Leinster cope better with the absence of big names to see off Cardiff in URC battle
If the 13,544 at a bleak RDS weren’t exactly invested in this game then it’s because they were struggling to concentrate.
hat’s how it gets sometimes when Leinster are at home to Welsh opposition who travel without their international contingent.
The reality is that the league leaders, now with 17 wins from 17 games this season, can cope with mass withdrawal of their marquee names better than anyone else.
So these occasions are more about getting a peak at the next generation — like debutants James Culhane and Aitzol King — or the current one on a comeback trail. In the latter case it was good to see Will Connors back, having lost none of his saw-doctoring skills.
There was no period in the game when you felt Cardiff could muster enough energy and accuracy to be competitive. By half time it was 19-0 which was probably a bit shy of what you’d have expected given the trend: Cardiff had a stronger scrum, but very little else.
There was a misty rain falling from an hour before kick off and it never let up, so handling wasn’t straightforward. At least for Cardiff it wasn’t.
Leinster’s issue by comparison was keeping their feet. Once they managed that the other parts of the machine were working well enough.
With only Michael Ala’alatoa backing up from last weekend against Racing, you’d have understood if there was a drop in standards compared to the first choice crew. If so it wasn’t obvious.
Luke McGrath drove them on and picked up two tries for his efforts, the second running through a hole wide enough for a bus.
The scrum was the only area where the home team were not in their comfort zone.
Everywhere else they were head and shoulders above the visitors, helped by the carrying of John McKee and Michael Milne who made acres of ground between them. Max Deegan, the man of the match, had a busy and productive night as well.
With half an hour left for play Leinster nailed on the bonus point, through Brian Deeny. It came less than a minute after wing Jason Harries was binned for a slap down poorly disguised as a wrapping arm in the tackle.
This is standard business practice these days, even if it’s frequently unprofitable. The only mystery was in the time it took referee Jaco Peyper and his support crew to dispatch him.
That allowed Leinster go to the corner and soon enough Deeny was crashing over for the second try in his eight game career. Within a couple of minutes Max O’Reilly was getting over in roughly the same area of the pitch, so by the time Harries was freed from the bin his team were 12 points worse off.
The only light in their dark night came with two tries in the last 10 minutes. Even still it was the home team who closed the show when Liam Turner burst over having scooped up a loose ball 20 metres from the line.
Scorers — Leinster: L McGrath 2 tries; M Deegan, B Deeny, M O’Reilly, L Turner try each; H Byrne 3 cons; H Tector con). Cardiff: R Thornton, K Dacey try each; J Evans 2 cons
Leinster: C Cosgrave (A King 68); M O’Reilly, L Turner, B Brownlee, D Kearney; H Byrne (C Tector 66), L McGrath (N McCarthy 56); M Milne (M Hanan 56), J McKee (T McElroy 56), M Ala’alatoa, (T Clarkson 56) R Molony, B Deeny, R Ruddock (capt) (J Culhane 66), M Deegan, S Penny (W Connors 56).
Cardiff: R Priestland (M Morgan 22); O Lane (A Summerhill 72), R Lee-Lo, B Thomas, J Harries (yc 48-58); J Evans, L Williams (E Bevan 70); B Thyer, K Myhill (K Dacey 54), K Assiratti (W Davies-King 75), L Timani, S Davies (R Thornton 67); J Turnbull (capt, S Lewis-Hughes 68) J Ratti, J Botham.
Referee: J Peyper (South Africa).