Rusty Leinster get nailed by Newcastle at Donnybrook
European champions concede six tries in pre-season encounter
Leinster’s Joe Tomane tackled by Josh Matavesi and Alex Tait of Newcastle during the pre-season friendly at Donnybrook. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
Leinster 17 Newcastle Falcons 42
A lot of rust on offer in Donnybrook. A kick straight to touch from Ciarán Frawley, a wrong option from captain Scott Fardy where he fed prop Ed Byrne when Barry Daly was at hand, basic errors and some slipping off tackles and Leinster ensured their pre-season friendly against Newcastle would be a chasing game.
But even a credible chase did not materialise. It is not often Leinster are seen this fragile.
Three tries from the Premiership side to one from Tom Daly in the first 40 minutes was flattering for the English visitors. But Leinster suffered an early blow, or rather Will Connors did, when he injured a knee in one of the first collisions and was replaced by Max Deegan after three minutes.
Just 13 minutes later outhalf Frawley was also forced out of the game with and arm or shoulder problem – Tom Daly coming in earlier than planned.
Shortly after that Newcastle drew first blood. In a simple move fullback Alex Tait came into the line in Leinster’s 22, held up the ball slightly and popped it for outside centre Tom Feeney to burst through, outhalf Toby Flood converting for 7-0.
It took Leinster 20 minutes to find any of their top gears and force Newcastle to make more urgent tackles. But for much of their endeavour there was little on the scoreboard.
Daly touched down and converted excellently from the touchline for 7-7 before two late tries in the first half silenced the crowd. A training ground move off a lineout on the left and speedster Zach Kibirige cut through a gap in the Leinster centre before Simon Uzokwe went in low in the 40th minute, Ed Byrne unable to stop him.
Leinster’s intensity was inconsistent, more dipping than rising, especially in defensive mode inside their 22. They finally closed the first half a little dazed by what the scoreboard was telling them, 7-21 down.
It would be unfair and unlikely to expect that the Leinster side from last May magically turn up locked and loaded in August.
Most of the European Cup players were sitting in the player’s area watching and when Adam Radwan easily beat the Leinster defence with a slight shift of direction six minutes into the second half for the fourth try and 7-28, a sound beating was beginning to look like an unlikely rout.
With 10 players on the Leinster bench and 15 among the Newcastle replacements there were plenty of changes, which couldn’t have helped continuity.
Scrumhalf Luke McGrath made an instant impact when he came on, as much from his controlling tempo and direction. It was his break on 55 minutes from midfield that got him as close as anyone had to the Newcastle line. It is a huge season for the former St Michael’s player.
By the hour Leinster had leaked another try and another player, this time new signing Joe Tomane, who looked out of sorts making his way to the sideline, although the 7-35 numbers on the board might have explained that.
Seconds later Adam Byrne finished off what Murphy almost accomplished, Dave Kearney this time gaining a few of the hard yards, for 12-35. Tom Daly pulled another back for 17-35 before Johnny Williams intercepted and ran 40 yards. He won’t forget his try. Leinster will this match, their final game before Cardiff in the Pro14 opener.
Scoring sequence – 6 mins T Penny try, T Flood con 0-7; 27 mins T Daly try, con 7-7; 32 mins Z Kibirige try, Flood con 7-14; 39 mins S Uzokwa try, Flood con 7-21. Halftime. 46 mins A Radwan try, Flood con 7-28; 59 mins J Elliott try, J Hodgson con 7-35; 72 mins A Byrne try 12-35; 76 mins T Daly try 17-35; 78 mins J Williams try, Hodgson con 17-42.
LEINSTER: D Kearney; H Keenan, R O’Loughlin, J Tomane, B Daly; C Frawley, J Gibson-Park; E Byrne, J Tracy, M Bent; S Fardy (capt), M Kearney; J Murphy, W Connors, C Doris.
Replacements used: P Dooley, B Byrne, V Abdaladze, R Molony, I Nagle, M Deegan, L McGrath, J O’Brien, J Lowe, T Daly, A Byrne
NEWCASTLE: A Tait; T Arscott, T Penny, J Matavesi, Z Kibirige; T Flood, S Stuart; A Brocklebank, S Socino, J Payne; W Witty, C Green; S Uzokwe, C Collett, C Chick.
Replacements used: S Mavinga, G McGuigan, T Davidson, T Cavubati, G Young, M Wilson, W Welch, T Marshall, J Elliott, J Hodgson, G Wacokecote, J Williams, C Harris, A Radwan, S Hammersley.
Referee: G Clancy (IRFU)