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Leinster ‘A’ Make History By Retaining British & Irish Cup

Leinster ‘A’ Make History By Retaining British & Irish Cup

A strong first half showing laid the foundations as Leinster ‘A’ secured back-to-back British & Irish Cup titles with a comprehensive 44-17 final win over Leeds Carnegie.


Speaking after the five tries-to-two victory, Leinster 'A' head coach Girvan Dempsey said: “Our work-rate was outstanding and I'm delighted with the performance of the players. Leeds are a very good side and they showed it, especially when they got those two tries past the hour mark.

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“Our defence was the foundation though, everyone put a lot of pressure on in defence. In attack, I thought the back-three were excellent – they scored some cracking tries off turnover ball.

“The success these players have had in the last two years, winning two B&I Cups, will stand them in good stead going forward.

“Throughout the season the guys have really stuck together and played some excellent rugby, both home and away…the away performances against Moseley and Pontypridd in particular, and again tonight they delivered what was asked of them.”

The Dominic Ryan-led Blues did have some recent history with Leeds Carnegie heading into this contest, as they met twice in Pool 5 of last season's competition. While still under the stewardship of Colin McEntee, Leinster 'A' helped themselves to seven tries in a 47-18 pool victory over Leeds at Donnybrook in October 2012.

A thrilling 30-30 away draw followed in January of last year, but in the meantime, Carnegie's fortunes have improved dramatically. After registering a solitary victory in the 2012/13 pool, they topped their group this term before progressing to the final with impressive successes over Plymouth Albion and 2011 cup winners Bristol.

They suffered an agonising Championship play-off reversal to London Welsh last Sunday but in spite of the five day turnaround, head coach James Lowes kept faith with ten of the starting team for the trip to Dublin.

It was an emotional outing in general for this Leeds team, with seven of their players making their final appearances.

Indeed, Carnegie's first British & Irish Cup final appearance was effectively their last game as a club, as they will now merge into the new Yorkshire Carnegie project.

However, Leinster 'A' were not prepared to give Leeds the send-off they so badly craved and superb out-half Cathal Marsh fired the hosts into an early lead with a routine second minute penalty.

Leeds applied pressure through half-back pair Jonny Bentley and James Doherty following the concession of this score, but rigid defensive work from Leinster 'A' ensured that they were kept at bay.

A brilliant break from deep by centre Noel Reid looked set to herald the game's opening try 11 minutes in, but a deliberate knock-on by Doherty brought a halt to the move and the Leeds scrum half was duly sin-binned.

Marsh punished his indiscretion with another successful place-kick. Even at this early stage the game was being played on Leinster's terms, and it came as no surprise when they finally crossed the whitewash moments after Doherty's temporary departure.

Full-back Darren Hudson made the initial break on the left before the ball was swept across to the opposite wing, with good hands from replacement Ross Molony, who came on for the injured Ben Marshall, and fellow lock Quinn Roux. Winger Sam Coghlan Murray was released and he did well to finish in the corner.

A majestic Marsh conversion from the touchline increased the cushion to 13-0, which made matters all the more ominous for the English visitors.

To Leeds' credit, they did have a dominant spell inside the Leinster 22 but all they could muster was a close range three-pointer from the boot of Bentley.

Any chance that Carnegie had of building momentum ahead of the break was eliminated by a 33rd minute try from Luke McGrath, who was eager to impress the watching Leinster coaches in light of his cameo appearance against Ulster last weekend.

The dynamic scrum half received the ball from a well-worked lineout on the 22-metre line and slipped past Joe Graham's attempted tackle for an outstanding converted score, just to the right of the posts.

With 17 points separating the teams at the break (20-3), Leinster's young guns were odds-on to retain their crown. As Ed Byrne joined earlier replacement Molony in the pack, the intensity from the holders remained intact.

Former Newbridge College student Coghlan Murray was an elusive runner in the Leinster back-three and he completed his brace of tries just four minutes after the restart.

Again, the try came from lineout possession which Leo Auva'a bashed up through the middle. McGrath cleverly flicked a pass back inside on the angle for Coghlan Murray to charge through and beat two defenders before leaving full-back Stevie McColl in his wake with a terrific arcing run in under the posts.

As ever, the tournament's top scorer Marsh was on target with the conversion that followed and he added three points to an already impressive personal tally when McColl failed to roll away nine minutes later.

The onslaught from Leinster 'A' continued courtesy of Darragh Fanning's five-pointer on the right wing just shy of the hour mark, as he mopped up a loose ball after a promising break from Marsh. The latter continued his impressive form with the boot by adding the extras from wide out.

But, to Leeds' credit, they displayed an abundance of fighting spirit in the latter stages. Good build-up play from replacement prop Lee Imiolek paved the way for David Doherty to dive over 17 minutes from time.

The hard-working Doherty turned provider soon after as he sent fellow winger Jonah Holmes through for a try on the right. Bentley landed both conversions to reduce the arrears to 37-17.

A powerful maul towards the Leinster posts in the 70th minute put Leeds in an excellent position to register a third try, which would have set-up an intriguing conclusion.

Leinster 'A' completely turned the tables on them though, with centre Brendan Macken intercepting a midfield pass from Carnegie and running the length of the field to go over unopposed. Marsh converted from in front of the posts to take his haul for the campaign to 119 points.

The intercept effort eased the pressure on Leinster 'A' moving into the closing stages and with Dempsey emptying the bench before the end, the province comfortably made history as the first team to win successive British & Irish Cups.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)