Sexton's boot slays Dragons
Dragons 16 Leinster 26
JONATHAN Sexton inspired Leinster to a hard-fought win yesterday with a 16-point haul.
The Ireland out-half slotted two conversions and four penalties as Leinster clung on for a first win at Rodney Parade in four years.
Isaac Boss touched down in the first half, and official Andy Macpherson awarded a penalty-try in the second. The Dragons scored through Adam Hughes and Jason Tovey.
The win lifts Leinster back to second, level on 55 points with Ulster and the Ospreys but with the superior points difference, 12 points behind Munster.
Coach Joe Schmidt said: "It's pretty suffocating up there but I'd rather be there than fourth and looking up. It's a real relief for us but there's still four more games to go.
"Jonny gives us a fair bit more than just the kicking game with his passing game as well and he defended really well.
"I'm just delighted with the result. It was a pretty flat performance from us and we lacked a bit of cohesion, but thankfully we survived.
"They've had a fair bit of rugby, with four games on the trot with pretty much the same team while we're trying to bring guys in."
Sexton got Leinster on the board with a penalty after just three minutes.
The Dragons pounced on 20 minutes, though. Luke Fitzgerald fielded the ball in his own half and beat the chasers before launching a counter-attack deep into Dragons territory. But he was brought to a halt and spilled the ball in contact.
Home centre Adam Hughes then beat Kevin McLaughlin before out-pacing Shane Horgan to race 60 metres down the left to score. Tovey added the extras and nudged the hosts further in front with a penalty.
Leinster brought themselves back into the game with Boss' try on 28 minutes, the scrum-half burrowing over from a Devin Toner driving line-out. Sexton's conversion levelled the scores but Tovey restored the Dragons' lead moments later with a second penalty.
The hosts could have gone further in front had it not been for the committed defence of Schmidt's men with a big double-hit from Horgan and Heinke van der Merwe stopping Aled Brew in his tracks with the line at his mercy.
The scores remained the same at the interval but Sexton drew Leinster level with a penalty on 42 minutes.
Isa Nacewa looked to launch an attack on 48 minutes. He chipped over the top but was tripped by Brew. The wing was sent to the sin-bin and Sexton punished his indiscretion with a penalty before Tovey hit back to once again level the scores.
Horgan appeared to have grabbed a decisive try on 54 minutes after a Nacewa break. But the TMO adjudged that the veteran wing had touched-down short.
But Leinster got the all important try on 57 minutes when Macpherson awarded a penalty try after a succession of scrum resets. Sexton added the conversion to make it 23-16.
On 63 minutes Sexton added his sixth successful kick of the afternoon to open up a 10-point advantage.
Leinster came close to grabbing a third try on several occasions in a frantic closing period.
The win provided some good news on a weekend that saw Leinster lose promising full-back Niall Morris to Leicester. The 22-year-old had impressed in his recent outings, but his opportunities had been limited. He signed a two-year deal with the Tigers.
NEWPORT -- M Thomas; W Harries, A Hughes, T Riley, A Brew; J Tovey, W Evans (J Evans, 77); P Price (H Gustafson, 54, P Price 60, H Gustafson 77), L Burns (S Jones, 63), D Way, L Charteris, (capt), A Jones, J Bearman, L Evans, T Faletau
LEINSTER -- I Nacewa; S Horgan (D Kearney, 63), E O'Malley, F McFadden, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, I Boss; H van der Merwe (J McGrath, 69), R Strauss (A Dundon, 80), S Wright ( S Shawe, 69), L Cullen, (capt), D Toner (N Hines, 53), K McLaughlin, D Ryan, R Ruddock (J Heaslip, 53) .
Ref -- A Macpherson (Scotland).