Friday 20 April 2018

Gopperth shines as Leinster get bonus-point win at Blues

Cardiff Blues 13 Leinster 22

Jimmy Gopperth, Leinster
Jimmy Gopperth, Leinster
Jarrad Hoeata, Cardiff Blues, puts in a high tackle on Rob Kearney, Leinster, for which he received a red card
Noel Reid was in try-scoring form for Leinster at the weekend. Matt O'Connor's side host Castres at the RDS this Saturday.

Tim Lewis

Leinster survived scares on and off the field in Cardiff before eventually keeping their title challenge on track with a bonus-point victory over the Blues.

Bad weather had subjected the Leinster players and staff to a nightmare flight across the Irish Sea on Friday night, resulting in two failed landing attempts at Cardiff Airport before being diverted to Bristol.

Then they almost came unstuck against an improving Blues side at Cardiff Arms Park, before ill-discipline cost the home side dearly and Matt O'Connor's men were able to run in three second-half tries.

Jimmy Gopperth produced a superb display just days after announcing he will join Aviva Premiership Wasps at the end of the season, scoring one try and setting up two more.

O'Connor said: "The five points are really important, to get four tries is very impressive against a very strong Blues outfit.

"With where we are in the league, every point could be vital come the end of the season."

Despite 11 changes from the side that beat Ulster, there had been no sign of any problems early on as centre Noel Reid touched down after just 61 seconds following a fine run from Gopperth.

But two penalties from the Blues' New Zealand import Gareth Anscombe midway through the half put them in front before replacement Manoa Vosawai forced his way over from close range for their first try after 28 minutes.

Gopperth missed a penalty before the Blues went down to 14 men seven minutes before the interval, when lock Jarred Hoeata was shown a red card for a high tackle on Rob Kearney.

Despite their disadvantage, the Blues started the better of the two teams after the break until try-scorer Vosawai was shown a yellow card for a knee into the back of Ben Te'o seven minutes after the restart.

Leinster quickly took advantage, with a try from Gopperth, before finally regaining the lead with a third score from scrum-half Luke McGrath, who crossed in the corner after initially making an excellent break from a scrum.

The Blues almost forced their way back into the game, but a superb tackle from Rob Kearney stopped Alex Cuthbert in full flow down the wing and with four minutes remaining, substitute Tadhg Furlong wrapped up the win with Leinster's fourth try.

Scorers - Leinster: Reid, McGrath, Furlong Gopperth tries; Gopperth con; Cardiff Blues: Vosawai try, Anscombe con, 2 pens.

Cardiff Blues: J Tuculet; A Cuthbert, C Allen, G Evans (A Thomas 50), L Amorosino; G Anscombe, T Knoyle (L Williams 63); G Jenkins (c), K Dacey 6 (M Rees 33), A Jones (T Filise 63); L Reed, J Hoeata; Jo Turnbull (M Normandale, 78), S Warburton 6 (M Vosawai 13), J Navidi.

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, B Te'o (D Fanning 63), N Reid, D Kearney; J Gopperth, L McGrath (E Reddan 63); M Bent (J Hagan 55), S Cronin (R Strauss 57), M Moore (T Furlong 50); M McCarthy (B Marshall 69), K Douglas; D Ryan (J Flier 57), J Murphy, J Conan.

Referee: Neil Patterson (SRU)

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