Leinster schooled by Dragons
Newport-Gwent Dragons 30 Leinster 14:Michael Cheika’s calculated risk to rest his big names ahead of next week’s Heineken Cup action proved costly at Rodney Parade this evening, as his vastly inexperienced side were well beaten in the Magners League by the Dragons this evening.
Wing Dave Kearney ran a late try in to put some respectability on the scoreboard but in reality Cheika’s side were outplayed and outmuscled, despite an encouraging performance from outhalf Ian McKinley, who turned 20 on Friday.
Responsibility should not rest on the shoulders of the youngsters, however, considering an experienced front five failed to control their fair share of the game.
Bernard Jackman was wayward from touch when aiming for massive targets in Malcolm O’Kelly and Devin Toner, while CJ van der Linde and Ronan McCormack - as well as the comparatively infant backrow of Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan and Stephen Keogh - failed to provide any sort of meaningful platform for their backs.
Such was the dominance of the homeside, that they secured the fastest try bonus point in the Magners League this season when the TMO Neil Ballard confirmed wing Richard Fussell had grounded the ball in the left corner after just 33 minutes.
It could have been faster had centre Tom Riley held on to the ball with the line at his mercy when receiving a pass from Fussell on 29 minutes.
Their scoring began in the fourth minute when flanker Gavin Thomas, centre Tom Riley and fullback Jason Tovey combined to send former Wales wing Aled Brew over in the right corner.
After centre Fergus McFadden had booted a Leinster penalty, Arlidge caught the visitors completely cold by taking a quick tap-penalty inside their 22 and diving over in the right corner for an opportunist score.
McKinley dropped a superb 35-metre goal but it only broke the Dragons’ momentum briefly as a drive up the middle by the pack gave scrumhalf Wayne Evans a great chance to sneak through a gap near the posts which he accepted gratefully.
Leinster were struggling to contain the home side and they broke for a fourth time when Fussell saw a chance and dashed to the corner.
A couple of penalties after the break from McFadden and Tovey kept the points difference at 19 and the European champions recovered some of the territory they gave away in the opening 40 minutes.
The game went through a quiet patch for 20 minutes as both coaches rang the changes before Leinster were accused of not binding at a scrum on their own 22 to give Arlidge an unmissable penalty in front of the posts.
Leinster maintained their defensive line but relied on McKinley’s boot to take them out of their own half as the game wound down to the end.
Scrumhalf Chris Keane also put in some good but there was little else for Cheika to be happy with, save for the a well worked consolation try from Kearney.