Leinster ‘A’ bowed out of the British & Irish Cup on Friday night despite enjoying a 71-17 bonus point triumph over Richmond at Donnybrook.
Results on Saturday in the other pools did not go the way of Hugh Hogan's side, so they finished as runners-up in Pool 4 – six points behind the Scarlets Premiership Select. The province were ranked ninth of the quarter-final hopefuls and will play no part in the knockout stages.
Round 6 visitors Richmond were seeking their third consecutive B&I Cup win, and they made a dream start. A wayward offload from Cathal Marsh, who has spent much of the current campaign out injured, was intercepted by winger Luke Outhwaite who crossed unopposed with just 38 seconds on the clock.
The conversion was added by out-half Freddie Gabbitass, but with Leinster ‘A’ then establishing themselves in the Richmond 22 for the first time, prop Peter Dooley drove over the whitewash for a hard-earned converted score.
It was tit-for-tat as strong work from the London club’s pack, which included former Lansdowne prop Adam Boland, almost yielded a second touchdown, before Gabbitass’ drop goal attempt superbly split the posts in the 12th minute.
The visitors were certainly signalling their intentions but by the first quarter mark, Leinster ‘A’ were beginning to dictate proceedings. A neat chip forward on 18 minutes lead to Kildare native Jimmy O'Brien dotting down in the right corner, and from a subsequent attack, he was joined on the scoresheet by his centre partner Tom Daly.
Daly profited from excellent approach work by full-back Billy Dardis before claiming a third try for the two-time B&I Cup champions, and with Marsh adding his second successful conversion of the half, the hosts had put some daylight between themselves and Richmond.
Richmond responded with a deserved five-pointer courtesy of Timmy Walford. They brought the gap back to two points, but with a bonus point already in their sights, Leinster ‘A’ maintained their adventurous attacking streak.
Winger Hugo Keenan was picked out in space on the right flank, and his sharp pass helped O’Brien to break over for his second score of the opening half. A superb Marsh kick from the touchline restored the province’s nine-point advantage, but they suffered a blow on the half hour mark when O’Brien was forced off through injury.
Ciaran Frawley deputised for the 2016 Ireland Under-20 star and after opening up a gap in the heart of the Richmond defence on the stroke of half-time, Barry Daly touched down to give Leinster ‘A’ an encouraging 33-17 interval cushion.
In spite of their difficult opening to the tie, momentum was now with Hogan’s charges as the action resumed. Tom Daly has gained valuable senior experience with the province this term, and he set up Marsh for a seven-point salvo, underneath the posts, just four minutes into the second period.
This effectively put the outcome beyond any doubt, and Leinster ‘A’ enhanced their superiority when a sweeping 53rd-minute move across the Richmond line ended with skipper Peadar Timmins registering his team’s seventh try.
Fresh from his comeback game against Nottingham last week, Ed Byrne once again appeared from the replacements bench for Leinster ‘A’. He joined his twin brother Bryan in the front row at this point, and Bryan was in the right place to finish off another impressive team move at the end of the third quarter.
With both sides emptying their respective benches with 15 minutes still to play, it was understandable that the pace of the game dropped in the closing stages. Yet, Leinster ‘A’ remained on top of possession, and Barry Daly dived over for his second try of the game.
This score was converted in spectacular fashion by Frawley, and he was also on hand to add two points on top of a Max Deegan try with just five minutes remaining.
Leinster ‘A’ were keen to continue searching for scores as the final whistle approached, and Tom Daly finally concluded the scoring with a neat finish by the posts which was followed by a third Frawley conversion.
Referee: Gareth Newman (Wales)