Leinster stunned by Northampton
Premiership men produce ferocious showing as home side struggles
Leinster’s Gordon D’Arcy passes past Northampton’s Courtney Lawes. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Leinster 9 Northampton 18
A crowd of over 47,00 were stunned as Leinster lost their return match to Northampton in Aviva Stadium. The English side, who were heavily beaten last week rebounded more than anyone could have imagined to beat one of the Heineken Cup favourites to keep Pool One of the competition alive.
Leinster woes began pre-match when Seán O’Brien failed a late fitness test. He was replaced at openside by Shane Jennings when he didn’t recover from a dead leg sustained in last week’s win in Franklins’ Gardens.
Then, far from the perfect Leinster start, it was Northampton who opened the scoring after Rob Kearney obstructed left wing Tom Collins in a foot race and conceded an early penalty.
Northampton went for touch and piled on the pressure from the lineout, the ball going wide and George North bursting through at outside centre to open the scoring on six minutes.
Stephen Myler converted for 7-0 but within minutes Ian Madigan had clawed three points back from his first shot from the tee.
It would have been stretching credulity to believe they would be the only points Leinster scored in the first half but that’s how it went as the home side stuttered for continuity and territory.
Northampton’s Courtney Lawes and number 8 Samu Manoa as well as North battered through gaps and bodies, while Myler at outhalf launched high balls that pinned Leinster in their own half for much of the play.
Only a short break of the gain line by Brian O’Driscoll early on in the half took a frustrated Leinster into the Northampton 22 as a disappointing half for the home side, which could have been worse had Myler not pulled a late penalty left, unfolded.
Leinster opened the second half brightly and when scrumhalf Lee Dickson fumbled a simple pass back, the Leinster scrum launched wave after wave of attack, tighthead Ross and Luke Fitzgerald taking the ball to the English line. But a penalty was the only return there, Madigan kicking his second for 6-7.
From there it was all Northampton and as they did in the first half, put the ball in the Leinster 22 and played the game there. The Leinster scrum went backwards more than once, while a fumble from Manoa a yard out and an inaccurate pass from fullback Pisi bursting through at pace may have had Leinster even further behind.
But a penalty on 64 minutes is all Northampton earned for their industry, Myler kicking his second for 6-10.
Hands in a ruck gave Leinster a lifeline on 72 minutes and Madigan kicked his third but shortly after Northampton earned a penalty, this time Myler screwing it right. However Leinster were again stuck in their own half, Northampton using their maul to good effect and a drop goal from replacement Kahn Fotuali’i stretching the lead to 9-13.
Leinster did rally for a late offensive and bodies poured into a robust Northampton defensive line in the closing seconds. Leinster knew it was their last chance but when a ball came out to Jamie Heaslip, the Ireland number eight dropped it, right wing Jamie Elliott picking and running the length of the pitch for a try and the match.
LEINSTER: R Kearney; D Kearney, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Fitzgerald; Madigan, Reddan; J McGrath, S Cronin, Ross, Toner, McCarthy, Ruddock, Jenninsgs, J Heaslip. Replacements: K McLaughlin for Ruddock, Bent for McGrath (both 56 mins; Kirchner for D Kearney, Moore for Ross (both 60 mins); Cullen for McCarthy (72 mins); Gopperth for Madigan (78 mins). Not Used: Dundon, Cooney. NORTHAMPTON: K Pisi; Elliott, Waldouck, Burrell, North; Myler, L Dickson; A. Waller, Hartley, Ma’afu, Lawes, C. Day, Clark, Wood, Manoa. Replacements: Mercey for L Dickson, Fotuali’i for Ma’afu (both 52 mins); S Dickinson for Manoa (67 mins); E Waller for A Waller (70 mins); Haywood for Hartley, Dowson for Lawes (both 72 mins). Not Used: G Dickson, Collins.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France).