Leinster clinched their second successive victory in the inaugural British & Irish Cup with a 12-10 win over the Cornish Pirates at Donnybrook on Friday evening.
BRITISH & IRISH CUP – POOL A: Friday, November 27
LEINSTER 12 CORNISH PIRATES 10, Donnybrook
Scorers: Leinster: Pens: Shaun Berne 4
Cornish Pirates: Try: Gavin Cattle; Con: Rob Cook; Pen: Rob Cook
Shaun Berne continued his excellent run of form with 12 points as Leinster battled back from a deficit to seal the win with a late effort.
A good Berne break in the eighth minute inside the Pirates half did not bear fruit as Brendan Macken took his eye off the ball as a clear run beckoned.
But the attack brought the home side to life after a solid start from the Pirates where they took a stranglehold on possesion.
The Cornish side came close to scoring the game’s opening try when winger Nick Jackson broke through the Leinster midfield but some excellent defence from David Kearney denied what looked to be a certain try.
A break from centre Mark Ireland led to a penalty for the visitors, 15 metres from the posts, and Rob Cook had no difficulties slotting the effort home to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead after 18 minutes.
Leinster’s response was almost immediate but Berne’s penalty attempt, two minutes later, fell inches short of the posts.
Richardt Strauss, making his first start in Leinster colours, carried the ball with great fervour and it was a break from the South African hooker in the 22nd minute that nearly led to the home side’s first points, though the kick again fell wide from Berne.
Berne made amends with a penalty on 27 minutes, which levelled the game at 3-3.
The remainder of the opening half was keenly contested with a Devin Toner steal from a lineout and an all-round industrious performance from Kevin McLaughlin being the highlights for the home side.
Leinster began the second half strongly and Berne doubled his personal tally with his second penalty in the 45th minute to give his side the lead.
A Cook penalty, just a minute later, fell wide into the Bective end of the ground and a further success from Berne in the 52nd minute increased Leinster’s lead to six points.
With McLaughlin and Stephen Keogh making inroads and Girvan Dempsey consistently proving to be a real attacking thorn, Leinster were in the ascendancy.
However, a ten-minute spell of pressure for the Pirates led to a try from close in by scrum half Gavin Cattle, which Cook converted, to help the Englishmen regain the lead at 10-8.
As Leinster rallied, replacement Niall Morris and winger Michael Keating came close to scoring in the closing quarter but it was Berne again, adding his fourth successful penalty with eight minutes remaining, who provided the difference between the sides.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Michael Keating, Brendan Macken, Shaun Berne, David Kearney; Ian McKinley, Paul O’Donohoe (capt); Ronan McCormack, Richardt Strauss, Jack McGrath, Trevor Hogan, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Paul Ryan, Stephen Keogh.
Replacements used: Jason Harris-Wright for Strauss (27 mins), Simon Keogh for O’Donohoe (47), Dominic Ryan for Paul Ryan (63), Niall Morris for Kearney (69), Stewart Maguire for McGrath (72), Eoin O’Malley for Macken (76). Not used: Mark Flanagan.
CORNISH PIRATES: Rob Cook; Aisea Havili, Mark Ireland, Steve Winn, Nick Jackson; Jonny Bentley, Gavin Cattle (capt); Ryan Storer, Dave Ward, Carl Rimmer, Shaun Pammenter, Luke Collins, Matt Evans, Tyrone Holmes, Laurie McGolone.
Replacements used: Richard Bright for Winn (half-time), Rob Labuschagne for Collins (48 mins), Sam Betty for Evans (56), Rhys Jones for Bentley (62), Rob Elloway for McGolone (65), James Doherty for Cattle (74). Not used: Paul Andrew.
Referee: David Bodilly (Wales)