Seán O’Brien replaced in first half as Scarlets salvage Leinster draw
Flanker looked to have suffered an arm or shoulder injury in return to action
Seán O’Brien was replaced after 27 minutes of Leinster’s Guinness Pro 14 match against Llanelli Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Scarlets 10 Leinster 10
Seán O’Brien’s return from injury lasted less than half an hour as Leinster were held to a 10-10 draw by the Scarlets in Llanelli.
The British & Irish Lions star has been missing since undergoing surgery to fix a hip injury sustained against Exeter in December. But his comeback was cruelly ended after 27 minutes with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.
Ireland hoped to have O’Brien available for their potential Six Nations Championship decider with England at Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day but this latest injury setback puts his participation in doubt.
A last-minute penalty from outhalf Dan Jones sealed a draw for the home side but Leinster remain top of Conference B in the Guinness Pro 14.
An early second-half try from Ed Byrne and a conversion and penalty from Ross Byrne was all Leo Cullen’s side could manage.
Paul Asquith scored the only try of the game for the Scarlets.
Leinster started the brighter of the two sides with a scything break from fullback Dave Kearney, who was brought down inside the home side’s 22.
There were worrying signs for Ireland fans when O’Brien received treatment for what looked like a wrist injury after a double tackle from Jones and tighthead prop Werner Kruger.
The 30-year-old attempted to play on but was forced from the field with his head in his hands.
O’Brien’s exit almost coincided with a Scarlets try as Tom Williams crossed at the right-hand corner after some beautiful handling from Jones and Asquith.
But TMO Neil Hennessy ruled Williams had knocked the ball forward resulting in the try being disallowed and a lucky escape for Leinster.
The Scarlets’ disallowed try meant both sides turned around deadlocked at 0-0 at the interval.
Leinster got the perfect start to the second half when Ed Byrne smashed his way over the try line after a number of pick and goes.
Referee Nigel Owens again opted to use the TMO with Hennessy advising him to award the try.
Leinster were subsequently put under a lot of pressure by the home side as Jones missed two straightforward penalties.
But the West Walians kept coming and managed to put the visitors’ try line under a huge amount of pressure. Wales squad member Ryan Elias looked like the may have crossed for a try but Leinster managed to survive.
The Scarlets kept coming until scrumhalf Jonathan Evans knocked on five metres from the line.
The hosts levelled the scores with a brilliantly worked try from classy inside centre Asquith. Following a powerful driving lineout on the half way line the outstanding Tadhg Beirne charged up field before offloading to Evans.
The ball was then recycled for Asquith to beat three defenders and touch down for a try which Jones converted.
But the Scarlets’ try only managed to motivate Leinster who managed to keep hold of the ball in the opposition half. Leinster’s ball retention resulted in a penalty after Will Boyde was deemed to have played the ball forward.
Ross Byrne knocked over the ensuing penalty putting the visitors back into the lead with seven minutes left to play.
Leinster looked to have sealed the victory when Jones was charged down over the try line by Max Deegan before Nick McCarthy pounced on the ball. Owens yet again went to Hennessy who disallowed for offside.
The Scarlets came close to snatching victory from the jaws of defeat when Jones put a neat kick through only for Tom Varndell to knock the ball forward on his debut.
But Beirne won a late penalty for the hosts which Jones knocked over to deny Leinster victory.
SCARLETS: T Williams; I Nicholas, P Asquith, S Hughes (capt), R Conbeer; D Jones, J Evans; P Price, R Elias, W Kruger; S Cummins, D Bulbring; T Beirne, J MacLeod, W Boyde
Replacements: L Rawlins on for Cummins (56 mins), S Gardiner for Kruger (59), T Varndell on for Conbeer (60), D Smith for Evans (69) E Phillips on for Elias (73).
LEINSTER: D Kearney; B Daly, R O’Loughlin, N Reid, J Lowe; R Byrne, N McCarthy; E Byrne, B Byrne, M Bent; R Molony, S Fardy; Josh Murphy, S O’Brien (capt), J Conan.
Replacements: M Deegan for O’Brien (27 mins), M Kearney for Murphy (64), J Tracy for B Byrne (69), A Byrne for Daly (74).
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU).