Sunday 15 September 2019

Dragons' fire snuffed out by impressive Leinster comeback

Isa Nacewa was on the winning side at the RDS
Isa Nacewa was on the winning side at the RDS

Leinster erased an early 10-point deficit to put the deflated Dragons to the sword in a 54-10 Guinness PRO14 victory at the RDS.

Young flanker Josh Murphy scored a try on his first start in blue, the hosts' whirlwind comeback securing the bonus point by the 32nd minute with Jamison Gibson-Park, captain Isa Nacewa and Max Deegan also touching down.

James Benjamin's 11th-minute try, adding to an early Gavin Henson drop goal, inspired hopes of Dragons' first away league win since March 2015 - but Leinster's man-of-the-match Ross Byrne had other ideas.

Fly-half Byrne was excellent with ball in hand and landed five successive conversions from all angles. Nacewa's second try, coupled with two closing efforts from Jordan Larmour and Rory O'Loughlin, made it eight tries and 54 points without reply.

Seizing the initiative on a bitterly cold Dublin night, Dragons built the early pressure to set up Henson for a crisply-struck 35-metre drop goal.

With Adam Warren breaking through midfield soon after, and Leinster losing Ross Molony to injury, Bernard Jackman's men continued to dictate, finding joy around the fringes of rucks.

Benjamin started and finished a prolonged attack for his try, with Sarel Pretorius and Ellis Shipp also sniping through gaps before the South African scrum-half fed the young number eight to crash over.

Henson's conversion from the left wing moved Dragons into double figures, but Leinster finally burst into life on the quarter hour mark. Gibson-Park scrambled over from close range after a helter-skelter attack that had seen Sean Cronin hauled down short from Fergus McFadden's kick and collect.

Ross Byrne, prominent in the build-up to the try, converted and he also added a terrific touchline kick to Nacewa's 27th-minute score - O'Loughlin released the skipper for the left corner after Scott Fardy and Cronin had clattered their way into scoring range.

With full-back Larmour beginning to fizz around the park, a devastating one-two blow netted the bonus point for Leinster. Ed Byrne tidied up a five-metre line-out and added crucial momentum to Murphy's drive for the back rower's maiden try.

Byrne kept up his 100% kicking record, and from the restart, Larmour and Cronin lead the charge over halfway. Byrne's crossfield kick was then gobbled up by McFadden who sent the supporting Deegan over, wide on the right.

It was 35-10 after Angus O'Brien's deliberate knock-on saw Dragons lose the full-back to the sin-bin and cough up a penalty try, with Deegan or Nacewa set to score.

The Leinster skipper was over in the corner a couple of minutes later, diving over from Gibson-Park's skip pass. Despite an increasing share of possession and territory, the Welsh outfit struggled to break down the home defence as the second half lulled along.

The game sparked back into life in the final 10 minutes, a TMO decision going Larmour's way in a four-man scramble to reach a kick through, while the 20-year-old's dazzling feet on the counter teed up O'Loughlin to slide in at the left corner.

PA Media

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