O’Driscoll and Leinster back in business with bonus point win
Leinster’s Brian O’Driscoll and Owen Williams of Cardiff Blues in action at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
LEINSTER 34 (Tries: Cronin, Penalty, Ryan, Madigan; Pens: Madigan 2; Cons: Madigan 4)
CARDIFF BLUES 20 (Tries: Cuthbert, Allen; Pens: Halfpenny (2); Cons: Halfpenny, Patchell
He’s back, and how. A good-sized crowd turned up to see Brian O’Driscoll kick start his 15th and last season with Leinster, and he duly hit the ground running. O’Driscoll looked lean, sharp and hungry for the ball and for work, marking the occasion with the full range of his skills and plenty of slashing breaks to boot.
O’Driscoll isn’t the only Leinster player looking in prime nick. Suitably buoyed by first starts of the season for a quartet of Lions, Leinster set about breaking down a Cardiff side (themselves boosted by the return of Sam Warburton alongside their other summer tourists Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny) from the off by hardly putting boot to ball all night on a perfect evening for running rugby.
The bonus point was accrued courtesy of a trademark show and charge for the line by Ian Madigan, who possibly came into the game under more pressure than anyone after watching Jimmy Gopperth stake his claim over the previous three games. Coupled with a six from six, 19-point haul, Madigan threw down his marker as best he could and Matt O’Connor’s selection at outhalf for next Saturday’s Thomond Park rendezvous will be interesting.
Cardiff, despite last week’s ignominious defeat at home to Zebre, demonstrated a good deal more spirit than they have on several previous visits to Dublin. This was their eighth defeat in eight visits to the RDS.But they were full of running intent and kept Leinster honest for much of the night.
For all the running rugby, ultimately it was the efficiency of Leinster’s pack at set-piece time which laid the foundations, their scrum earning one seven-pointer and their lineout maul another as well as providing the foundations for Madigan’s final flourish.
For all their clever lines and willingness to go wide, not all of Leinster’s handling will have pleased themselves or O’Connor. While playing with impressive depth and width, at times they were a little too lateral and too much of the passing made the receiver check his stride. Still, it was hardly going to be perfect given such a revamped line-up.
They set the tone when O’Driscoll was straight into the action with a hard straight carry off Madigan’s flat skip pass but with Marius Mitrea particularly harsh on players coming in from the side Cardiff made much the brighter start. Halfpenny deservedly opened the scoring when Jamie Heaslip was pinged for a mild off the ball hit.
Although there was further evidence of Leinster’s harder line speed in defence, there were defensive glitches too in the middle, O’Driscoll’s opposite number Owen Williams making a couple of clean line breaks before aggressive defending by Heaslip and Quinn Roux earned a relieving penalty.