Jack McGrath all yellow-carded.
British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies was rested by the Scarlets while Wales outhalf Rhys Priestland started his first competitive game since him injuring his Achilles in the Pro12 semi-final defeat to Ulster.
Hooker Ken Owens and centre Scott Williams were selected after missing Wales’ tour of Japan. Leinster fielded a weakened side minus Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Ian Madigan, Seán O’Brien and Cian Healy, with Mike McCarthy and Mike Ross on the bench, but still showed their pedigree.
However, the Scarlets had much the better of the first half to lead 16-10 at the interval. They were indebted to Steven Shingler, playing inside centre outside Priestland, who put over two penalties in the opening seven minutes. The second penalty saw Leinster fullback Kearney sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on centre Scott Williams.
The Scarlets impressive opening continued as McCusker went over under the posts for the first try although he did not appear to ground the ball properly. At that stage the Welsh region looked in control but Leinster responded with a soft try which came from a drive at a line-out with prop Martin Moore claiming the try.
Gopperth, making his league debut for Leinster, added the conversion and followed that up with a penalty to close the gap to only three points before the Scarlets took a six point lead into the second half with a third Shingler penalty.
But it was all Leinster after the break starting with a try for Murphy only 52 seconds into the half with Gopperth’s conversion putting the Irish province in the lead for the first time at 17-16.
Gopperth and Shingler swapped penalties — the second after Gopperth was sin-binned for a dangerous challenge — before Leinster ended the match with 15 unanswered points with tries for Hudson and Gopperth.
McGrath and Gareth Owen were sin-binned before Leinster rounded off their comprehensive win with a try for Kearney in the right corner, converted by Gopperth.