Leinster dig deep to tame spirited Dragons
Second string side take advantage of yellow card to grind out victory in Wales
Leinster’s Zane Kirchner debuted for the province in Wales. Photograph: Gareth Everett/Inpho
Dragons 19 Leinster 23: Leinster’s second string had to dig deep to see off a spirited Dragons side at Rodney Parade on Fridaynight . With a host of injuries and internationals missing Matt O’Connor had been forced to make 11 changes for his side’s trip to Gwent and for almost an hour it looked to have cost Leinster. They were disjointed and wasteful in attack, despite being able to include Zane Kirchner for his first start of the season.
The Dragons hadn’t lost at Rodney Parade since Leinster’s last visit in March, when the visitors came out on top, 26-19, and they sensed revenge was on the cards after going into the half time break 10-6 in front.
But a yellow card for Dragons lock Adam Jones ultimately cost the home side the win as Leinster showed their ruthlessness when given a one-man advantage.
After a lacklustre opening 10 minutes Jimmy Gopperth had the chance to put Leinster in front but he dragged a penalty wide from long range. But he didn’t have to wait long for another opportunity and calmly slotted his second attempt when Lewis Evans was penalised on 12 minutes.
The restart gave the Dragons their first venture into the Leinster half and wing Tom Prydie drew them level with a long-range penalty. Both sides were struggling to find any continuity in their play and the opening 20 minutes were punctuated by a series of mistakes and penalties.
After weathering the early storm it was the home side who threatened the try line first but hooker Sam Parry lost the ball with the Dragons looking dangerous.
Leinster thought they had the game’s opening try on 27 minutes when they capitalised on Jason Tovey’s error under the high ball. Luke Fitzgerald moved the ball wide to Kirchner and his chip was superbly collected and offloaded by Noel Reid to put Gopperth in the corner. After much deliberation, the TMO decided that Reid’s foot had gone into touch when tackled by Prydie and the try was disallowed.
It proved to be a big turning point in the first half because four minutes later the Dragons scored a superb try of their own. Cooney was penalised for holding on to the ball after being put under pressure by opposite number Richie Rees at the scrum.
Rees took a quick penalty from five metres inside the Dragons’ own half and great handwork by Patrick Leach set Prydie free out wide. He found centre Ross Wardle in support to go over in the corner and Tovey added the extras.
Prydie missed the chance to put the Dragons 10 points in front on 36 minutes and Gopperth brought Leinster back to within four with a penalty on the stroke of half time.
It was the Dragons who showed the great urgency after the interval and Tovey kicked an easy penalty within two minutes of the break. Leinster were guilty of wasting a number of good opportunities in attack and for all their possession they were finding it hard to open up the Dragons. They had to make do with another Gopperth penalty for their points on 50 minutes.
It wasn’t until the Dragons handed Leinster an advantage when Adam Jones was sent to the sin bin for pulling down Rhys Ruddock at the lineout did the visitors make the most of their dominance. They choose to kick to the corner rather than take the three points and after several well-worked phases hooker Aaron Dundon powered over to leave Gopperth with an easy conversion.
With their noses back in front Leinster showed their class with a second try four minutes later. After softening the Dragons’ defence up with some short drives through the forwards they moved the ball to the blindside where Kirchner handed off Prydie and set Reid up for a 30 metre dash under the posts.
But Leinster did not have it all their own way in the final 10 minutes and a yellow card for replacement Jack O’Connell either side of two Tovey penalties set up a grandstand finish.
A late attack left the Dragons five metres from the Leinster line but the visitors held on for the win.
DRAGONS: Amos; Prydie, Leach, Wardle, Hughes, Tovey, Rees; O Evans, Parry, Way, A Jones, Screech, Groves, L Evans (c), Talei. Replacements: D Evans for Hughes, J Evans for Rees, Williams for O Evans (all 54 mins), Chaparro for Way (71 mins).
LEINSTER: Kirchner; Fanning, Fitzgerald, Reid, Tuqiri; Gopperth, Cooney; Bent, Dundon, Moore, Roux, Denton , Ryan, Jennings (c) , Ruddock. Replacements: Marshall for Denton, O’Connell for Bent, Auva’a for Ryan (all 63 mins), Macken for Fanning, Furlong for Moore (both 71 mins) , Tracey for Dundon (73 mins).
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (Ireland)