Leinster 40 Glasgow Warriors 5
Six tries, a hat-trick for right wing and man-of-the-match Rob Russell, the return after injury of Rónan Kelleher and Harry Byrne offered a snapshot of what overall was a positive afternoon for Leinster at the RDS.
There were always going to be performance issues in the first game back after the November Test window, but Leo Cullen’s side had enough cohesion and quality against a Glasgow side whose energy wasn’t matched by accuracy.
In the review, discipline, tackling rather than defensive shape, and handling will come into focus, but one softened by victory. Jamie Osborne had a fine game at fullback, Russell was composed in his finishing, while the halfbacks Ross Byrne and Luke McGrath were catalysts for the team’s better moments, while Max Deegan was arguably his team’s best player.
Everyone of the pack pitched in, Scott Penny another to prosper after putting to one side some early missed tackles. Ross Molony was the epitome of industry while Kelleher and Rhys Ruddock gave the team ballast in the carrying.
Glasgow conceded a raft of early penalties in quick succession, the first cost them 40 metres as Ross Byrne producing a raking kick to the corner and from there the visitors twice transgressed at a lineout maul.
On penalty advantage good interplay from Charlie Ngatai, Ross Byrne and Jamie Osborne, the latter with a bounce pass, enabled Dave Kearney to cross unopposed for a try. Byrne added the conversion and kicked an even better one from the touchline following Leinster’s second try on 10 minutes.
Molony won a lineout just outside the Glasgow 22, Ruddock, Kelleher, and Osborne in turn, pounded their way over the gainline and when the ball was moved wide, Ngatai, just before he was shunted into touch at the corner flag, offloaded superbly for the supporting Russell to dot down. Byrne’s touchline conversion was a doozy.
Leinster had fallen off some basic tackles and might have conceded a try, but McGrath was alive to the ball being out a metre from the home side’s line, pinched possession, and Byrne completed the escape with a meaty clearance to touch.
The home side claimed a third try, and Russell’s second, when McGrath, scampered down the short side from a lineout maul, drew a couple of defenders and, Russell wriggled out of a tackle to score. Byrne’s conversion, again from the touchline, was beautifully struck.
A Liam Turner break should have led to a fourth try but couldn’t quite get his pass away to the supporting Osborne. Glasgow, with the aid of Leinster indiscipline, dominated possession and territory for the last 10 minutes of the first half but simple handling mistakes as much as Leinster tackling proved their undoing.
The home side took a 21-0 lead into the interval at which point the Leinster Heineken Cup winning squads from 2011 and 2012 led by head coach Joe Schmidt paraded on the pitch to take the applause of an appreciative home crowd. The captain of those winning sides and now head coach, Leo Cullen, was in the dressingroom sorting through a few first half glitches.
It was a patchy half of rugby, Leinster very good at times but also prone to lapses, particularly in defence; a better team would have punished them. Ruddock led by example, one taken up by Kelleher and Deegan, who added value on the ball, while McGrath and Byrne controlled and used possession intelligently.
The home side lost Ngatai to what appeared a shoulder injury sustained in the first half, replaced by Harry Byrne, appearing in his first game of the season, and playing inside centre. Leinster’s spiralling error-rate and penalty count, saw them lose Kelleher to the sin bin. Glasgow had a try disallowed, but they couldn’t keep spurning opportunities, and they didn’t.
Right wing Sebastian Cancelliere dived over for a try after a prolonged assault on the Leinster line by the pack. Penny proved an able stand-in lineout thrower; Kelleher returned just in time to watch the home side score the bonus-point try through replacement prop Michael Milne after Deegan had carried hard from a tap penalty.
Ross Byrne converted, both teams emptied a significant portion of the respective benches, but the contest continued to be dominated by referee Marius van der Westhuizen’s whistle. It’s as if the teams had an agreement to give away penalties in clusters. It made for scrappy exchanges.
The game went through a scoring hiatus until the 71st minute when Russell grabbed his hat-trick of tries. Deegan stole a lineout, Ryan Baird careered into the Glasgow 22, but it was the speed, footwork, and clever spin out of a tackle by replacement Chris Cosgrave and finally his pass, that allowed Russell to scoot over in the corner. Harry Byrne missed the difficult conversion.
Leinster signed off, to the delight of the home support, with a try from replacement hooker John McKee, which Harry Byrne converted.
SCORING SEQUENCE – 7 mins: Kearney try, R Byrne con, 7-0; 10: Russell try, R Byrne con, 14-0; 21: Russell try, R Byrne con, 21-0. Half-time: 21-0. 48: Cancelliere try, 21-5; 54: Milne try, R Byrne con 28-5; 71: Russell try, 33-5; 76: Penny try, H Byrne conversion, 40-5.
LEINSTER: Jamie Osborne; Rob Russell, Liam Turner, Charlie Ngatai, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Ed Byrne, Rónan Kelleher, Thomas Clarkson; Ross Molony, Joe McCarthy; Rhys Ruddock (capt), Scott Penny, Max Deegan.
Replacements: Harry Byrne for Ngatai (h-t); Michael Milne for E Byrne, Vakh Abdaladze for Clarkson, Jason Jenkins for McCarthy, Ryan Baird for Ruddock (all 51 mins); Cormac Foley for McGrath (59); J McKee for Kelleher (66); Chris Cosgrave for R Byrne (70).
Yellow card: Kelleher (44 mins).
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Josh McKay; Sebastian Cancelliere, Kyle Steyn (capt), Stafford McDowall, Rufus McLean; Tom Jordan, George Horne; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Murphy Walker; Sintu Manjezi, Alex Samuel; Gregor Brown, Sione Vailanu, Jack Dempsey.
Replacements: Johnny Matthews for Brown, Jamie Bhatti for Kebble, Simon Berghan for Walker, JP du Preez for Samuel, Ross Thompson for McLean (all 55 mins); Lewis Bean for Browne, Jamie Dobie for Horne (66); Euan Ferrie for Thompson (74).
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa).