Leinster young guns catch Schmidt's eye
Leinster 'A' 44 Leeds Carnegie 17
When Girvan Dempsey spoke this week about having more time than normal with his Leinster 'A' side, you couldn't help but sense an ominous mood for Leeds Carnegie ahead of last night's British and Irish Cup final.
Leinster's route to the final had come with a 100pc winning record and despite Dempsey describing their opponents as "battle hardened", it was his team who retained their title at Donnybrook.
Leeds had been knocked out of the Championship play-off last Sunday, but they signalled their intent by naming 10 of the team that started against London Welsh.
In Luke McGrath and Cathal Marsh, Leinster have two young players who are primed for a bigger stage. It was perhaps fitting that Joe Schmidt was watching on, as both half-backs were just two of the several outstanding talents on show.
Sam Coghlan Murray scored a try in each half and enhanced what is a growing reputation.
Marsh settled Leinster nerves early on with a penalty from in front of the posts and he soon doubled the home side's advantage with another penalty after James Doherty was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.
The former St Michael's student was central to Leinster's opening try as it was his perfectly weighted pass that allowed Brendan Macken to break clear from his own '22'.
Macken was halted inside the Leeds '22', but Leinster recycled the ball quickly and Darren Hudson put the speedy Coghlan Murray in for a try in the corner.
Marsh landed the difficult touchline conversion with consummate ease as Leinster stretched their lead to 13-0 inside the first 15 minutes.
But for outstanding resilience from the Leinster defence, Leeds would have crossed for a try of their own after they were camped on the line. They eventually had to settle for three points as Jonny Bentley put them on the scoreboard.
Ben Marshall was forced off injured, but his replacement, Ross Molony in no way weakened the side.
Molony is another who is sure to have caught Schmidt's eye.
Leinster capped what was a terrific first-half performance with a try. Molony took James Tracy's throw at the tail of the lineout before feeding McGrath, who skipped clear under the posts.
Marsh again converted as Leinster took a commanding 20-3 lead into the break.
After the restart they continued to punish Leeds' sloppy play. Coghlan Murray scored a brilliant individual try. Marsh extended the lead with another conversion.
Leeds had Stevie McColl sin-binned for killing the ball at the breakdown. Marsh had the easiest of tasks to slot the resultant penalty. Leinster again made their man advantage count when Darragh Fanning got over in the corner for a try from which Marsh converted.
The hosts then had to weather a mini Leeds revival as the visitors threatened to spring the most unlikely of comebacks. David Doherty and Jonah Holmes both crossed for tries, which Bentley converted, but that was as good as it got for Leeds.
Macken put the icing on the cake with an intercept try late on. Marsh added his eighth successful kick of the evening for a personal haul of 19 points.
Leinster become the first team to successfully defend the British and Irish Cup as Schmidt left Donnybrook quietly satisfied with the performances of many future stars.
Leinster 'A' – D Hudson; S Coghlan Murray, B Macken (A Boyle 71), N Reid (C O'Shea 47), D Fanning; C Marsh, L McGrath (J Cooney 76); J O'Connell (E Byrne h/t), J Tracy (J Tracy 53), T Furlong; B Marshall (R Molony 5), Q Roux (J van der Flier 59); J Conan, D Ryan (C), L Auva'a.
Leeds Carnegie – S McColl; J Holmes, J Clarke (J Barker 52), F Burdon, D Doherty (G Georgiou 71); J Bentley, J Doherty; C Beech (L Imiolek h/t), J Graham (P Nilsen 52), D Tussac (B Hooper 52); C Green, M Myerscough (M Smith 59); D Sisi (R Beck h/t), C Walker, J Rowan (C).
REF – B Whitehouse (WRU).