Sport Rugby

Tuesday 28 February 2017

Nacewa stays calm to see Blues home

Leinster 31, Dragons 10

Garry Doyle

It was billed as a coming-of-age party -- an opportunist's playground for Leinster's wannabe stars.

Yet it took a while before they shone brightly on a night at the RDS, when Joe Schmidt's side were sometimes brilliant, often infuriating, but ultimately successful against a Dragons team whose fire burned out far too quickly.

Trailing by just three points at the break, the Welshmen found themselves 18 points adrift shortly after the restart, as their midfield went missing and Fionn Carr and Ian Madigan took full advantage when securing two tries, which secured the points for Leinster.

From there to the finish, the intensity that characterised the first half was replaced by a period that saw both sides running down the clock, each of them knowing the final result had been determined.

Leinster can be pleased with their collective capacity to retain the lead throughout the opening 40 minutes when they weren't playing well and then seal the deal when the chances presented themselves.

By doing so, they recorded their first win of the season -- following last week's heavy defeat to the Ospreys -- and in Carr, they look to have a winger of genuine class.

Certainly there are no doubts about either his pace or ability to exploit a gap when it opens. And this is what happened in the 45th minute, when the former Connacht player put distance between himself and his pursuers, before passing to Brendan Macken who finished tidily.

Madigan's finish two minutes later, however, was even better, as he showed electrifying speed to move clear of the Dragons defence from his out-half position, beating two men before scoring under the posts.

There and then, the game was over. Sure, another 33 minutes remained on the clock, but there was no sense that the Dragons would come back into it.

Even Jason Tovey's 57th-minute try and conversion failed to inject any confidence or momentum into them as their pressing game in the first half disintegrated. Carr exploited the visitors' inertia, scoring the try his game deserved, when he collected Leo Auva'a's pass before crossing the line.

Yet, for all their improvement after the break, there is no disguising the fact that if this bunch want to do more than merely keep the seat warm for those tourists Down Under, then the inconsistencies of the opening period will have to be rectified.

Leinster's handling was at times sub-standard and though their ambition to put width on their game never wavered, the principles were much more impressive than the execution until that game-changing 10-minute spell after half time.

Most impressive of all, though, was Isa Nacewa. Scorer of 16 points, it was the Fijian who was calm when Leinster were not and who carried this team through their sticky period.

Leinster -- Nacewa; Carr, Macken, O'Malley, Kearney (Hudson 69); Madigan (Berquist 55, O'Connell 73)), Willis (Cooney 55); Van der Merwe, Strauss (Dundon 65), Hagan (McGrath 69); Browne (Flanagan 61), Toner; McLaughlin, Ryan, Ruddock (Auva'a 61)

Newport -- Thomas; Hughes, Riley, Leech, Poole; Tovey, Bedford (L Evans 52); Price (Williams 74), Willis, Castle (Way 30); Jones (Smith 58), Sidoli; Coombs (Groves 78), Thomas, Ellis (W Evans 52)

Ref -- A MacPherson (Scotland).

Irish Independent

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