Leinster extended their lead at the top of the Celtic League table, but were made to fight tooth and nail for Friday's 30-22 win over Llanelli Scarlets at Lansdowne Road.
CELTIC LEAGUE: Friday, April 14
LEINSTER 30 LLANELLI SCARLETS 22, Lansdowne Road (Att: 7,250)
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Cameron Jowitt, Brian Blaney, Guy Easterby, Girvan Dempsey; Cons: Felipe Contepomi 2; Pens: Contepomi 2
Llanelli: Tries: Iestyn Thomas, Lee Byrne, Gavin Thomas; Cons: Ceiron Thomas 2; Pen: Ceiron Thomas
Leinster chalked up their sixth win in six Celtic League outings at headquarters despite failing to fire against the Scarlets, who recovered well from losing last Sunday's Powergen Cup final to Wasps.
Michael Cheika's side were far from convincing, leaking three first half tries to the Welsh visitors. But the province crucially picked up two tries midway through the second half whilst Llanelli number 8 Alix Popham was in the sin bin.
Late on, Leinster got the rub of the green when a Denis Hickie kick ahead eluded Scarlets skipper Dafydd James, and full-back Girvan Dempsey claimed the loose ball to pocket a bonus point-clinching try.
The Scarlets were obviously intent on getting their run of eighth League games in the space of five weeks off to a winning start. Gareth Jenkins' men notched three tries in the opening 28 minutes to rock Heineken Cup semi-finalists Leinster back onto their heels.
Eight minutes in, a lineout maul saw loosehead prop Iestyn Thomas got over for his first League try in three seasons. The 22-year-old Ceiron Thomas, making his first start of the season, added the extras.
Leinster replied with a try for flanker Cameron Jowitt - his first in the League - on 14 minutes. Gordon D'Arcy broke free into the Llanelli 22 and the big Samoan was on his shoulder to score with Felipe Contepomi converting.
Full back Lee Byrne's fifth try of the campaign (20 minutes), and a score in the right corner for flanker Gavin Thomas (29) - set up by a long skip pass from Matthew Watkins - helped push the Scarlets 12 points clear. Young out-half Thomas converted Byrne's effort.
19-7 down at the break and left cursing a malfunctioning lineout, Leinster regrouped and managed to hit the front by the hour mark. Popham's over-exuberance cost Llanelli dearly as he was yellow carded for a professional foul - preventing a quick ruck release from Guy Easterby - on 51 minutes.
Leinster had edged closer by that stage thanks to a Contepomi penalty and successive tries followed for hooker Brian Blaney (52) and former Llanelli scrum half Easterby (57). Blaney's try came off a lineout maul - referee Malcolm Changleng did well to take his time to spot the grounding - and Easterby picked and went off a close-in scrum for his.
Contepomi converted the latter score for a 22-19 lead.
Restored to 15 men, the Scarlets managed to square the game with a Ceiron Thomas penalty but Leinster, who retook the lead with a second Contepomi penalty, got a slice of luck with Dempsey's 79th-minute try to grab their eighth win in nine games in all competitions.
TIME LINE: 8 minutes - Llanelli try: Iestyn Thomas - 0-5; conversion: Ceiron Thomas - 0-7; 14 mins - Leinster try: Cameron Jowitt - 5-7; conversion: Felipe Contepomi - 7-7; 20 mins - Llanelli try: Lee Byrne - 7-12; conversion: Ceiron Thomas - 7-14; 28 mins - Llanelli try: Gavin Thomas - 7-19; conversion: missed by Ceiron Thomas - 7-19; 40+2 mins - Leinster penalty: missed by Felipe Contepomi; Half-time - Leinster 7 Llanelli 19; 46 mins - Leinster penalty: Felipe Contepomi - 10-19; 51 mins - Llanelli yellow card: Alix Popham (professional foul); 52 mins - Leinster try: Brian Blaney - 15-19; conversion: missed by Felipe Contepomi; 57 mins - Leinster try: Guy Easterby - 20-19; conversion: Felipe Contepomi - 22-19; 62 mins - Llanelli penalty: Ceiron Thomas - 22-22; 76 mins - Leinster penalty: Felipe Contepomi - 25-22; 79 mins - Leinster try: Girvan Dempsey - 30-22; conversion: missed by Felipe Contepomi; Full-time - Leinster 30 Llanelli 22
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Robert Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Gordon D'Arcy, Denis Hickie; Felipe Contepomi, Guy Easterby; Reggie Corrigan, Brian Blaney, Will Green, Bryce Williams, Malcolm O'Kelly, Cameron Jowitt, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements used: Emmett Byrne for Green (half-time), Eric Miller for Jowitt (77), David Blaney for B Blaney (80), Niall Ronan for Gleeson (80+2), Kieran Lewis for Hickie (80+6). Not used: Brian O'Riordan, Jonny Hepworth.
LLANELLI: Lee Byrne; Dafydd James (capt), Matthew Watkins, Regan King, Mark Jones; Ceiron Thomas, Clive Stuart-Smith; Iestyn Thomas, Matthew Rees, Craig Dunlea, Vernon Cooper, Chris Wyatt, Dafydd Jones, Gavin Thomas, Alix Popham.
Replacements used: Aled Gravelle for Rees (68 mins), Hottie Louw for Cooper (69), Barry Davies for M Jones (71-77), Gavin Quinnell for G Thomas (77), Barry Davies for King (80+1). Not used: Martyn Madden, Liam Davies, Gareth Bowen.
Sin Bin: A Popham (Llanelli) (51 mins)
Referee: Malcolm Changleng (Scotland)