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McGrath: Poor Start Against Scarlets Can’t Be Repeated

McGrath: Poor Start Against Scarlets Can’t Be Repeated

Ahead of Leinster’s meeting with the Newport Gwent Dragons next Saturday, scrum half Luke McGrath reflected on a disappointing result against the Scarlets and spoke about bouncing back against a tricky Dragons side.

The province’s GUINNESS PRO12 defeat to the Scarlets last Friday was only the third time this season they have trailed at half-time in a game. The other occasions were the Champions Cup loss in Montpellier and a PRO12 comeback win away to Cardiff Blues.

In the two defeats, bonus points were both secured, but these games stand out in a season in which strong starts have been a regular feature for Leo Cullen’s men – on the opening day against Benetton Treviso, a Joey Carbery try after two minutes and a 15-5 half-time lead; a 19-12 lead at half-time away to Glasgow Warriors; a 26-8 lead away to Edinburgh and a bonus point secured by half-time.

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The list goes on. Until last Friday night broke the mould again. A strong finish meant Leinster left Parc y Scarlets with a try-scoring bonus point – secured when replacement prop Andrew Porter went over for his first Leinster try after the clock had passed the 80-minute mark – no mean feat having played around 50 minutes with 14 men.

But that poor start still rankled with Luke McGrath when he spoke to the media in Leinster HQ ahead of this Saturday’s clash with the Dragons at the RDS (the province’s first game at the Ballsbridge venue since that win over Connacht five weeks ago).

“We’re all quite disappointed, especially with the beginning of the game,” admitted the scrum half. “It was something we’d targeted, trying to make a good start, but the one positive is that we did show a lot of character to fight back and get that bonus point.”

Despite being just 24-years-old, McGrath was one of the more experienced players in the squad last Friday in terms of Leinster caps. Only seven players from that 23 have made more appearances for the province, all of them older than him, and five of them over the age of 30.

That experience means McGrath is seen as one of the leaders of the group. That perception obviously shared by Cullen and the other coaches as the former St. Michael’s College student was selected to captain Leinster in the opening two fixtures of the season against Treviso and Glasgow.

Add to that a first Ireland cap against Canada a couple of weeks ago, alongside his Leinster team-mates Dan Leavy, Garry Ringrose and James Tracy, and it has been a milestone season already for McGrath.

“Leadership’s something I’ve tried to develop, I’ve captained the side before. Even being within the international camp in the last few weeks I feel I’ve gained more experience and it’s just about building on that.”

With the international window now closed, for Ireland at least, the focus shifts back to matters provincial with the return of European rugby and back-to-back ties with Northampton Saints in December.

But first up it is a tricky test at the RDS on Saturday against an in-form Dragons side that have caused Leinster plenty of problems in recent seasons.

McGrath added: “They’ve won three of their last four games, so they are in great form. We lost to them in Rodney Parade last year and the year before we actually lost to them twice. So we don’t have the best record against them in recent times. They’re in good form and we have to be ready for them.”

Meanwhile, after their exploits this month on international duty, several Ireland players have been given some time off and will not return to Leinster until Thursday, although Robbie Henshaw was on the training pitch with the squad on Monday after missing the Australia match last weekend.

Dominic Ryan sustained a calf strain in the Scarlets match and will enter into a rehabilitation process with his availability for the Dragons fixture to be determined later in the week. Peadar Timmins left the pitch against Scarlets in the 78th minute for a head injury assessment. He passed the HIA.

Rory O’Loughlin came through the game with no issues after his return from a shoulder injury. Mike Ross, who picked up a hamstring injury in the win over Zebre at the start of the month, had a re-scan of the injury last week and his progress will continue to be monitored by Leinster medical staff.

Academy lock James Ryan had surgery on a hamstring injury last week, which he picked up while training with his club UCD. It is expected that he will be out of action for the next five months.

Leinster face the Dragons this Saturday night at the RDS (kick-off 7.35pm, live on TG4). Tickets are on sale from €;20 for adults and €;10 for under-18s.