Friday 28 October 2016

Sexton makes the most of controversial late call

Cardiff 13 Leinster 16

James Lloyd

Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30

Johnny Sexton kicks a penalty against Cardiff
Johnny Sexton kicks a penalty against Cardiff

Irish referee Dudley Phillips didn't endear himself to the Welsh crowd after his 70th minute decision to yellow card Josh Navidi paved the way for Leinster to strip another Welsh side of their unbeaten run.

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Jamison Gibson-Park cleverly passed the ball into the replacement flanker as he headed back to the defensive line and Philips not only awarded a penalty, but also issued the yellow card. Jonathan Sexton kicked the penalty and Leinster won a titanic tussle.

Leinster came into the game with a five-year stranglehold on the fixture, and some pretty handsome scorelines in their favour, but the Blues are made of sterner stuff this season and were battling to retain their unbeaten record.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen made nine changes to the side that had stripped the Ospreys' of their 100 per cent record the previous weekend and, with a Champions Cup opener at home against Castres Olympique to come in a fortnight's time, obviously had his eyes firmly fixed on a Welsh regional double.

The dancing feet of wing Dave Kearney produced the first real line-break of the night and his run up to the home 22 almost paved the way for the opening score. Johnny Sexton exploited the blindside off quick ruck ball and Dan Leavy almost barrelled his way over in the corner.

The abrasive back row ran over Matthew Morgan, shrugged off Blaine Scully and was just knocked into touch at the corner flag by a desperate lung from Kristian Dacey. It took the TMO more than two minutes to decide whether or not it was a try.

Leinster's Rhys Ruddock in action against Cardiff Blues' Josh Turnbull. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster's Rhys Ruddock in action against Cardiff Blues' Josh Turnbull. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

It was ruled out in the end, but Leinster maintained the pressure and Sexton opened the scoring four minutes later with a penalty off the home 22. The Irish outhalf then missed from 45 metres, but opposite number Gareth Anscombe made no mistake from 10 metres closer moments later to open the Blues' account.

That score boosted the home side's confidence and within five minutes they had taken the lead thanks to a powerful rip at a ruck by Nick Williams and Ellis Jenkins. A quick pass to Anscombe allowed the Blues No 10 to beat the first line of defence and then pin back his ears and race 30 metres to the line for a try which he also converted.

Moments later he added a penalty from a few metres inside the Leinster half and all of a sudden there was a 10-point gap.

Having lost Warburton to an HIA in the first half, the Blues had to replace Morgan and Filise at half-time because of head injuries.

Cardiff Blues' Nick Williams is tackled by Leinster's Dan Leavy and Rhys Ruddock. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cardiff Blues' Nick Williams is tackled by Leinster's Dan Leavy and Rhys Ruddock. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Leinster turned on the power and Sexton cut the gap with a penalty five minutes after the re-start. Then the centre pair of Noel Reid and Rory O'Loughlin combined beautifully to split open the home defence with a delicious offload.

The Blues managed to halt the move five metres from their line, but crept offside. Leinster had a dart from the first penalty through Jamison Gibson-Park and then opted to kick to the corner from a second penalty. It was a move that paid rich dividends when No 8 Rhys Ruddock was driven over from the line-out.

Sexton stepped up to add the conversion and the game was tied up at 13-13 after 50 minutes. Anscombe was wide with a long range penalty that would have put his side back in front and then came Gibson-Park's cunning pass into the back of Navidi to clam the victory.

Scorers - Cardiff: G Anscombe try, con, 2 pens Leinster: R Ruddock try; J Sexton con, 3 pens

Cardiff Blues: M Morgan (D Fish 41); B Scully, C Allen (S Shingler 65), R Lee-Lo, T James; G Anscombe, L Williams (T Williams 70); G Jenkins (captain, R Gill 55), K Dacey (M Rees 55), T Filise (S Andrews 41), G Earle (M Cook 24), J Turnbull, S Warburton (J Navidi 15), E Jenkins, N Williams

Leinster: Z Kirchner; F McFadden (J Carbery 72), R O'Loughlin, N Reid, D Kearney (B Daly 41); J Sexton (captain), J Gibson-Park; J McGrath (P Dooley 66), J Tracy (S Cronin 51), M Ross (M Bent 51), M Kearney (D Toner 51), I Nagle, D Leavy, J van der Flier, R Ruddock

Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)

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