D’Arcy revels in outside centre role as Leinster get back on track

Veteran’s display the high point of a competent performance at home against Cardiff

Leinster’s Rhys Ruddock scores a try despite the challenges from Cardiff’s George Watkins and Lewis Jones at the RDS Last night. Photograph: Inpho

Leinster’s Rhys Ruddock scores a try despite the challenges from Cardiff’s George Watkins and Lewis Jones at the RDS Last night. Photograph: Inpho

 

Leinster 37 Cardiff Blues 23


Normal service resumeth. Leinster got their win column on a par with their losses last night and may even have uncovered a young outside centre to fill the blackest of voids.

Okay Gordon D’Arcy isn’t young anymore – nor does he look it – but the guy still has it. There was a deft indirect assist for Mick McGrath’s result-sealing try (or so it seemed) just after half-time before he wandered under the posts himself.

A D’Arcy try? Got to go all the way back to his dashing wing days to see them with regularity. Back when his attitude was questionable. Not anymore. When slipping out of a tackle after an hour of heavy lifting he was livid with himself. He even did an O’Driscoll impression around the rucks late on.

With plenty of genuinely young 12s on the scene now, that’s that problem sorted, isn’t it Joe?

“Darce was very good,” said Leinster coach Matt O’Connor. “But he will play where we tell him. That’s the way it works.”

Kane Douglas trucked for 56 minutes on his debut. Some decent maul work but it’s too soon to tell if he will be mentioned in the same breath as Nathan Hines or even Brad Thorn. Devin Toner showed him the way with a ball-loosening smash on Cardiff scrumhalf Lewis Jones. Referee Ian Davies was the only man not impressed, going back for an earlier infringement to allow Rhys Patchell keep the visitors apace with his third successful penalty from four attempts to make it 13-9 at the break.

This was largely dour, fractured viewing. Both Ian Madigan and Jimmy Gopperth were guilty of over-clubbing line punts while Cardiff’s defence denied Leinster the platform their running game craves.

They did eventually pierce the dam – Rhys Ruddock scragging Davies away to sprint over at the right corner after 37 minutes. Madigan landed the conversion to go with two penalties. It took a gainline bust from Fergus McFadden to get the juices following. Madigan had also, accidentally, been responsible for opposite number Dafydd Hewitt’s departure with concussion following a head clash.

The really interesting development was happening on the outside. Aged 34 now, it’s been 10 long years in the trenches since D’Arcy was allowed gallop on the outer prairie.

Little opportunity

He got little opportunity to shine – opening one door that seemed wedged shut when gliding between two white jerseys but the legs never stretched into a gallop. He was even forced to inside centre after half time because Rob Kearney was pulled with an arm injury. This forced a complete reshuffle with Madigan moving to fullback and McFadden to centre as Mick McGrath’s ascent from club rugby continued.

 

But it was D’Arcy’s quick hands that finally broke Cardiff’s back. That enabled Madigan to get around the cover before McGrath dived over.

Madigan converted. That made it 20-9 and Cardiff looked finished. But Madigan made a horrible mess tracking after a routine grubber. Sliding down on the ball it squirted squirted from his grasp and into the welcoming embrace of Cory Allen. Easy try. It got worse when Davies, the Welsh referee, made what initially seemed a terrible decision for Sam Warburton’s try. Dan Fish’s pass was about three-foot forward but it glanced Mike McCarthy’s hand thereby nullifying the error. All of a sudden we had a four-point game with 15 minutes to play. Madigan tacked on a penalty to stretch the lead out to seven before McGrath delivered the bonus point try.

Poor but deserved. Scoring sequence - 4 mins: I Madigan pen, 3-0; 8 mins: I Madigan pen, 6-0; 18 mins: R Patchell pen, 6-3; 23 mins: R Patchell pen, 6-6; 37 mins: R Ruddock try, 11-6; I Madigan conv, 13-6; 40 mins: R Patchell pen, 13-9. Half-time. 46 mins: M McGrath try, 18-9; I Madigan conv, 20-9; 51 mins: G D’Arcy try, 25-9; I Madigan; 62 mins: C Allen try, 27-14; R Patchell conv, 27-18; 64 mins: S Warburton try, 27-23; R Patchell conv, 27-23; 72 mins: I Madigan pen, 30-23; L McGrath try, 35-23; I Madigan conv, 37-23.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; F McFadden, G D’Arcy, I Madigan, D fanning; J Gopperth, E Reddan; M Bent, S Cronin, M Moore; D Toner, K Douglas; R Ruddock, D Ryan, J Heaslip (capt). Replacements: M McGrath for R Kearney (half-time), J Conan for R Ruddock (53 mins), M McCarthy for K Douglas (57 mins), T Furlong for M Moore, L McGrath for E Reddan (both 64 mins) E Byrne for M Bent (69 mins), B Byrne for S Cronin (78 mins).

CARDIFF BLUES: R Patchell; A Cuthbert, C Allen, D Hewitt, G Watkins; G Davies, L Jones; G Jenkins, K Dacey, A Jones; J Hoeata, C Dicomidis; J Turnbull, S Warburton, J Navidi (capt). Replacements: A Thomas for D Hewitt (34 mins), M Rees for K Dacey, D Fish for G Watkins (both 50 mins), S Hobbs for G Jenkins (52 mins), M Cook for J Hoeata, T Filise for A Jones (56 mins), T Knoyle for L Jones (73 mins). Referee: I Davies (WRU).

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