Saturday 21 October 2017

Cian Healy injury blow adds to Blues woes on dismal night

Leinster 10 Treviso 0

Leinster's Gordon D'Arcy leaves the RDS pitch for the final time
Leinster's Gordon D'Arcy leaves the RDS pitch for the final time
Gordon D’Arcy, on his last home appearance for Leinster, is tackled by Treviso duo Edoardo Gori (L) and Enrico Bacchin at the RDS last night
Leinster's Rob Kearney takes a high ball ahead of Francesco Minto (L) Sam Christie and Edoardo Gori of Treviso last night
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

On an evening that began with Treviso's bus driver misjudging his route into the RDS and hitting the entrance gate, Leinster just about swerved to avoid a potential roadblock of their own.

Matt O'Connor couldn't have any complaints about player availability but his side flattered to deceive throughout a contest that was as poor as the rain-sodden conditions.

Leinster will play in next season's Champions Cup but a massive amount of work lies ahead between now and then.

A dismal night was made even worse afterwards when O'Connor revealed that Cian Healy underwent neck surgery yesterday and is now in a race to be fit in time for the World Cup.

"He had a disc repaired this evening and he is recovering well, the surgeon is very happy how it went," he said.

"There isn't a time scale but they are pretty optimistic, but they'll wait and see how he pulls up post-surgery.

Issue

"It (World Cup) shouldn't be an issue but we just have to see how he progresses post-surgery."

The subdued atmosphere in Dublin 4 wasn't just down to the poor rugby but also due to the fact that the Leinster fans simply aren't used to seeing their side not competing for a trophy in May, let alone scrapping for their place amongst Europe's elite.

Leinster escaped with a 24-24 draw in Italy earlier in the campaign and they made extremely hard work of a soporific contest that was briefly awoken when Gordon D'Arcy took to the RDS pitch for the final time.

That was after an hour, at which stage the tension inside the stadium was palpable.

Leinster made their intentions clear early on by twice declining kickable penalties but such was the inaccuracy of their play, the half finished by Jamie Heaslip pointing to posts.

Ian Madigan lined up what looked like a straightforward kick but he inexplicably sent it wide to sum up a dire half of rugby.

At times, Leinster made Treviso look as if they were a side challenging for the title rather than one who are languishing second from bottom with just three wins to their name.

Heaslip led by example but time and time again, those around him couldn't follow suit.

Dave Kearney played like a man who knew that he was in a race against time to ensure that he is part of Joe Schmidt's World Cup plans and he looked lively in the limited number of times he got the ball in hand.

He brilliantly chased his brother Rob's kick in behind the Treviso defence and forced a knock on and a scrum that Leinster subsequently scored their only try of the game from after eight minutes.

Heaslip stayed patient at the base of the scrum and showed great awareness to peel around the blind side and crash over the whitewash. Madigan easily added the extras.

Richardt Strauss and Sean O'Brien had both earlier gone close to scoring from close range but Leinster were unable to make their territorial dominance count on the scoreboard, which helped Treviso grow in confidence.

Luckily for Leinster, Jayden Hayward, who was impressive in open play, was woeful from the kicking tee when he twice should have punished their indiscipline.

Rob Kearney was pinged for not releasing midway through the first half but Hayward pushed his kick wide of before Madigan got a similar dose of the yips in injury-time.

O'Brien almost eased the tension shortly after the restart but he was stopped just short of the line after a trademark bulldozing carry. Devin Toner's knock-on from the following ruck sent the kind of groan from the crowd that has been a regular sound in these parts all season.

Hayward was handed another opportunity to reduce the deficit but he shanked his kick harmlessly wide, much to the relief of the nervy crowd.

D'Arcy almost signed off in style with a try after a scything break late on but he was spear-tackled by scrum-half Edoardo Gori, who was deservedly shown a red card.

Leinster continued to push for their second try but their momentum wasn't helped by a lengthy TMO stoppage that resulted in Gori's red card and yellow for O'Brien and Francesco Minto for an incident off the ball.

The referee brought play back for a Leinster penalty and out-half Jimmy Gopperth fired it over for his final points at the RDS before moving to Wasps next season.

Another limp Leinster performance but one that assures them their place in next season's Champions Cup.

Leinster - R Kearney; Z Kirchner, B Te'o, I Madigan (G D'Arcy 60), D Kearney; J Gopperth, E Reddan (I Boss 56); J McGrath (M Bent 56), R Strauss, M Ross (T Furlong 56); D Toner, M McCarthy (T Denton 75); J Murphy (J Conan 75), S O'Brien, J Heaslip (capt).

Benetton Treviso - J Hayward; A Pratichetti (A Esposito 17-32), L Morisi (A Esposito 64), E Bacchin, L Nitoglia; S Christie, E Gori; M Zanusso (R Acosta 53), D Giazzon (A Anae 59), R Harden (S Manu 45) 45); M Fuser, C van Zyl (capt, M Swanepol 53), P Derbyshire (M Lazzaroni 66), N Cattina (F Minto 53), M Luamanu.

Ref - L Hodges (WRU)

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