Leinster welcomed Gloucester to St. Mary’s College RFC for the second game in the Bank of Ireland pre-season series and ran out convincing 50-14 winners.
PRE-SEASON MATCH: Friday, August 18
LEINSTER 50 GLOUCESTER 14, Templeville Road, St. Mary’s College RFC
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Max Deegan 2, Jordan Larmour 2, Hugo Keenan, Isa Nacewa, Bryan Byrne; Cons: Ross Byrne 3, Cathal Marsh 3; Pen: Ross Byrne
Gloucester: Tries: Henry Purdy, Andrew Symons; Cons: Owen Williams, Billy Burns
HT: Leinster 19 Gloucester 7
A late change in personnel – Adam Byrne started for the ill Jimmy O’Brien at outside centre – did not put Leinster off and it was an encouraging start to the game with an early try for Leo Cullen’s men in front of just over 2,500 spectators at the immaculate Templeville Road ground.
Scott Fardy’s first introduction to his new public came in the way of a textbook hit-up and recycle before Jamison Gibson-Park went about pulling Gloucester left and right for Fardy to fly through the middle. Scrum half Gibson-Park and prop Peter Dooley were then the link men for captain Isa Nacewa to steal over on the left for 5-0 in the first minute.
However, they did not have it all their own way in the opening exchanges and when Bryan Byrne peeled away from a maul, the hooker got isolated and Lewis Ludlow made sure a penalty was forthcoming. This afforded the Cherry and Whites position. But, number 8 Max Deegan was dominant in the tackle and flanker Josh Murphy counter-rucked ferociously.
Leinster were smooth in their movement out of defence and it was not long before they scored their second try of the evening. The front row churned out a penalty and Jordi Murphy, Deegan and Rob Kearney, in particular, created the opening for hooker Byrne to pick up his second pre-season try in two matches. Ross Byrne converted with a quarter of an hour gone.
The greatest source of territory for the visitors came from long kicks to touch from penalties by out-half Owen Williams. Hooker Henry Walker just could not connect with his jumpers, however.
They were soon back in it, though, from a nicely constructed release down the left which allowed Henry Purdy to get outside Rob Kearney and touch down in the 25th minute. Williams added the extras to cut the gap to 12-7.
The home side went through the gears again as Gibson-Park and the Kearney brothers made good decisions to open up Gloucester down the left. The ball was moved quickly and Deegan had the momentum to make the line, out-half Byrne’s conversion moving the province 12 points clear in the 36th minute.
Just before half time, a Gibson-Park grubber put Gloucester in a bind and Nacewa came through to force a penalty. Leinster opted for a scrum instead of taking the points. It did not pay off, though, as Adam Byrne’s final pass under severe pressure did not go to hand, leaving it 19-7 at the turnaround.
Cullen made five changes at the break with Gloucester making 13 in total, but again Leinster were able to take up where they left off at the end of the opening 40 minutes. A swift pick-up by Jordan Larmour and Adam Byrne’s power through contact were the triggers for Leinster to move forward again.
The maul made significant headway and the scrum was convincing enough to win a penalty for Byrne who split the posts for a 22-7 scoreline in the 55th minute. The front row of Dooley, Byrne and Michael Bent was making hay at the scrum by now, handing Leinster another penalty and maul and time to clear a path for Larmour to ghost over on the hour mark, with Byrne knocking over the conversion.
The Leinstermen exploited further gaps in the Gloucester defence for number 8 Deegan’s second try of the game, converted by replacement Cathal Marsh. The second double of the evening came four minutes later as a delicate chip by Marsh over the first line of defence was taken on and finished in style by Larmour, the young full-back, in the 69th minute.
To their credit Gloucester kept coming at Leinster with a number of quickly-taken penalties keeping the home defence on their toes. Andy Symons’ support line was rewarded with their second try just before Leinster old boy Tom Denton entered the fray off the visitors’ bench.
However, the hosts hit back immediately as Hugo Keenan’s pace and momentum took him to the whitewash with 74 minutes on the clock. Marsh supplied his third conversion to complete the half-century for the province. Their final pre-season run-out is against Bath at Donnybrook next Friday (kick-off 7.30pm), with tickets on sale here.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Hugo Keenan, Adam Byrne, Isa Nacewa (capt), Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Peter Dooley, Bryan Byrne, Michael Bent (Vakh Abdaladze 65), Ian Nagle, Scott Fardy, Josh Murphy, Jordi Murphy, Max Deegan.
Replacements used: Jordan Larmour for R Kearney, Fergus McFadden for Nacewa, Barry Daly for D Kearney, Mick Kearney for Nagle, Will Connors for Murphy (all half-time), Charlie Rock for Gibson-Park (49 mins), Cathal Marsh for R Byrne, Ed Byrne for Dooley, Oisin Dowling for Fardy, Sean McNulty for B Byrne (all 60), Ian Fitzpatrick for A Byrne, Vakh Abdaladze for Bent (both 65), Oisin Heffernan for Deegan (72).
GLOUCESTER: (First Half): David Halaifonua; Charlie Sharples (Henry Purdy, 15 mins), Henry Trinder, Billy Twelvetrees, Ollie Thorley; Owen Williams, Willi Heinz (capt); John Afoa, Henry Walker, Fraser Balmain; Ed Slater, Jeremy Thrush; Jake Polledri, Lewis Ludlow, Freddie Clarke.
(Second Half): Tom Hudson; Andrew Symons, Matt Scott, Mark Atkinson, Henry Purdy; Billy Burns, Callum Braley; Cameron Orr, Joe Mullis, Gareth Denman; Tom Savage (capt), Andy Cramond (Tom Denton, 72 mins); Charlie Beckett, Will Safe, Freddie Clarke
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)