Leinster come from behind in Cardiff to reclaim top spot in table

Michael Milne scores two tries as visitors claim bonus-point win

URC: Cardiff 20 Leinster 33

Leinster moved back to the top of the URC table after being briefly knocked off the summit by the Bulls, but they were forced to work much harder for victory than many thought.

After racing into a 12-point lead in as many minutes, they found themselves trailing at the interval and forced to dig deep to regain their advantage over title rivals the Bulls and Glasgow Warriors.

In the end, the power of their pack and replacements enabled them to come from behind to claim another important bonus-point win on the road.


Cardiff’s spirited revival this season has seen them garner bigger crowds and get 12 of their players into Warren Gatland’s Wales Six Nations squad. They have given youth their chance and seemingly flourished.

The only problem for the Arms Park faithful is that the improvement in performances hasn’t been accompanied by an improvement in results. They came into this game seeking their first win of the year and knowing they couldn’t rise higher than their current standing of 12th even if they pulled off another miraculous win.

They still talk in reverential terms about their 29-27 win over Leinster two years ago. No doubt Leo Cullen mentioned that result in his prematch address and his side started particularly well.

Two tries flowed in the opening 10 minutes and the back line had blown enough holes in the home defence to sink a battleship. The opening score came from wing Rob Russell after neat play from his front five.

Home outside half Tibus de Beer had his kick downfield near halfway charged down by Ross Molony and the ricochet went straight to tight head prop Tom Clarkson. He ran straight and hard before giving Russell a free 40-metre race to the posts for a try that Ross Byrne converted.

Cardiff lost No 8 Lopeti Tmani a minute later and then coughed up three successive penalties in their own 22. One line drive and two tap-and-go five-metre penalties later and Max Deegan burrowed his way over for the second try.

It seemed like the perfect payback for 2022, yet over the course of the next half an hour the gutsy home side hit back with a De Beer penalty and a conversion of the first of two tries from loose head prop Rhys Carre to take a 15-12 lead into the break.

Leinster have not lost since the bruising 22-21 defeat in Dublin to Ulster on January 1st, but just for a brief moment there were a few Cardiff fans who dared to dream. It didn’t help Leinster’s cause that Jordan Larmour, celebrating his 100th game for the province, was off the field for 10 minutes either side of the interval after picking up a yellow card.

The visitors started the second half with a bang. They thought they had edged ahead when Clarkson burrowed over from a metre out, but that try was ruled out by the TMO after Byrne had hit the post with his conversion.

It didn’t matter, though, because three minutes later Michael Milne got over the line and this time Byrne added the extras. Flushed with success, Milne added a second on the hour mark to bag the bonus point.

Another replacement front rower, John McKee, added a fifth and Cardiff scored their third through Aled Summerhill as they fought to the end.

Scorers – Cardiff: Tries R Carre 2, A Sumerhil; Conversions: T de Beer; Penalties: T de Beer. Leinster: Tries: M Milne 2, R Russell, M Deegan, J McKee; Conversions: R Byrne 4

Cardiff: Jacob Beetham; Owen Lane, Max Clark, Ben Thomas, Aled Summerhill; Tinus de Beer, Ellis Bevan; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Will Davies-King, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Josh Turnbull (capt), Ellis Jenkins, Thomas Young, Lopeti Timani. Replacements: Alun Lawrence for Timani (6 mins) Willis Halaholo for Beetham (25 mins), Ciaran Parker for Davies-King (56 mins), Ben Donnell for Turnbull (56 mins), Matthew Aubrey for Bevan (71 mins), Rhys Barratt for Carré (71 mins), Dafydd Hughes for Belcher (71 mins), Lucas de la Rua for Young (73 mins).

Leinster: Jordan Larmour; Liam Turner, Jamie Osborne, Harry Byrne (Ben Brownlee 62), Rob Russell; Ross Byrne (Sam Prendergast 71), Luke McGrath (Ben Murphy 71); Jack Boyle (Michael Milne 30), Lee Barron (John McKee 53), Tom Clarkson (Michael Ala’alatoa 52), Ross Molony, Jason Jenkins (Brian Deeny 52), Will Connors (Rhys Ruddock), Scott Penny (capt), Max Deegan. Replacements: Michael Milne for Boyle (30 mins), Michael Ala’alatoa for Clarkson (52 mins), Brian Deeny for Jenkins (52 mins) John McKee for Barron (53 mins) Ben Brownlee for Byrne (62 mins), Sam Prendergast for Byrne (71 mins), Ben Murphy for McGrath (71 mins), Rhys Ruddock for Connors.

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)