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Leinster Draw Encouragement From Four-Try Defeat

Leinster Draw Encouragement From Four-Try Defeat

24 players used, four converted tries scored. It was a job well done for Leinster at the Parc des Sports Aguilera on Friday night despite a narrow defeat to hosts Biarritz Olympique.

PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY: Friday, August 31

BIARRITZ OLYMPIQUE 31 LEINSTER 28, Parc des Sports Aguilera (Att: 9,400)

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Scorers: Biarritz: Tries: Benjamin Noirot, Philippe Bidabe, Agustin Creevy, Matias Cortese; Con: Dimtri Yachvili; Pens: Dimitri Yachvili, Julien Dupuy 2
Leinster: Tries: Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney, Michael Berne, Christian Warner; Cons: Jonathan Sexton 3, Christian Warner

Leinster overcame a poor start to attack their French hosts with vigour and score a series of high quality tries through Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney, Michael Berne and Christian Warner, although victory was just beyond them.

Speaking after his side’s first pre-season match, Leinster coach Michael Cheika said: “I’m definitely happy with the performance. It seemed as though the squad were almost a little bit shocked at the start of the game because Biarritz scored two tries in the first seven minutes and we had hardly touched the ball.

“The first time we got our hands on the ball we scored a try through Sean O’Brien who was one of a number of players to put in strong performances as did the likes of Richie Sweeney and Fionn Carr.

“In fact, all the Academy boys responded to the challenges they faced,” he admitted.

“There were a few holes in our play and we’re under no illusion that there are areas that need improving, but some of the younger guys have put the cat amongst the pigeons (in terms of selection). We’re not getting carried away, but I was pleased with a lot of our set-ups.”

Tries from hooker Benjamin Noirot (6 minutes) and winger Philippe Bidabe (9), which both went unconverted, saw Biarritz stride into an early lead on what was a humid night in the south west of France.

Leinster encouragingly struck back just moments later when some neat build-up play involving Chris Whitaker and Gary Brown led to young back rower O’Brien crashing through for a try. Out-half Jonathan Sexton converted for a 10-7 score line.

Biarritz continued to make the most of their chances when flanker Agustin Creevy wrestled free to cross the whitewash for his side’s third try, which French international Dimitri Yachvili this time managed to convert.

The try of the night followed from Ireland-capped winger Kearney who gobbled up a kick inside the visitors’ 22 and set off on an eye-catching run which saw him dart and swerve his way right to the try line for an awesome breakaway score, which Sexton converted.

Indeed Leinster took the lead which they held to half-time when their forwards made considerable ground with a well-worked drive and a quick switch of play out the back-line led to Australian centre Berne barging over close to the posts for Sexton to kick his side into a 21-17 advantage.

Biarritz bounced back with a penalty from Yachvili – making the half-time score 21-20 – and took further control as the number of replacements made at half-time disrupted both side’s continuity. A brace of penalties from replacement Julien Dupuy, after 47 and 68 minutes, saw the French retake the lead and they held it to the finish with replacement hooker Matias Cortese rumbling over for his side’s fourth try.

A seven-pointer in the dying seconds from replacement out-half Warner capped off a morale-boosting display for Leinster, who will spend the coming days in camp in Barcelona ahead of their second friendly against English side Bath.

“It has been a different preparation for the squad this pre-season. We have tried to use last two years’ preparation as the basis for what we want to do,” Cheika added.

“We made improvements and the squad will go through a few more days conditioning and skills work in Barcelona on Sunday until the middle of next week before we face Bath on Friday.”

Biarritz: Benjamin Thiery; Philippe Bidabe, Denis Lison, Romain Cabannes, Ilikena Bolakoro; Marcelo Bosch, Dimitri Yachvili; Eduard Coetzee, Benjamin Noirot, Hedley Wessels, Trevor Hall, David Couzinet (capt), Steve Malonga, Agustin Creevy, Samiu Vahafolau.

Replacements: Matias Cortese, Denis Avril, Jean-Baptiste Roidot, Bastien Sohet, Julien Dupuy, Julien Peyrelongue, Nicolas Brusque.

Leinster: Ross McCarron; Gary Brown, Luke Fitzgerald, Michael Berne, Rob Kearney; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Whitaker (capt); Stan Wright, Richie Sweeney, Stephen Knoop, Leo Cullen, Devin Toner, Cameron Jowitt, Sean O’Brien, Kevin McLaughlin.

Replacements used: Cillian Willis for Whitaker (25 mins), Fionn Carr for McCarron, Fergus McFadden for Berne, Cian Healy for Wright, Brian Blaney for Sweeney, Juan Francisco Gomez for Knoop, Christian Warner for Sexton (all half-time), Chris Keane for Willis (50), Keith Gleeson for Jowitt (70).