Late penalty try secures Leinster win over Cardiff
Irish province struggled their way through first home Pro12 game of the new season
Leinster’s Jack Conan with Josh Turnbull of Cardiff. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Leinster 23 Cardiff Blues 15
The roar that greeted a late penalty try was an expression of relief as much as anything else from the Leinster supporters as it confirmed a win that for a long time looked far from certain in the Irish province’s opening home match in the Guinness Pro12.
Leinster’s indiscipline kept Cardiff in the game through the superb place-kicking of outhalf Rhys Patchell, who landed five penalties from as many attempts. The home side did manage two tries and there were a number of positives which they will take from the performance not least an outstanding display from openside flanker Josh van der Flier.
Jack Conan carried powerfully, so too Ben Te’o frequently getting their side over the gain-line but there were too many basic errors that pockmarked the performance.
The first half was a large of scrappy affair dominated by referee Ben Whitehouse’s whistle, Cardiff outhalf Patchell kicking two mammoth penalties - on one occasion from eight metres inside his half - and one of a more modest yardage.
Leinster’s fullback Isa Nacewa wasn’t quite as accurate with the placed ball, managing two from four attempts, the conversion of Jack Conan’s try and a penalty. The Irish province were the more enterprising team but suffered at the own hands, literally, in several cases.
They did score an excellent try with centre Ben Te’o demonstrating his power in bouncing three tacklers and making 30 metres, openside flanker Josh van der Flier took a great line on a second breech of Cardiff’s defence and Gary Ringrose did likewise from an inside pass, before Conan burrowed over from two metres.
It was a fair response as at that point Leinster trailed 6-3 but despite some excellent scrum work, could tag points onto the scoreboard. They probably deserved a more definitive lead at the interval. A problem for the home side was the number of penalties they were conceding, a trend that was unrelenting for 25 minutes in the second half, even if some of Whitehouse’s decisions were baffling.
It kept Cardiff in the game, or rather the flawless ball-striking of Patchell off the kicking tee as he tagged on a brace of penalties to one from Nacewa to leave the visitors 15-13 ahead with 24 minutes left.
It was the scrum that provided Leinster’s lifeline, first in providing Nacewa with a chance to kick his third penalty and then with four minutes when Whitehouse walked under the posts in awarding a penalty try after 76 minutes. The visitors had been reduced to 14 players at the time. It was a questionable decision, Leinster going forward but the scrum was wheeling.
Nacewa tagged on the conversion and Leinster’s first home game culminated in victory.
3 mins: Patchell penalty, 0-3; 7: Patchell penalty, 0-6; 13: Nacewa penalty, 3-6; 16: Conan try, Nacewa conversion, 10-6; 33: Patchell penalty, 10-9. Half-time: 10-9. 45: Nacewa penalty, 13-9; 51: Patchell penalty, 13-12; 56: Patchell penalty, 13-15; 66: Nacewa penalty, 16-15; 76: penalty try, Nacewa conversion, 23-15.
Leinster: I Nacewa (capt); F McFadden, B Te’o, N Reid, G Ringrose; C Marsh, L McGrath; M Bent, A Dundon, J Hagan; R Molony, M McCarthy; D Ryan, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: D Leavy for Ryan 43-48 mins; R Burke Flynn for Hagan 47 mins; I Boss for McGrath 54 mins; B Byrne for Dundon 56 mins; C Kelleher for McFadden 59 mins;P Dooley for Bent 75 mins; Leavy for van der Flier 75 mins; T Beirne for McCarthy 75 mins.
Cardiff Blues: D Fish; A Summerhill, T Isaacs, G Evans, O Jenkins; R Patchell, T Knoyle; S Hobbs, K Dacey, C Mitchell: J Hoeata, J Down; J Turnbull, J Navidi (capt), M Vosawai. Replacements: E Jenkins for Vosawi 45 mins; L Reed for Down 66 mins; T Davies for Hobbs 68 mins; S Andrews for Mitchell 68 mins; L Jones for Knoyle 69 mins; G Smith for Jenkins 78 mins.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Yellow card: Josh Navidi (Cardiff) 75 mins.