Leinster 40 Glasgow Warriors 21
Leinster head for next Saturday night's rendezvous with Ulster in Belfast with a six-point lead at the top of Conference A. The bonus point victory was facilitated somewhat by the ill discipline of their opponents, who had outhalf Adam Hastings sent off on 33 minutes and also lost two players to yellow cards.
A brace of late tries put a gloss on a Leinster performance that flitted between the excellent and the careless. The home side lost Ciaran Frawley (shoulder) in the warm-up, teenager Jamie Osborne coming into the centre and performing very capably, while Harry Byrne was having a superb game when forced off with a head injury in the first half.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen confirmed that Byrne will follow the return to play protocols. The backrow of the outstanding Scott Penny, who scored two more tries, Josh van der Flier and Josh Murphy excelled in a fine collective effort from the pack while captain, Luke McGrath was another to shine. The 20-year-old Alex Soroka made his Leinster debut.
Cullen was “delighted” to get the win, albeit acknowledging that the performance in the second half wasn’t up to scratch. “There was good intent at the start and we scored some good tries. The first 10 minutes of the second half was very poor for whatever reason. We were passive defensively, conceded a couple of penalties then two tries.
“Suddenly we get a bit of a shock (as we find ourselves) in a proper game. As I said at the start, it’s a very experienced Glasgow team and it was great to come through that (with a win).”
Leinster demonstrated that intent immediately. When Glasgow conceded a penalty in their 22, Byrne kicked to the corner, the maul took them to within a couple of metres of the line and after being repelled a couple of times, the visitors could do nothing to stop Byrne’s lovely angle and footwork.
The Leinster outhalf tagged on the conversion and the home side were up and running nicely. Byrne was centrally involved once again on nine minutes spinning out of a couple of tackles before being grounded just short of the line. After Leinster had worked the fringes, the outhalf put in a pinpoint cross-kick for Cian Kelleher; the wing was taken in the air, the result a penalty try and a yellow card to Cole Forbes.
Glasgow showed they were up for the fight despite conceding those 14 points and responded with a try from Tom Gordon, the product of a super break from Sam Johnson. Adam Hastings added the conversion to make it 14-7, a psychological fillip given that they were down a man at the time.
In the tit-for-tat nature of the opening 20-minutes, the home side were next on the scoreboard. Byrne’s capacity to take the ball flat to the line was in evidence in the home side’s third try, pirouetting away from a tackle with Scott Penny the ultimate beneficiary.
A brilliant cover tackle by Jamie Osborne saved his side down the other end of the pitch. There was a breathless tempo to the game with both sides intent on putting width on the ball at every opportunity.
It was a travesty that Byrne’s brilliance was lost to the game on 33 minutes, a bang to the head, cut short his evening. Glasgow’s prospects took a nose dive when Hastings was guilty of a studs-up assault on Kelleher, who left the pitch with a facial injury; it was ridiculously dangerous and the red card was thoroughly justified.
Leinster made Glasgow pay promptly, Penny grabbing his second try, tapping a penalty and powering through a couple of tackles from close range for the bonus point try. David Hawkshaw kicked the conversion to make it 28-7 to the home side at the interval.
Glasgow stunned the home side with two quick tries after the interval, the first from wing Rufus McLean, the second from Huw Jones, both converted by replacement outhalf Ross Thompson; the game now every much a contest again at 28-21.
Leinster will rue some indiscipline that saw them concede a slew of penalties in that 10-minute period after the interval and the fact that they conceded all three tries when Glasgow were a man short.
The home side turned down the opportunity of three points in favour of going to the corner on 57 minutes. The visitors defended the maul and then won a scrum penalty as the home side compounded one mistake with another. Each error infused their opponents with renewed belief and energy.
Glasgow deserve huge credit for the character they displayed but coach Danny Wilson would have been livid when replacement TJ Ioane's indiscipline saw a penalty reversed and the Glasgow player sent to the bin with 10-minutes remaining, reducing the visitors to 13 players.
The costly nature of the offence was revealed a couple of minutes later when sharp passing put Dave Kearney away and his inside pass sent the outstanding McGrath racing over in the corner. It was the breathing space that the home side had craved for much of the half. Hawkshaw's touchline conversion was a beauty.
Kelleher completed the scoring with a late try, which Jimmy O’Brien could not improve upon. Given the disruption before and during the match, Leinster will be reasonably happy with the victory if not aspects of the second half performance.
Scoring sequence- 2 mins: H Byrne try, Byrne penalty, 7-0; 9 mins: Penalty try, 14-0; 14 mins: Gordon try, Hastings conversion, 14-7; 20 mins: van der Flier try, Byrne conversion, 21-7; 40 (+2) mins: Penny try, Hawkshaw conversion, 28-7. Half-time: 28-7; 42 mins: McLean try, Thompson conversion, 28-14; 50 mins: Jones try, Thompson conversion, 28-21; 73 mins: McGrath try, Hawkshaw conversion, 35-21; 76 mins: Kelleher try, 40-21.
Leinster: J O'Brien; C Kelleher, J Osborne, R O'Loughlin, D Kearney; H Byrne, L McGrath (capt); P Dooley, S Cronin, M Bent; D Toner, S Fardy; J Murphy, J van der Flier, S Penny.
Replacements: D Hawkshaw for Byrne 33 mins (HIA); M O’Reilly for Kelleher 37-40 mins (blood); T Clarkson for Bent 57 mins; A Soroka for Murphy 57 mins; D Sheehan for Cronin 59 mins; , G McGrath, J Dunne for Penny 75 mins; R Osborne for McGrath 75 mins; G McGrath for Dooley 75 mins; M O’Reilly for Hawkshaw 78 mins.
Glasgow Warriors: O Smith; R McLean, H Jones, S Johnson, C Forbes; A Hastings, J Dobie; O Kebble, G Stewart, E Pieretto; R Gray, L Nakawara; R Harley, T Gordon, R Wilson.
Replacements: R Thompson for Smith half-time; G Brown for Nakarawa half-time; D Rae for Pieretto 53 mins; A Seiuli for Kebble 58 mins; J Kennedy for Dobie 63 mins; J Matthews for Stewart 65 mins; TJ Ioane for Gray 65 mins; R Fergusson for Johnson 75 mins.
Referee: F Murphy (Ireland)
Yellow cards: C Dobie (Glasgow) 9 mins; TJ Ioane (Glasgow) 70 mins.
Red card: A Hastings (Glasgow) 33 mins.