Stand-in captain Felipe Contepomi led Leinster to another home victory on Friday, kicking seven penalties and a converion in a hard-fought 33-14 defeat of the Dragons.
CELTIC LEAGUE: Friday, September 16
Leinster 33 Newport-Gwent Dragons 14, Donnybrook (Att: 3,700)
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Rob Kearney, Girvan Dempsey; Con: Felipe Contepomi; Pens: Contepomi 7
Dragons: Tries: Leigh Hinton, Hal Luscombe; Cons: Hinton
In an encounter which saw three sin-binnings, although none of them had a telling affect on the eventual result, Argentine centre Contepomi kicked the crucial points again to ensure manager Michael Cheika's second straight win at Donnybrook.
There is still much tweaking to do for Cheika and his backroom staff as the error count was decidedly high in the first half. Leinster's two-week break between now and their next matches - back-to-back provincial clashes with Ulster and Connacht early next month - is perhaps ideally timed.
It was tough going, especially early on, as despite the loss of Craig Warlow before kick-off due to illness on the flight over, the visitors began brightly. Wales Under-21 international Aled Thomas stepped in at fly-half and through the enterprise of Sione Tuipulotu, they nabbed an early converted try.
Burly Tongan Tuipulotu won the race to his own chip kick outside the home 22, flicking the bouncing ball to Hal Luscombe and his inside pass saw Leigh Hinton dart over to score and convert.
Leinster's new-look pack was being bossed off the ball but, fortunately for the Irishmen, Contepomi's kicking was again accurate. Two sweet penalties from the Argentinian saw Leinster claw back before the half-hour.
A third Contepomi effort pushed Leinster in front before their first fluid attack saw Ireland under-19 captain Rob Kearney, from 40 metres out, glide past Rhys Thomas and step inside Dragons captain Kevin Morgan for a scintillating 39th-minute try.
The teenager's third try in three outings went unconverted at 14-7 but Hinton smacked a penalty off an upright and drew another late kick wide to let Leinster off the hook.
Playing their second game in four days, Paul Turner's Dragons predictably tired and the 51st-minute sin-binning of flanker Andrew Hall allowed Contepomi to kick Leinster 10 points in front. A silly deliberate knock-on from Kearney saw the youngster yellow-carded and that allowed the Dragons slightly back into it.
Just past the hour, Contepomi landed his fifth penalty but that was soon cancelled out as a 71st-minute kick through from Gareth Baber squirmed away from Kearney, allowing Luscombe in for a try.
Hinton converted to put the Dragons within a converted score but the prospect of even a bonus point was soon gone as Contepomi chalked up two more penalties. Tuipulotu's injury-time sin-binning for hands in the ruck was followed by a Girvan Dempsey try in the left corner at the death on a night when 2005 Lions Shane Horgan and Denis Hickie both came off the bench.
The only sour note for Leinster was the late injury to Australian lock Adam Byrnes. What looked like a serious knock to his right knee is likely to be assessed in the coming days.
LEINSTER: Girvan Demspey; Gary Brown (Denis Hickie 59), Kieran Lewis, Felipe Contemponi (Capt), Rob Kearney; Christian Warner (Shane Horgan 59), Guy Easterby (Brian O'Meara 68); Reggie Corrigan, Bernard Jackman (David Blaney 59), Will Green (Ronan McCormack 68), Adam Byrnes (Simon Crawford 76), Ben Gissing, Ciaran Potts, Keith Gleeson (Niall Ronan 80), Jamie Heaslip.
DRAGONS: Kevin Morgan (Capt); Gareth Wyatt, Hal Luscombe, Sione Tuipulotu, Leigh Hinton; Aled Thomas, Gareth Baber; David Maddocks (Andrew Brown half-time), Steve Jones, Rhys Thomas, Ian Gough, Luke Charteris, Andrew Hall, Jamie Ringer (Jason Forster 54), Rhys Oakley (Richard Bryan 47).
Referee: Andy Ireland (Scotland); Sin-Bin: Andrew Hall (Dragons) (51 mins), Rob Kearney (Leinster) (55), Sione Tuipulotu (Dragons) (80(+3))