O'Brien inspires blues comeback

Des Berry

Leinster managed to play some decent rugby in the last 10 minutes after a forgetful first 70 to squeeze an astonishing come-from-behind 17-17 draw out of Scarlets in the Magners League at Parc Y Scarlets last night.

Number eight Sean O'Brien excelled with a super-charged performance, carrying all before him to drag Leinster back into a game that looked well out of their reach at 17-5 down deep into the final quarter.

"Although there's a little bit of satisfaction in that we didn't lose, the game was there for the taking at the end," said O'Brien.

"Everyone's a little bit disappointed.

"But, with that, we realise how difficult it is to win away from home in the league.

"We showed good patience."

It couldn't have happened without the dynamic, explosive running and impact tackling of O'Brien.

Scarily, he wasn't too taken with his own work.

"Personally, I felt a little bit rusty because I haven't played too many games over the last few weeks.

"I thought I improved as the game went on and I was delighted to get 80 minutes under my belt."

The Scarlets made the most of their chances, their out-half Rhys Priestland outplaying an out-of-sorts Jonathan Sexton from placed balls to spark a 12-point lead when centre Gareth Maule scooted over in the 64th minute.

Out of nowhere, a series of recycles, with O'Brien a constant presence, was rewarded by Fergus McFadden's determination to veer inside a drifting defence for what looked like a losing bonus point.

Not content with that, O'Brien shot out of his own 22, like a bullet from a gun, in a body-bouncing gain of 40 metres for a swift attack that Sexton translated into seven points by working the Leinster trademark wrap-around for Shane Horgan to hare over for their third try.

Sexton converted for his only success out of five attempts and then fumbled a last-gasp drop goal opportunity to steal what would have been a win Leinster did not deserve.

The Scarlets had the motivation of going top of the Magners as their carrot; Leinster the target of breaking back into the top four. In the end, neither got what they wanted.

Scarlets were up and running first; in the sixth minute lock Devin Toner took the arm of Dominic Day instead of the ball to give away a penalty. Priestland made it count.

Sexton put Leinster on the front-foot when seizing on a stray pass that ultimately ended with the out-half sending a crossfield kick taken in by Horgan and transferred inside for centre Eoin O'Malley to finish off his first try for the province in the 13th minute.

Scrum-half Tavis Knoyle was a scourge on the run and Isa Nacewa's second loose clearance created the confusion that led to a penalty for not retreating. It was kicked through by Priestland for a one-point lead for the home side.

An inspiring steal by flanker Rhys Ruddock on David Lyons and Sexton's alert covering kept the Scarlets at bay until Priestland made it 9-5 in the 35th minute in what was a period of self-inflicted damage.

Leinster lost Ruddock to a yellow card, a dreadful decision by referee Nigel Owen on the advice of his touch judge, and Priestland slotted the consequent penalty.

Worse was to come for the visitors when Gareth Maule sped into the left corner in the 64th minute.

This triggered a stupendous period of play from Leinster. A series of close-in drives concluded with McFadden accelerating to the line. Sexton went zero-from-four from the conversion and Leinster's late flourish tied it all up.