Unconvincing Leinster beat Treviso
Published 08/05/2015 | 22:41
Leinster qualified for next season's European Champions Cup with a 10-0 Guinness PRO12 win over Benetton Treviso at the RDS Arena, but their lacklustre performance will do little to quieten critics of head coach Matt O'Connor.
On a night when the home fans paid tribute to the retiring Shane Jennings and Gordon D'Arcy, O'Connor's men struggled to see off second-from-bottom Treviso in the Dublin rain.
The Irish province showed a distinct lack of accuracy and urgency in front of a subdued 11,322 attendance, and the result was only sealed by a 77th-minute penalty from Jimmy Gopperth.
The out-half's clinching score came just moments after referee Leighton Hodges red carded Edoardo Gori for a dangerous tackle on D'Arcy and a subsequent incident at a ruck saw Sean O'Brien and Treviso's Francesco Minto both sin-binned.
Despite the forgettable showing, this round 21 victory, coupled with the Dragons' defeat of Edinburgh, means last year's league winners are guaranteed a top-six finish and a 2015-16 Champions Cup berth.
The hosts exerted some early pressure in the wet conditions, winning a couple of penalties and driving from lineouts before Heaslip was foiled, close in, by good defence from Paul Derbyshire and Davide Giazzon.
But there was no stopping the Leinster captain on a second occasion as he broke off the side of a five-metre scrum and crashed over past the covering Nicola Cattina.
After Madigan added the left-sided conversion, lively scrum-half Gori sparked a strong response from the Italians and Hayward, the Kiwi full-back, was off-target with a long-range penalty attempt.
Leinster's decision-making let them down following some incisive play on the left wing from Madigan and Dave Kearney, and a stop-start second quarter did little for the game as a spectacle.
Neither tryline was threatened before the break and Madigan sent a kickable penalty wide in injury-time, adding to the growing sense of frustration both on and off the pitch.
Another gilt-edged chance was missed by Leinster early in the second period, as the advancing Zane Kirchner failed to hold Heaslip's pass from a Gopperth cross-field kick.
The tempo was briefly lifted by carries from Ben Te'o and O'Brien, as well as the introduction of D'Arcy off the bench, but Leinster had a let-off when Hayward pushed a second penalty effort wide.
Although the visitors threatened through winger Ludovico Nitoglia, this contest seemed to be petering out until input from TMO Jude Quinn led to those three cards in quick succession.
Gopperth mopped up with the three points, his final scoring contribution at the RDS before his summer departure to Wasps.