Ian Madigan stepped up to shoot seven killer penalties for Leinster to come away with four points (21-16) from Castres in Pool 2 of the Champions Cup yesterday.
Leinster talked all week about how they had to make a solid start to banish memories of last season at Stade Pierre Antoine. What happened? They fell headlong into the same hole.
Sean Cronin was crooked-in at the first lineout. Dominic Ryan missed left wing Remi Grosso on the cutback. Remi Tales's inch-perfect cross kick was taken up by full-back Geoffrey Palis.
The dangerous situation was rescued by the vigilant Madigan for the concession of a lineout. It was time for Leinster to deliver in defence of a maul. They couldn't.
Hooker Brice Mach found flanker Yannick Caballero to the rear and the drive was carefully plotted from no more than eight metres out for prop Saimone Taumoepeau to squeeze out the five points.
The conversion from Palis made it 7-0 in as many minutes. Leinster had to reset their plan and their platform. Not for the first time.
They went straight into a multi-phase attack. Isaac Boss had a snipe. Jimmy Gopperth too. Darragh Fanning was clobbered by a double tackle. Cronin showed up twice. Heaslip too.
The visitors owned the ball long enough for referee Greg Garner to spot a defender lying on the wrong side of a ruck and for Madigan to land a penalty in the 17th minute.
Madigan's ground-licking grubber almost worked out for Fanning before Castres' scrum pounded out a penalty.
Luke Fitzgerald was looking razor sharp in his comeback game, kicking into space to reapply the pressure ahead of Madigan's second penalty for a deliberate knock-on in the 26th minute.
A stupendous ball out of defence from Zane Kirchner put Leinster within sniffing distance without really troubling the rigid home rearguard.
OFF HIS FEET
Prop Jack McGrath got his hands on centre Christopher Tuatara and Tales went off his feet in support for Madigan to slip Leinster in front 9-7 for the first time in the 38th minute.
Castres were back in the home crowd's good books when Samione Taumoepeau's power earned a penalty Palis turned into a 10-9 advantage in the 43rd minute.
Madigan bounced a penalty off the left upright and Palis could not convert another scrum penalty for Castres.
Boss put his shoulder into Garcia at a ruck for Palis to stretch Castres four points clear.
Then, Garner blew the Irish for bringing down a maul, Palis kicking Castres out to 16-9 in the 57th minute.
Eoin Reddan's first contribution was to put the ball in at a scrum as Leinster were showing signs of slowly coming apart at the seams.
The Leinster scrum suddenly functioned to force a penalty which Madigan made with authority for 16-12 in the 63rd minute.
It would take something different to undo Castres' fierce defence. Cronin's tumbling through ball did the trick. It set the scene for a patient attack. The penalty came. Madigan shot three.
Mike McCarthy, Toner and Rhys Ruddock held up Mathieu Bonello for a scrum turnover. Reddan broke for 30 metres. McGrath's miracle work forced a scrum.
Flanker Ryan charged on. The clean out from Reid and Jack Conan was textbook and Heaslip was taken head-high by Faasalele for Madigan to recover the lead with just over three minutes on the clock.
Castres went short from the restart. Ryan was there and Richardt Strauss gathered. Reddan's percentage kick put the home side back on their heels.
Then, Reddan quickly swept through on the short side. Capo-Ortega used his shoulder on Toner and Madigan showed nerve to shoot his seventh penalty.
IAN MADIGAN - Where Leinster struggled to create, they had their centre to finish with seven priceless penalties.
Ian Madigan heard referee Greg Garner call "10 seconds" before his closing 79th minute penalty.