10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
One suspects that most in the Donnybrook crowd would have gladly settled for a share of the spoils, if offered in advance. In the end, Leinster battled well to hold out and there was no questioning that they displayed a lot of grit.
However, most of the crowd will have been dismayed at the quality on view, and there is a lot of work required on just getting the basics right before any frills can be considered. In fairness, this applied almost as much to Cardiff, though they have the comfort of not needing so radical a surgery on their set pieces as Leinster do.
In the week that the kids returned to school, there was a lot of 'first day back' about. Handling errors abounded, and much of the best possession throughout was countering off the opposition's knock-on. As a gameplan, it doesn't come highly recommended.
Leinster got off to an encouraging start. In the second minute Des Dillon, prominent throughout, turned over ball and Cardiff strayed offside. Dave McAllister slotted the kick to give Leinster a 3-0 lead.
The next score was forty minutes later, McAllister again slotting a penalty to send Leinster in six points to the good. In between, there weren't all that many scoring opportunities as both backlines struggled to give themselves the room to play in.
Leinster's midfield defence, augmented by some terrific hits by McCullen, was solid but with ball in hand, the backline alignment was shallow and the Cardiff defence was in their face. McAllister showed some nice touches but was struggling to get ball wide where Leinster looked dangerous. Shane Jennings came closest to scoring following good work and pace from Gary Brown. Referee Changleng deemed there had been a knock-on by Brown but it looked questionable.
Cardiff started the second period brightly, outhalf McLeod halving the deficit with a penalty and drawing level on 52 minutes. Leinster had a real scare when Nathan Thomas was just held up over the line under the posts.
Leinster's set pieces had been iffy through the first half but the lineout especially became a lottery. Gavin Hickie was lively in the loose, but he struggled badly with his arrows, leaving Brian O'Riordan quivering at some of the ball coming his way. When it did. Despite the pressure, the scrumhalf looked a threat.
The scrums were almost as harrowing, O'Riordan again often under pressure as Ben Evans and Gethin Jenkins (on for John Yapp) turned the screw.
Brian O'Meara came on for McAllister on 50 minutes and pinged a beauty of a penalty five minutes later to restore Leinster's lead. It was short-lived however, as McLeod nailed the final score with twenty to go.
Kidney rang the changes on 65 minutes with Hickie, Gissing and McCullen making way for Blaney, Costello and Potts.
Cardiff, however, continued to edge the possession and territory graph and ultimately Leinster did well not to cough up penalty or drop goal opportunities before the final whistle.
Leinster coach Declan Kidney told leinsterrugby.ie: "I'm not entirely satisfied but i'm not dissatisfied with the performance.
"I thought that the guys fought very hard against what is an extremely tough Cardiff side. It was nice to get two points which is one more than we received last year aginst them.
"We need to learn how to take pressure off ourselves. Everyone dug in well and the substitutes all played their part and it sets us up for what will be a huge game against Ulster next weekend."
For further reaction to the game, check out leinsterrugby.ie.
Leinster: 15: James Norton 14: John McWeeney 13: Christian Warner 12: David Quinlan 11: Gary Brown 10: David McAllister (B. O'Meara, 50) 9: Brian O'Riordan 1: Emmett Byrne 2: Gavin Hickie (D. Blaney, 65) 3: Peter Coyle (A. O'Donnell, 77) 4: Leo Cullen (Captain) 5: Ben Gissing (V. Costello, 65) 6: Aidan McCullen (C. Potts, 65) 7: Shane Jennings 8: Des Dillon Subs not used: Kieran Lewis, Conor Kilroy
Cardiff Blues: 15: Rhys Williams 14: Nick Walne 13: Jamie Robincon 12: Tristan Davies 11: Craig Morgan 10: Nick MacLeod 9: Richard Smith 1: John Yapp 2: Gareth Williams 3: Ben Evans 4: Deiniol Jones 5: Robert Sidoli 6: Nathan Thomas 7: Martyn Williams (Captain) 8: Kort Schubert Replacements: 16: Gethin Jenkins 17: Michael Leaman 18: Craig Quinnell 19: Mark Lewis 20: Dean Dewdney 21: Lee Thomas 22: Tom ShanklinReferee: David Changleng (SRU)