Leinster show steel to grab dramatic draw against Glasgow

Down 27-7 at half-time Matt O’Connor’s side ended up taking three points at RDS

Isaac Boss stretches to score his second try to secure a bonus point for Leinster in their Guinness Pro 12 clash against Glasgow Warriors at the RDS. Photograph:   James Crombie/Inpho

Isaac Boss stretches to score his second try to secure a bonus point for Leinster in their Guinness Pro 12 clash against Glasgow Warriors at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Leinster 34 Glasgow Warriors 34

A blazing match, the only way to fight fire is with fire. Leinster know that better than most. This thrilling reversal of Glasgow’s 20-point lead deserves its own little chapter in Irish rugby’s 2015 tome.

It certainly matters.

“Those three points might prove vital for us,” said a deadpan Matt O’Connor.

A furious contest, fittingly, finished with blue jerseys inching into opposition territory. Leinster were not willing to accept a bonus-point draw. Glasgow were more than happy to share the spoils as it keeps them two clear of Ulster at the top of the Pro 12.

Leinster sneak up to fourth but the Ospreys should reclaim that spot on Saturday at home to Zebre.

Initially, it looked like O’Connor’s worst nightmare had come to pass.

Having sought to unleash his full artillery to repel Gregor Townsend’s ever improving Warriors, instead Leinster got the Ireland bench.

Eventually Cian Healy and Luke Fitzgerald brought their world-class influence to bear.

It was only enough to break even. It may yet cost them and O’Connor dearly.

Leinster are so clearly suffering for their own, and by dint of, Ireland’s success under Joe Schmidt.

Glasgow, despite losing Scotland outhalf Finn Russell before kick-off and being reduced to their third-choice tighthead after 10 minutes – Euan Murray was concussed in Murrayfeld last Saturday) – look like a group on the cusp of silverware.

Despite Scotland’s woefulness on the international stage, Townsend has built a marvellously efficient, high-tempo rugby team. Based around Ali Kellock’s solid lineout, Josh Strauss’s brutality and a powerful, direct offence they almost blew Leinster Lite off their RDS turf.

It was 27-7 at half-time. That’s never happened, not in modern times, not in a game of such importance.

The Warriors were far too wily, gnarly for Shane Jennings and his either young or inexperienced pack.

Stuart Hogg carried his form down a tier with the first try after seven minutes. Michael Bent and Tom Denton missed a rampaging Richie Vernon before Hogg stepped Eoin Reddan to squeeze over.

“Butt of the post is the line,” said the always vocal Nigel Owens.

Vernon profited from that same rule on the half hour to cancel out Fergus McFadden’s bullish response, following quick hands by Jennings and the straight running Jimmy Gopperth.

But that was Leinster’s only purple patch in the opening 40 minutes when they also lost Reddan to injury. It would prove significant that both Hogg and Vernon were also forced off injured. They had been the difference.

Still, Glasgow’s lead looked insurmountable when Mark Bennett rolled over the Leinster line with Ben Te’o for the third Glasgow try. It came off quick second phase ball from a Kellock lineout before puncturing a hole in the heart of Leinster’s defence. Until recently an unheard of score round these parts. But it happened. And has been happening this season.

Bennett’s long range penalty opened the wound to 20 points.

Hardly a surprise to see Healy and Seán Cronin lumbering into the fray for the second half.

The necessary response took 18 seconds as Isaac Boss blocked Glenn Bryce’s attempted clearance to sprint and dive on the ball. Ian Madigan’s conversion and a penalty had the scoreboard reading 17-27 within eight minutes.

It swung completely in Leinster’s favour by the 52nd minute. Glasgow scrumhalf Niko Matawalu was given a 10-minute break for elbowing Healy. The Fijian was barely off the paddock when Madigan converted Jordi Murphy’s surging outside break.

Mere moments passed before Luke Fitzgerald stutter stepped onto Madigan’s half break. Grounded 10 metres from shore, Boss scooped and darted through the ruck. That was the lead and, remarkably, the bonus-point try.

A Madigan penalty with 10 minutes to play forced Glasgow to chase a converted try.

They showed their staying power when Peter Horne converted Glenn Bryce’s 74th-minute try.

It wasn’t over and with these valuable if underwhelming three points neither is the season.

Scoring sequence – 8 min: S Hogg try, 0-5; R Horne con, 0-7; 12 min: R Horne pen, 0-10; 25 min: F McFadden try, 5-10; I Madigan con, 7-10; 31 mins: R Vernon try, 7-15; R Horne con, 7-17; 35 min: M Bennett try, 7-22; R Horne con, 7-24; 40 min: M Bennett pen, 7-27. Half-time. 41 min: I Boss try, 12-27; I Madigan con, 14-27; 48 min: I Madigan pen, 17-27; 52 min: J Murphy try, 22-27; I Madigan con, 24-27; 55 min: I Boss try, 29-27; I Madigan con, 31-27; 71 min: I Madigan pen, 34-27; 74 min: G Bryce try, 34-32; P Horne con, 34-34.

LEINSTER: Z Kirchner; F McFadden, B Te’o, I Madigan, D Kearney; J Gopperth, E Reddan; M Bent, R Strauss, M Moore; T Denton, M McCarthy; J Murphy, S Jennings (capt), J Conan.

Replacements: S Cronin for R Strauss (33-35 min, blood), I Boss for E Reddan (33 min), C Healy for M Bent, S Cronin for R Strauss (both half-time), T Furlong for M Moore, L Fitzgerald for F McFadden (both 53 min), D Ryan for J Conan (66 min), G D’Arcy for B Te’o (72 min).

GLASGOW WARRIORS: S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett, R Vernon, DTH van der Merwe; P Horne, N Matawalu; A Allan, F Brown, Z Fagerson; T Swinson, A Kellock (capt); R Hartley, C Fusaro, J Strauss.

Replacements: M Cusack for Z Fagerson (10 min), G Bryce for S Hogg (39 min), C Braid for R Vernon (44 min), P McArthur for C Fusaro (46 min), A Ashe for J Strauss (58 min), H Pyrgos for N Matawalu, J Yanuyanutawa for A Allan (both 63 min), J Strauss for F Brown (66 min).

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

Leinster run-in:
v Dragons, Rodney Parade (April 12th)
v Ulster, Ravenhill (April 24th)
v Treviso, RDS (May 8-10th)
v Edinburgh, Murrayfield (May 16th)

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