Saturday 23 September 2017

Nacewa enjoying 'exciting time' as Leinster's young guns power past Dragons

Dragons 16 Leinster 39

Scott Fardy of Leinster is tackled by Brok Harris of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Scott Fardy of Leinster is tackled by Brok Harris of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Alex Bywater

At the age of 35 and in his ninth season with Leinster, Isa Nacewa is still learning from those around him and adapting to different situations.

Skipper Nacewa remains the beating heart of Leo Cullen's side, and with both Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose nursing long-term injuries, the Aucklander stepped into the centre berth in Newport to lead his team to victory over Bernard Jackman's Dragons.

James Ryan of Leinster is tackled by Angus O'Brien, left, and James Benjamin of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
James Ryan of Leinster is tackled by Angus O'Brien, left, and James Benjamin of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

There were some tricky moments for the Irish raiders at Rodney Parade, but ultimately they were too strong up front, and in Nacewa, they had an experienced campaigner behind the scrum to help lead some of the young backs around him.

"It was a start for us. It's always nice to begin the campaign with a win, but there is still lots to work on," Nacewa said.

"With a lot of young guys there, it's pretty positive. It's a different role for me at centre, and I'm enjoying playing next to Ross Byrne, he's very composed out there.

"Then I've got Rory O'Loughlin, who is electric, outside me - it's an exciting time to be playing with those guys."

Ashton Hewitt of Dragons in action against Adam Byrne of Leinster. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ashton Hewitt of Dragons in action against Adam Byrne of Leinster. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leinster scored tries through Jamison Gibson-Park, a penalty score, Jordan Larmour, Dan Leavy and Cathal Marsh to record a bonus-point win, but they were only 13-6 up at the break.

Leinster's forward power told after the break as they pulled clear. Simply put, Cullen had too much aggression and physicality in the tight five for his former team-mate Jackman to contain.

Dragons were awarded a penalty try of their own and Gavin Henson booted three penalties, but Leinster fully deserved to win.

Nacewa created Leinster's first try, laying the platform for a scrum from which Gibson-Park dived over.

James Ryan of Leinster is tackled by Angus O'Brien of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
James Ryan of Leinster is tackled by Angus O'Brien of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Byrne converted and kicked two penalties in the first period, with Henson replying with six points.

After the break, Leinster took control.

They were awarded a penalty when Matthew Screech pulled down a blue driving maul, and the Dragons lock was yellow-carded. The conversion was automatic.

Henson replied with a third penalty, but Larmour, on his Leinster debut, was then given an easy finish and Leavy crossed for the crucial fourth try.

Dragons refused to go away and Adam Byrne was yellow-carded for a high tackle on a rampaging Ashton Hewitt; referee Mike Adamson awarded another penalty try worth an automatic seven.

James Ryan of Leinster is tackled by Angus O'Brien, left, and James Benjamin of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
James Ryan of Leinster is tackled by Angus O'Brien, left, and James Benjamin of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leinster, though, had the last laugh. Marsh, who had replaced Ross Byrne, scored the visitors' fifth and converted his own try.

It all represented a more than decent start for Cullen, who saw star summer signing Scott Fardy play the full 80 minutes.

Next up for Leinster is a home meeting with Cardiff Blues in Dublin on Friday.

"Cardiff are a great team and they played some great stuff last year," Nacewa said.

"They'll be looking to improve on their defeat to Edinburgh. We can't wait to get back in front of our own fans."

The game with Cardiff will be Leinster's first competitive tie at the RDS since their semi-final defeat to eventual winners Scarlets last season.

Nacewa is determined to see improvement.

"The last game we played at the RDS wasn't up to our standard, so raising that is something we've talked about," he said.

"But the new season has started now, so it's a case of not looking back and going week by week and trying to improve."

 

Dragons - Kirchner; Hewitt, Morgan, Dixon (O'Brien 54), Amos; Henson, Davies (Knoyle 54, (Rosser 67); Harris (Garrett 54), Dee (Buckley 67), Brown (Fairbrother 50), Screech (Landman 54), Hill (capt), Thomas (Williams 71), Benjamin, Keddie.

Leinster - Kearney; A Byrne, R O'Loughlin, Nacewa (capt), Larmour (Daly 67); R Byrne (Marsh 72), Gibson-Park (McCarthy 61); Healy (E Byrne 50), Cronin (Tracy 50), Bent (Porter 50), Toner (Ryan 59), Fardy, Van der Flier, Deegan (Conan 55).

Ref - M Adamson (SRU).

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