Northampton post facile win over Leinster in fixture that fails to fire
Difficult to draw conclusions from game that saw over 60 players involved
Leinster’s Jordi Murphy and Tom Denton tackle Alex Corbisiero of Northampton in Donnybrook. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Leinster 13 Northampton 21: It’s hard to draw any conclusions from a pre-season friendly in which over 60 players saw game-time, many of whom had to content themselves with cameos.
That’s what this match was in essence, little staccato bursts of continuity. When these teams meet for real in the Heineken Cup it promises to be a memorable collision.
Sean Cronin got 30 minutes, Eoin Reddan, half a match, so too David Kearney so it was a worthwhile exercise, while Leinster coach Matt O’Connor got a chance to look at his academy players in the competitive environment. Northampton offered a truer incarnation of their full side for most of the game, including summer signings George North and Alex Corbisiero. Their superior competitive nous and physicality saw them forge a deserved victory before a crowd of 5,130.
Fergus McFadden was not part of the extended Leinster squad on the night. He joined Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Leo Cullen, Kevin McLaughlin and new Ireland coach Joe Schmidt among others in the stands.
The first half was flecked with the usual pre-season rustiness, dropped passes, overrunning lines and some ropey kicking but there was a high entertainment quotient.
Northampton made Leinster work harder in defence but their found their hosts a gritty proposition. There were times when Leinster’s fringe tackling was a little underpowered but they scrambled well. Shane Jennings, supplemented by his backrow colleagues worked hard to steal a couple of balls and also slow down possession. Jack McGrath was conspicuous in this aspect of the game.
Given the nature of the fare and the decision of both teams to kick for the corner rather than at goal, it was no surprise that the two tries, one apiece, came from lineouts. Coincidentally they were credited to the respective tighthead props, Leinster’s Martin Moore and the Saints’ Gareth Denman. Moore, in opposition to the Lions loosehead Alex Corbisiero, acquitted himself capably.
Clancy allowed both looseheads to walk around the outside at scrum time or conversely drive in on the angle. Penalties and free-kicks were traded like punted balls.
Brendan Macken made one excellent break, sparked by a powerful fend, while wings Darragh Fanning and Sam Coghlan Murray looked sharp and willing to work in unorthodox corridors. Jimmy Gopperth provided the glue that kept a shape on Leinster’s patterns. He was excellent in difficult circumstances.
The last 30 minutes were punctuated by a plethora of replacements, a revolving door on the sideline that hustled on and off huge numbers.
Cohesion suffered understandably and Northampton’s experience and a direct style forced Leinster to transgress in sight of their own posts. The longer the match continued the more the Saints marched on.
Leinster remained gutsy but lacked the sheer physical power to consistently break the gain-line. They put together some decent phases of play but as long as Northampton retained discipline in defence and didn’t overcommit to the breakdown they repelled the sporadic counterattacks from the home side.
Leinster coach Matt O’Connor will have appreciated the blowout for an extended squad ahead of the start of the RaboDirect next weekend.