Well, that really couldn’t have gone much better. Beautiful day in the RDS for the first home game of the season, a hatful of tries against one of the top 6 from last season, young academy players getting a good run out off the bench, a potential solution to the Gopperth vs Madigan dilemma (play them both, who knew!?!) and my pre match burger and chips were delicious. Six tries and 42 pts scored against the Scarlets was a very good return and, to be truthful, scores were left on the field. The Welsh team were devoid of spirit in the 2nd half but you can only play what’s in front of you and MO’C’s men did that very well yesterday.
After an early let off with a Priestland miss for the Scarlets, Leinster took the initiative. It ended up stemming from a Mike Ross charge down and the player’s reactions were superb with Macken, Madigan and Kearney showing some lovely footwork to establish Leinster in the ’22. After a Heaslip carry brought them to within 5m, the ball was spun quickly out the line and, once again Madigan and Macken put Kearney away when he cantered into the corner untouched. Madigan, who interestingly was given the kicking duties ahead of Gopperth, made no mistake with the conversion. 7-0 after 11 mins.
Scarlets were able to strike back a few minutes later after some sloppy attacking was punished well by the visitors. Having won the lineout and driven towards the ’22 the ball was fed into the midfield. A miscommunication from Gopperth and Cronin led to the ball being put down and Scott Williams hacked the ball downfield. He showed good footwork, speed and composure to beat the onrushing Macken to the ball. Priestland was unable to take his chance from the tee though. 7-5 after 15 mins.
The next score gave Kearney his 2nd try of the game in slightly bizarre circumstances. It was another example of good handling and players running at space as opposed to trying to smash over the opposition. It was Kirchner who made the break and put Kearney into space resulting in an awkward looking chip for Fanning and Kirchner to compete for. The two of them miss the ball and it bobbles in the in goal area where Kearney grabs it and dots it down. After a quick consult with the TMO, Referee Marius Mitrea awarded the try. Madigan again added the extras. 14-5 after 27 mins.
The boys in blue seemed to have the bit between their teeth now and a lovely scything run from Kearney had them in the Scarlets ’22 looking for their 3rd try of the afternoon. Good work from Mick McGrath, Fanning and Jack McGrath helped to tie in the defenders so Leinster simply went wide with Gopperth finding Madigan with a lovely looping pass over the Scarlets cover. Madigan converted his own try to extend the lead and put Leinster within sight of a try bonus point. 21-5 after 37 mins.
After Cronin butchered a chance to clinch the bonus point before HT, (he really should have got the ball down), Leinster had to wait until the 2nd half for their 4th try. This time it was all about the pack. Having won 3 consecutive penalties (1 at the scrum and 2 in the lineout) Leinster had a 5m scrum which got the nudge on but
Preistland did very well to stop Heaslip. The problem was, with Phil John in the bin and Scarlets being tied up around the ruck area, there was going to be space somewhere and once Gopperth passed the ball to Madigan he found it to canter over with Johnny Barclay and Jordan Williams unable to lay a hand on him. Again, he converted his own try. 28-5 after 55 mins.
The floodgates were starting to open now and, after a scrum implosion from the Welsh side on their own ball, Leinster got the ball wide to Macken who was stopped short but the Scarlets put the ball out of play resulting in a Leinster lineout. With all the players around the area, somehow Mitrea allowed the quick lineout to be taken and though Healy was denied, Dominic Ryan crashed over in the next phase of play and it was really now a question of how many would Leinster score. Madigan, as ever tagged on the extra 2pts. 35-5 after 60 mins.
The 6th try of the afternoon from the home side, much like Kearney’s 2nd, looked pretty ugly and had to be checked by the TMO. The pack had forced a lineout deep in Scarlets territory and having caught it and driven on towards the line, from the ensuing ruck, Healy fed Brian Byrne who appeared to hang onto the ball, just about, but then had it ripped off him by a Scarlets player only for Tadgh Furlong to pick up the bobbling ball and score a try. The TMO decided that Byrne had kept control of the ball from Healy’s pass and there was no knock on either as the ball had been ripped from his hands. Try given. Madigan ensured a 100% return from the boot by tapping the ball over the bar. 42-5 after 70 mins.
Macken, Ryan and Heaslip all had chances to get on the scoreboard also but, to their credit, it was the Scarlets who got the final score of the game. Gareth Davies had made a lovely break and was looking to link up to his support runners when Heaslip slapped down the ball and was yellow carded about 30 seconds after receiving the MOTM award. From the quick tap penalty the Scarlets grubbered the ball through the defensive line and Joe Snyman managed to get over the line with Shingler adding the extras. 42-12 after 80 mins.
It really couldn’t have gotten much better for MO’C. Madigan went well at 12, key players like Heaslip and Kearney came back and played very well. Squad players like Ryan, Fanning and Kirchner, who’ll be vital during the Autumn Internationals and Six Nations games, went well also and, on top of all of that young players like Tadgh Furlong, Mick McGrath and Ben Marshall got significant game time. Connacht away on Friday will not be an easy task but MO’C can start to plan for that game after a very good result and performance. Roll on the Sportsground.