Leinster take positives as young guns go down fighting
Northampton Saints 33 Leinster 21
Leinster were forced to dig deep but ultimately came up short against Northampton at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.
Matt O'Connor fielded a largely youthful side, with several players making their first appearances for the province.
Northampton included far more international experience in their starting XV and they raced into a 21-0 lead at the break.
The Pro12 champions showed tremendous character to claw their way back into the game but a late try from Welsh winger George North ended any hopes of what would have been a stunning comeback.
Leinster started brightly but a couple of wayward lineouts cost them decent field position early on.
Tom Stephenson got the scoring under way for the hosts when he capitalised on a poor throw, and out-half Will Hooley converted.
Kahn Fotuali'i dotted down for Saints' second try before Leinster second-row Ben Marshall was sent to the sin bin for a late tackle. Substitute Luther Burrell scored the Premiership champions' third try.
O'Connor changed his half-back partnership for the second half, with Luke McGrath and Cathal Marsh both introduced but Northampton continued where they left off as North got in for a try in the corner,
Cian Kelleher began the fightback when he collected Steve Crosbie's pass to score. Marsh added the extras before Saints scrum-half Lee Dickson was shown a yellow card. Dan Leavy made his side's numerical advantage count when he got over for a second try that Marsh converted.
The young fly-half was central to the 'A' side's British & Irish Cup success last season and he will be hoping for further first team opportunities this year. Judging by his second-half display, he should indeed get more regular game time.
Clontarf winger Michael McGrath's converted try gave Leinster real hope of overturning the half-time deficit but their hopes were dashed when North streaked clear to score late on.
James Wilson's conversion put the gloss on the scoreline but there was plenty for the visitors to take from the defeat ahead of the start of the new season.
Leinster take on Ulster in their final pre-season game in Tallaght Stadium on Saturday.
Northampton Saints - B Foden; J Elliott, D Waldouck, T Stephenson (L Burrell 23), K Pisi; W Hooley, K Fotuali'i; A Corbisiero, R McMillan, S Ma'afu; J Craig, C Day; P Dowson, Tom Wood, S Manoa.
Leinster - B Dardis (C Kelleher 50); D Fanning (A Byrne 57), B Macken (R O'Loughlin 57), J Coghlan (S Crosbie 50), S Coghlan Murray (M McGrath 50); J Gopperth (C Marsh, h-t), I Boss (L McGrath h-t); M Bent (S McCarthy 32, E Byrne 68), B Byrne (T Moran, 62), T Furlong; B Marshall (G Thornbury h-t), T Denton; J van der Flier, D Leavy, D Ryan (J Slattery 62).
REF - L Pearce (RFU)