Tovey proves bonus-buster as Blues' youthful exuberance comes up short
NG Dragons 28 Leinster 13
Published 30/01/2016 | 02:30
Leinster's dogged display in defeat to the Newport Gwent Dragons went unrewarded as Dragons outside-half Jason Tovey kicked a last-minute penalty.
Leo Cullen's young charges showed all the heart that was missing from last week's humbling at the Ricoh Arena, but fell just short in a ten-point defeat.
Scrum-half and captain Luke McGrath dived over after Ashton Hewitt had given the Dragons the lead, but a faultless performance from home fly-half Tovey helped condemn Leinster to their first defeat in seven league outings.
The boot of Fergus McFadden gave the visitors a chance to snatch a gutsy victory, but that proved to be a step too far for the young side.
Cullen took an unfamiliar Leinster side over to a wet and blustery Rodney Parade. Senior and U-20 Ireland call-ups left the former lock without 30 players for testing trip to Rodney Parade.
The raft of inclusions brought the province's academy into play, with three players who were yet to make an appearance for the first XV drafted onto the replacement bench. Front-rowers Jeremy Loughman and Oisín Heffernan and No 8 Peadar Timmons were all included for the first time.
Leinster's youngest appearance maker Adam Byrne, who has not pulled on the senior blue jersey for three seasons, was brought in against a Dragons side who had one of their three Wales call-ups, Hallam Amos, back on the wing.
Cullen did, however, have South Africa flyer Zane Kirchner at full-back with Jordi Murphy and Dominic Ryan in the back-row, with Ireland stars Ian Madigan and Richardt Strauss in reserve, as they looked to bounce back from the 51-10 European humbling at Wasps.
But Leinster endured a nightmare start, going behind after just four minutes. The visitors failed to roll away at a maul, giving the Dragons a kickable penalty, but the hosts turned down a shot and kicked for the corner.
The home pack shunted Leinster towards their own line, before they sent their centres crashing into the visiting midfield.
Scrum-half Sarel Pretorious then released Tovey, who found Hewitt, and the lightning fast spotted a gap between McFadden and Michael Bent to score. Tovey added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
But the early scare shocked Leinster into life, and a McFadden penalty got them on the scoreboard before captain for the day McGrath sniped in to edge his side ahead.
Ross Molony dived in quickly to steal the ball at a ruck, before the slight scrum-half danced around prop Brok Harris to score at the posts.
But McGrath almost let the Dragons back in the game when he got a high-kick from Tovey all wrong and almost let Adam Warren to beat him to the ball for a try, but the television match official came to the rescue.
And the Dragons had a second try disallowed after 20 minutes when Tovey used his boot to good effect once again to find Hewitt at the corner, but Pretorious had knocked on in the build-up.
But Lyn Jones' men finally got their score, and it was Hewitt who set it up with a searing break to leave a trio of Leinster defenders in his wake before Landman offloaded to Tovey for a score he converted himself. And he added a drop-goal for a 17-10 half-time lead.
But with the appearance of Madigan at the break, Leinster found their rhythm. McFadden knocked a penalty over to cut the gap to four, before Madigan orchestrated a 15-minute spell of attacking pressure.
But a knock-on inches from the line undid all of Leinster's hard work and allowed the Dragons to take a deep breath and relieve the pressure.
And Tovey's penalty ten minutes from time wrapped up the triumph before McFadden was shown yellow for an illegal clear-out, before Tovey's boot denied a losing bonus.
Newport Gwent Dragons - C Meyer; A Hewitt, A Hughes, A Warren, H Amos; J Tovey, S Pretorious (C Davies); B Stankovich (P Price), TR Thomas (c) (E Dee), B Harris (S Knight); M Screech, C Hill (S Andrews), N Croswell (J Benjamin), N Cudd, R Landman.
Leinster - Z Kirchner; A Byrne (N Reid), G Ringrose, B Te'o, F McFadden; C Marsh (I Madigan), L McGrath (c) (I Boss); P Dooley (J Loughman), J Tracy (R Strauss), M Bent; R Molony, H Triggs (T Beirne); D Ryan (P Timmins), D Leavy, J Murphy.
Ref - M Mitrea (Italy)