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Leinster take comfort from draw, but much work to be done

Leinster take comfort from draw, but much work to be done

Leinster battled to a spirited 9-9 draw against the Cardiff Blues in a match that was long on perspiration, short on inspiration.

First the good news. Leinster, deprived of ten internationals, got a draw against a side liberally sprinkled with same, and of whom expectations are high this 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.

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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.

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
16: Gethin Jenkins
17: Michael Leaman
18: Craig Quinnell
19: Mark Lewis
20: Dean Dewdney
21: Lee Thomas
22: Tom Shanklin

Referee: David Changleng (SRU)