Leinster go top of RaboDirect Pro 12 after victory over Glasgow
GLASGOW WARRIORS 25
GLASGOW made life hard, but champions Leinster found a way to leap-frog Munster to go top of the RaboDirect Pro12 with a hard fought win.
With their great rivals losing in Llanelli earlier this evening, Matt O’Connor’s men took full advantage despite some ropey defending and an impressive performance from the fifth placed side.
Leinster were missing a clutch of Ireland first-teamers and integrated nine international hopefuls into their side, despite losing Luke Fitzgerald to an abductor injury in the warm-up. That blow will surely rule the winger out of any involvement in the remaining Six Nations games.
Of those hoping to catch Joe Schmidt’s eye it was perhaps Eoin Reddan who most impressed in the 55 minutes he played before making way for Isaac Boss. Fergus McFadden tackled hard but got limited ball at outside centre and the front-row scrimmaged well. Ian Madigan kicked five out of six in an impressive outing, which could be timely considering Jonathan Sexton’s thumb woes.
The biggest concern will come from Martin Moore leaving the field clutching his hand and Mike Ross, the only member of Ireland’s starting XV released for provincial duty this weekend, struggled to get to grips with the scrum.
Not getting a bonus point won’t worry O’Connor unduly after a game in which the lead swapped hands regularly and the Warriors lived up to their moniker with a doughty display.
The hosts took the lead within seven minutes thanks to brilliant strength from Sean Cronin who freed his hands in the tackle for Noel Reid who took the pop pass at pace, shrugged off a weak Niko Matawalu tackleto score under the posts.
Ian Madigan converted, but Glasgow hit back minutes later in impressive style even if Leinster’s defence gave them a helping hand.
Jack McGrath won’t want to see a replay of Richie Vernon’s try as the Ireland prop was handed off by fly-half Ruaridh Jackson who drew Zane Kirchner and put the centre over for a try which Finn Russell converted to level.
Madigan restored Leinster’s lead with a penalty, but it wouldn’t last as Tommy Seymour stepped inside Darragh Fanning’s poor tackle and raced down the left. Sam Coghlan Murray halted the former Ulster winger’s march short, but he kept the ball in play and the Warriors moved the ball right `where Jordi Murphy stopped Matawalu short only for Glasgow to recycle quickly and Leinster couldn’t stop Vernon going over for his second.
Russell couldn’t convert and Leinster responded well, with Madigan pulling the strings and kicking the goals needed to put his side back into the ascendancy.
He put his side back in front after Kirchner was obstructed while chasing a Garryowen, before McGrath forced a scrum penalty which Madigan knocked over from 45m.
Leo Cullen didn’t give him a chance to extend the four point lead further when Matawalu interfered with Eoin Reddan, opting instead for the touchline and Murphy came up just short from the maul before Madigan was held up by the Fijian winger.
From the powerful scrum, Leinster’s forwards trucked it up before Reddan fed Madigan whose pass to Kirchner was shifted on quickly to Fanning who crashed over.
Madigan missed the conversion and a late Leinster offside gave Russell the chance to narrow the gap to 21-15 at half-time.
The fly-half put his side under pressure soon after the restart when his quick ’22 drop out was read by Matawalu and the Warriors countered. Although the initial thrust came to nothing, the next wave brought huge dividends as Josh Strauss off-loaded to Chris Cusiter who burst through. Despite a major overlap, Jackson kept it tight and Matawalu forced his way over from close range.
Russell converted, but back came Leinster with the impressive Coghlan Murray’s chase and tackle forcing a scrum and Noel Reid skipping through the cover. Eventually, the visitors conceded a penalty and Madigan went to the corner, the maul was held up over the line.
The first scrum saw Glasgow penalised, but they got under replacement Mike Ross from the second and Murphy was forced to pick. A series of pick and goes saw Leinster go close with Kirchner the nearest, before Rhys Ruddock picked and crashed over from close range and Madigan added the extras.
Six points in front yet again, Leinster had 16 minutes to chase the bonus point, but instead it was Glasgow who closed the gap through a Russell penalty to set up a nervous finish, but the champions closed it out to move into the lead.
LEINSTER – Z Kirchner; D Fanning, F McFadden, N Reid, S Coghlan Murray (D Hudson 75); I Madigan, E Reddan (I Boss 51); J McGrath (M Bent 73), S Cronin (R Strauss 51), M Moore (M Ross 51); L Cullen, M McCarthy; R Ruddock, S Jennings (D Ryan 68), J Murphy.
GLASGOW WARRIORS – P Murchie; T Seymour (L Jones 65), R Vernon, R Finn, N Matawalu; R Jackson, C Cusiter (H Pyrgos 68); G Reid (J Yanuyanutawa 51), P MacArthur (F Brown 69), E Kalman (J Welsh 51); T Swinson, J Gray; E James, R Harley (T Holmes 65), J Strauss (L Nakaware 65).
Referee: N Owens (WRU)