Leinster went eleven points clear at the top of the Magners League on Saturday evening as tries from Ollie Le Roux (2) and Malcolm O’Kelly helped them overcome the Llanelli Scarlets at a rain-soaked Stradey Park.
The Scarlets’ five-match winning streak in home league games came to an end as Leinster, helped by a sterling effort by their forwards, took the spoils in atrocious weather conditions.
Two first half tries from the influential Ollie Le Roux were followed by a touchdown for experienced lock Malcolm O’Kelly, who was beating Reggie Corrigan’s mark as the province’s most-capped player.
Having been stung 52-23 by the Scarlets at the RDS in October, Leinster were fully prepared for revenge and they did most of the damage in the first half, getting their tactics right and establishing a 17-3 interval lead.
Llanelli missed the presence of dead leg victim Iestyn Thomas and the suspended Deacon Manu in their front row as Leinster bossed them up front.
The Scarlets went behind in the 13th-minute when, after a series of rucks and mauls, beefy South African Le Roux held off three players – Stephen Jones, Gavin Thomas and Phil John – to crash over over the try line.
Felipe Contepomi, playing in the centre with Jonathan Sexton installed at number 10, got the better of a gusting wind to knock over the conversion.
Contepomi was penalised, moments later, when he came in from the side of a ruck and Stephen Jones stepped up to kick Llanelli’s first points.
But little went right for Phil Davies’ men for the remainder of the first half. Contepomi flung over a 26th-minute and Leinster were clearly growing in confidence as Rob Kearney tried his luck with a drop goal.
Jones missed what looked an easy penalty, given his usual high standards, and the Scarlets paid the price.
In the fourth-minute of injury-time Le Roux, hungry for more after his first try for the province, muscled over for his second score which Contepomi again converted.
Wales hooker Matthew Rees was brought on for the second half and the Scarlets noticeably upped the tempo with their league title aspirations under the microscope.
They began to get more of the ball and in dangerous areas too, with scrum half Dwayne Peel finding some room around the fringes and Regan King, the league’s top try scorer, threatening through the middle. Scottish lock Scott MacLeod also made his presence felt.
Replacement Nathan Thomas then went close to notching a Scarlets try but Leinster were whistled up for killing the ball and scrum half Chris Whitaker was banished to the sin-bin.
This was the Welsh region’s chance to get back into the game and they did just that when blindside flanker Dafydd Jones powered over in the 53rd-minute, with Jones, whose kick bounced off the crossbar, adding the extras.
But, just when it looked like Leinster’s lead could come under threat, the visitors broke up the other end and sent O’Kelly over for what was the clinching try.
Leinster’s pack made the hard yards, driving the hosts back and O’Kelly crashed over with Contepomi converting for a 24-10 score-line.
The league leaders were down to 13 men for a short time when replacement hooker Brian Blaney followed Whitaker into the sin-bin for a similar offence.
But it made little difference as the Scarlets were shut out for the remainder and Leinster gleefully chalked up their ninth successive league win.
The Dublin-based side’s successful revenge mission has them well clear at the summit and although there are still four rounds to go, it seems the title is theirs to lose.