Tuesday 21 November 2017

Blues breeze past Aironi as McFadden finds range

AIRONI 8 LEINSTER 20

Leinster got exactly what they came for in Viadana yesterday as they recorded this victory over Aironi which propelled them back into second place in the Magners League standings.

Of perhaps even greater satisfaction to head coach Joe Schmidt, though, was the fact that they came through their final game before next weekend's monumental Heineken Cup semi-final with Toulouse without any fresh injury concerns.

Leinster never really hit top gear but they did enough in the opening 40 minutes to put the game to bed, racking up tries through Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy as they reached the interval 17 points ahead.

They failed to add to their tally in the second period, despite the sin-binning of Aironi No 8 Nick Williams shortly after the restart, but Aironi failed to take full advantage, a late try from flanker Gareth Krause the sole reward for a spirited second-half showing.

Schmidt had left some of his key men out of the firing line and Jonathan Sexton saw no game-time at all despite being named on the bench, but Brian O'Driscoll did start and he created the game's opening try.

With the scores tied at three points apiece, after Tito Tebaldi had cancelled out Fergus McFadden's early penalty, O'Driscoll put O'Brien in for the simplest of finishes with a sumptuous reverse pass.

McFadden stretched the province's lead by adding the conversion and then landing a penalty, before making the dart down the right wing which led to Healy charging his way through to score six minutes before the break.

At 20-3 ahead, Leinster appeared primed to go on and claim a bonus-point win but, in truth, they never looked capable of doing so during a laboured second-half showing.

Even when Williams saw yellow for a shoulder charge on O'Brien, the visitors failed to capitalise and a subsequent raft of changes hardly helped matters.

Indeed, they were ultimately somewhat lucky that Aironi's accuracy was not the equal of their endeavour as the Italians repeatedly butchered a number of openings before Krause wormed his way over after a powerful catch-and-drive from the forwards.

By that stage, though, Leinster's players had long since turned their attention to next weekend's semi-final showdown with Toulouse.

Scorers -- Aironi: G Krause try, T Tebaldi pen. Leinster: S O'Brien, C Healy try each. F McFadden 2 pens, 2 cons.

Aironi: H San Martin; K Robertson (M Pratichetti, 35), G Pavan, G Pizarro (R Bocchino, 74), D Demas; J Marshall, T Tebaldi (P Canavosio, 55); A De Marchi (S Perugini, 55), F Ongaro (L Ferraro, 65), F Staibano (L Redolfini, 50); J Furro, M Bortolami (Q Geldenhuys, 70); J Sole (N Cattina, 62), G Krause, N Williams.

Leinster: D Kearney; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (S Horgan, 65), E O'Malley, L Fitzgerald; I Madigan, E Reddan; C Healy (H van der Merwe, 63), J Harris-Wright, M Ross (S Wright, 58); D Toner, N Hines; R Ruddock, S Jennings (L Cullen, 70), S O'Brien (D Ryan, 63).

Referee: A McMenemy (Scotland).

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