Cheetahs leave Leinster jaded and embarrassed in equal measure
One positive was the sight of Barry Daly running in a slick hat-trick for visitors
Cheetahs players clap off the Leinster team after the game. Photograph: Gerhard Steenkamp/Inpho
Cheetahs 38 Leinster 19
Jaded and embarrassed in equal measure, Leinster limp home in dribs and drabs after this disastrous tour of South Africa. Victory over the barely professional Southern Kings was followed here by a convincing defeat to the Currie Cup champions.
The old altitude excuse doesn’t wash as they all but finished stronger than the Cheetahs.
One positive was the sight of Barry Daly running in a slick hat-trick but Leinster fell short of the losing bonus point when Luther Obi intercepted Cathal Marsh’s forced pass, deep in injury time, to ensure a two point swing.
All told, it makes the expected return of their British and Irish Lions quartet - Sean O’Brien, Johnny Sexton, Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong - hugely important.
Senior coach Stuart Lancaster flew home early to oversee preparations ahead of Edinburgh’s visit to Dublin next Friday. With Munster at the Aviva stadium on October 7th before the Champions Cup returns, even Leo Cullen’s squad depth will be tested before the November international window.
Isa Nacewa looks to be the latest casualty.
Clearly, the Cheetahs on the Highveld are a different beast. The 1500 metre trek above sea level will help against all comers, but that can’t completely explain Leinster forwards looking so sluggish and weak in the initial collisions.
Even the outstanding Josh van der Flier was upended in contact with Springbok number eight Oupa Mohoje.
Ernst Stapelberg looks a decent addition to the Free State ranks with a composed, flawless kicking display to leave Leinster trailing 19-5 at the turn.
Cullen’s tourists started well with Joey Carbery opening the Cheetahs defence with a simple change of direction before Nacewa’s reverse pass almost saw Mick Kearney score in the corner. A foot in touch denied the lock.
They even briefly took the lead, after five minutes, when Noel Reid’s superb cut out pass allowed Daly to race over. Ross Byrne missed a difficult conversion from the left touchline.
Despite van der Flier’s timely interventions - he ripped the ball off Cheetahs hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld near his own line - the problems continued when Nacewa, who must travel 56,000 kilometres within a week, was forced off. Ross Molony took over the captaincy as Rory O’Loughlin came into midfield as Reid shifted to his natural inside centre berth.
But this home grown midfield partnership was torn apart by the Cheetahs attack on 36 minutes. A 70 metre try followed when the ball squirted out of a scrum; Tian Meyer scooped it up before his flat pass saw inspirational captain Francois Venter sprint through a gaping hole. Venter’s simple draw and pass ensured his midfield partner William Small-Smith glided under the posts.
Stapelberg’s conversion brought his first half tally to 12 points with each penalty coming off heavy pressure on the blue defence.
Henco Venter caused serious damage on every carry as the home team looked by far the superior outfit.
Leinster’s second half revival was stalled when James Tracy got sin binned for a no arms tackle. Stapelberg ignored the three point on offer as the lineout maul powered van Jaarsveld over for their second try.
Leinster had the best of the remaining nine minutes Tracy was off the field with Carbery and van der Flier constantly showing for punishing carries but the Cheetahs confidence soared when the brand new Leinster front row of Peter Dooley, Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter coughed up a scrum penalty. Again, they passed on three points and, again, it paid off as Ox Nché was driven over for a third try.
So began a game within a game for the spare bonus point. Leinster’s set piece, hugely assisted by Rhys Ruddock’s arrival, kept play deep in Cheetahs territory. When they were eventually pinned inside their own 22, Carbery’s creativity saw them escape before van der Flier and Conan combined to set Daly free.
However, any hope of snatching an undeserved win disappeared when Porter fumbled a poor pass by Nick McCarthy.
Leinster did have one last chance to grab a losing bonus but an energetic final attack was ruined when Marsh gifted Obi a 80 metre run to secure all five points for the newest addition to the Pro 14.
Scoring sequence - 2 mins: E Stapelberg pen, 3-0; 5 mins: B Daly try, 3-5; 9 mins: E Stapelberg pen, 6-5; 19 mins: E Stapelberg pen, 9-5; 25mins: E Stapelberg pen, 12-5; 36 mins: W Small-Smith try, 17-5; E Stapelberg con, 19-5. Half-time. 45 mins: T van Jaarsveld try, 24-5;55 mins: O Nché try, 29-5; E Stapelberg con, 31-5; 59 mins: B Daly try, 31-10; R Byrne con, 31-12; 72 mins: B Daly try, 31-17; R Byrne con, 31-19; 80 mins: Luther Obi try, 36-17; E Stapelberg con, 38-19.
CHEETAHS: S Petersen; R Specman, F Venter (capt), W Small-Smith, M Mapimpi; E Stapelberg, T Meyer; C Marais, T van Jaarsveld, T Botha; J Basson, R Hugo; P Schoeman, H Venter, O Mohoje. Replacements: O Nché for C Marais (50 mins), T Meyer, L Obi for W Small Smith (both 63 mins).
LEINSTER: J Carbery; D Kearney, N Reid, I Nacewa (capt), B Daly; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; C Healy, J Tracy, M Bent; R Molony, M Kearney; J Murphy, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: R O’Loughlin for I Nacewa (16 mins), P Dooley for C Healy, S Cronin for J Tracy, A Porter for M Bent, M Ruddock for M Kearney (all 50 mins) , N McCarthy for J Gibson Park (62 mins), M Deegan for J Murphy (70 mins), C Marsh for R Byrne (75 mins).
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU).