Monday 20 November 2017

Leinster spurred on by fear factor


Leinster's Ian Madigan is tackled by Kristopher Burton. Photo: Paul Mohan
Leinster's Ian Madigan is tackled by Kristopher Burton. Photo: Paul Mohan

IAN BRANSFIELD, at the Stadio di Monigo

The look of quiet satisfaction on the face of Joe Schmidt yesterday told its own story.

By virtue of their heroic European exploits, Leinster have long since put to bed the ghost of Treviso which for a while spooked most all concerned in the wake of last season's failed Italian job.

Still, there remained a score to settle, and whilst Leinster didn't exactly settle it with any great panache, another Venetian cul-de-sac had at least been avoided, and terra firma re-established.

On a crisp Italian afternoon, Schmidt's men outscored their hosts by three to one to clean the slate and, more importantly, to steal a march towards the top of the table. Leo Auva'a, Fionn Carr and Eoin O'Malley all crossed the whitewash on day when some of their lesser lights also sparkled.

Pushing Treviso over on their home patch is no small achievement these days, a fact borne out by their 50-point haul against the Dragons earlier this month. Schmidt pointed out afterwards that his side had been "motivated by fear", and how it showed as Leinster took to the field with palpable urgency. The clock read just 46 seconds when Ian Madigan's inside ball fed Auva'a for the opening try, the Belvedere backrower even managing to sell Luke McLean a clever dummy on his way to the line.

Fergus McFadden, back in the side after his injury layoff, was handed kicking duties for the day, and he converted to extend the advantage. Treviso scrumhalf Tobia Botes replied with a penalty for the hosts but Leinster were irresistible during the opening period, their piano shifters creating space for the maestros outside.

Barely ten minutes had passed before try number two arrived, Madigan again involved with Fitzgerald this time whose quick hands sent Fionn Carr racing free.

The former Connacht man had enough time to sup an espresso on his way to the line, a fitting tribute to the ease in which they created, and finished, their chances. McFadden was in the mood too, making no mistake with the conversion. At 14-3, Treviso were already looking down the barrel.

Much of Leinster's play was actually of the brighter variety. Again and again their big carriers were used to pummel the gain line, with Cian Healy and Jamie Hagan particularly prominent.

It must be said, the same two were given a torrid time in the scrum by signori Cittadini and Rizzo.

If one thing served to keep the Italians in the game, however, it was Leinster's penalty count, or rather the location of the offences. Two more offences within the 22, and six more points from the boot of Botes brought the score back to 14-9.

McFadden then tested his range from 40 metres on the angle, and made no mistake.

Benetton rallied in the second half, however, and tied up the scores when substitute Manoa Vosawai crossed from the back of a scrum.

Leinster held their nerve in the face of some fierce pressure, however, and continued to tap over the points before O'Malley dotted down the third and clinching try.

Scorers -- Treviso: Vosawai try; Botes 5 pens. Leinster: Auva'a, Carr, O'Malley tries; McFadden 3 cons, 3 pens.

Treviso: L McLean; B De Jager (F Semenzato 39), T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, B Williams; K Burton, T Botes; M Rizzo (I Fernandez Rouyet 48), E Ceccato (F Sbaraglini 48), L Cittadini (M Muccignat 60); A Pavanello (capt) (F Minto 72), V Bernabò; P Derbyshire, A Zanni, R Barbieri (M Vosawai 48).

Leinster: L Fitzgerald; F McFadden, E O'Malley, G D'Arcy (B Macken 73), F Carr; I Madigan, E Reddan (I Boss 62); C Healy (J McGrath 73), S Cronin, J Hagan (N White 50); D Browne (K McLaughlin 62),D Toner; R Ruddock S Jennings, L Auva'a (J Heaslip 50).

Referee: G Clancy (IRFU)

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