Leinster produced an assured display as they defeated the Exeter Chiefs 22-10 in Saturday afternoon’s British & Irish Cup Pool A encounter at Sandy Park.
BRITISH & IRISH CUP – POOL A: Saturday, February 13
EXETER CHIEFS 10 LEINSTER 22, Sandy Park
Scorers: Exeter Chiefs: Tries: Sam Blythe, Sean Marsden
Leinster: Tries: David Kearney 2, Paul O’Donohoe; Cons: Shaun Berne 2; Drop: Shaun Berne
Leinster got off to a dream start when David Kearney took a pass from Eoin O’Malley who scythed through the Chiefs midfield at pace with just two minutes on the clock.
The move began from a Leinster lineout, which Malcolm O’Kelly gathered, and a swift attack at pace followed from Paul O’Donohoe to Shaun Berne. O’Malley then managed to make 40 metres with ball in hand before offloading to Kearney inside the 22 to touch down.
Berne’s conversion fell narrowly wide of the uprights, but Leinster had taken a deserved 5-0 lead.
Exeter, who fielded two former Leinster Academy products in flanker David Gannon and prop Ruaidhrí Murphy, were on the back foot for the next 10 minutes before a break from scrum half Richard Bolt led to a penalty inside the Leinster 22.
Out-half Richard Gray opted to kick for touch and from the ensuing lineout, hooker Sam Blythe claimed the ball and touched down from close range to level the scores at 5-5 after 13 minutes.
Seven minutes later the hosts took the lead when right winger Sean Marsden benefited from a superb cross-field kick by Gray to collect his side’s second try, but again the out-half’s conversion effort fell wide of the posts.
Exeter were reduced to 14 men when Matt Cornwell was yellow carded for a professional foul in the 25th minute as Leinster upped the tempo.
Stan Wright almost powered over but referee Leighton Hodges adjudged that the ball was held up.
Eventually, Leinster’s territorial dominance was rewarded when Ian Madigan released Berne, and the Australian in turn found Kearney who stole in for his second try in the 35th minute.
Berne slotted home a superb conversion from the touchline to move Leinster back in front and the province went into half-time with a slender 12-10 advantage.
Leinster started the second half with greater urgency and a Berne drop goal in the 47th minute extended the lead to five points.
A Madigan drop goal effort as the game entered the final quarter struck the upright as Leinster pinned the hosts in their half.
With ten minutes to go, O’Donohoe’s brave block down on the Chiefs’ 22 in the 70th minute caught the hosts’ defence napping and the scrum half raced through to score.
Berne expertly added his third successful kick of the afternoon to give Leinster an unassailable 22-10 lead as they maintained their excellent run of form in the British & Irish Cup.
EXETER CHIEFS: Emyr Lewis; Sean Marsden, Tom Bedford, Matt Cornwell, Paul McKenzie; Danny Gray, Richard Bolt; Ben Moon, Sam Blythe, Ruaidhrí Murphy, Sean Tomes, Chris Bentley, David Gannon, James Scaysbrook (capt), Tom Johnson.
Replacements used: Dave Ewers for Gannon (34-41 mins, blood sub), Nick Greenhalgh for Bedford (49), Dave Ewers for Bentley (56), Saul Nelson for Blythe (59), Shane Kingsland for Murphy (62), Herbie Stupple for Johnson (71). Not used: Clive Stuart-Smith, Steve Jones.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Niall Morris, Eoin O’Malley, Shaun Berne, David Kearney; Ian Madigan, Paul O’Donohoe (capt); Stan Wright, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Trevor Hogan, Malcolm O’Kelly, Eoin Sheriff, Paul Ryan, Stephen Keogh.
Replacements used: Simon Keogh for Morris (7 mins), Ronan McCormack for Ross, Devin Toner for O’Kelly (both 57), Jason Harris-Wright for Strauss (63), David Moore for O’Donohoe, Ciaran Ruddock for Stephen Keogh (both 74). Not used: Kyle Tonetti.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)