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Blues front up to challenge ahead


Leinster's Luke McGrath. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Luke McGrath. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Luke McGrath. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Leinster will reveal today whether or not they will appeal the three-week ban for prop Jack McGrath's foul use of his boots on Rory Best the weekend before last.

Whatever the merits of the right or wrong of the action and the punishment, coach Matt O'Connor will be desperate to have as many of his Ireland internationals as possible.

It must be noted how the previously maligned Michael Bent has been able to hold up his end of the bargain in the scrum this season. The New Zealander was true to his form again in the 22-13 defeat of Cardiff in Wales on Saturday.

Faced with the twin threat of Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins in the Cardiff front row, Bent and the remarkably tuned-in Martin Moore never looked in any bother even before lock Jarrad Hoeata was red-carded in the 32nd minute.

In terms of Castres coming to Dublin next Saturday in The Champions Cup, the problem at loose-head really crystallised when specialist tight-head Jamie Hagan came off the bench for Bent at number one.

It is debatable how much interest and energy the French club will bring to The RDS.

But, Wasps are bound to be a formidable and focussed force at the set-piece in the last round on Saturday week.

While Leinster moved menacingly into the Top-4 of the PRO12 League, Cardiff did more than they should have to make it happen.

For all the negativity that has accompanied Leinster's attack strategy, they have amassed more try bonus-point victories, on five, than anyone in the League.

"The bonus-point for us was very, very important," recounted Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor.

"We need to make sure that that we get the maximum out of as many games as we can."

The whole complexion of the game changed when Hoeata applied a swinging arm on Leinster's countering full-back Rob Kearney to see red from referee Neil Hennessy.

By this point, Leinster had taken the initiative through Noel Reid's flying late cut onto Jimmy Gopperth's sneaky break and patience to hold on for support.

This was wiped out by the accumulated effect of Gareth Anscombe's penalties in the 17th and 21st minutes in tandem with the New Zealander's conversion of number eight Manoa Vosawai's one yard finish.

The 13-point burst inflated Cardiff's confidence. The removal of Sam Warburton for a deep gash took away their primary leader and Hoeata's foul act reduced their power-wattage up front.

From there, it took all of Leinster's perseverance to tot up the three tries from Jimmy Gopperth, Luke McGrath and Tadhg Furlong that would give them the bonus-point.

Speaking of Furlong, Moore, the man who could be parachuted in against Castres ahead of Mike Ross and Furlong, was tremendous in his return to action from a shoulder injury. "Off the layoff, he was out for three months and put in a very accurate 50-minute shift," said O'Connor.

There was the worrying sight of Fergus McFadden taking a heavy front-on hit in the last phase of play and taking medical treatment after the final whistle.

The Suncroft back was able to leave the pitch under his own steam. But, there could be a doubt over his availability for Castres.

Centre Ben Te'o gave Leinster real go-forward when he came onto the ball. He was another to absorb injury when Cardiff number eight Manoa Vosawai dropped his knees into his ribs.

Number eight Jack Conan should be able to shake off a stinger with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the fitness of captain Jamie Heaslip from a bang to his AC shoulder joint against Ulster.

The eye-opener was not the rapier running, but his much-improved, sharper passing game.

What referee Neil Hennessy correctly described as a "high, wreckless" swinging arm from Jarrad Hoeata reduced Cardiff to 14 men from the 32nd minute.