Sunday 21 January 2018

Carbery star of the show but Leinster fluff their opening-night lines

Leinster 20 - Treviso 8

Leinster's Cian Healy took part in the 'shave or dye' campaign before his side's clash with Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Cian Healy took part in the 'shave or dye' campaign before his side's clash with Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile
Ross Molony of Leinster during the Guinness PRO12 Round 1 match between Leinster and Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile
Rory O'Loughlin of Leinster is tackled by Ian McKinley of Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile
Jamison Gibson-Park of Leinster during the Guinness PRO12 Round 1 match between Leinster and Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile
Ian McKinley of Treviso. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

There are some things the RDS faithful have come to expect over the years, and five points against Treviso is one of those.

Perhaps the season will reveal that the Italians have made major improvements this summer under their experienced new coach Kieran Crowley, but there is no doubting that a 20-point haul comes in below the watermark.

Yet, this being the opening night, the home support were probably in a forgiving mood as they left the stadium after witnessing a tale of two out-halves in Ballsbridge.

Ian McKinley's goggles must have fogged up when he took to the pitch in the 61st minute to achieve another milestone in his remarkable journey back from his enforced retirement due to him losing the sight in one eye.

Earlier, he watched a young out-half take the acclaim of the home fans in the way he once did as Joey Carbery marked his debut with a first-half brace of tries.

For Leo Cullen - who curiously switched Zane Kirchner and Garry Ringrose's positions - the frustration at missing out on the fourth try will be tempered by some positive attacking play in the opening quarter and the performance of Cian Healy and Rob Kearney, who both looked unhampered by injury for the first time in a long time.

But despite their presence, there was one name on Leinster lips as Carbery took just two and a half minutes of his full debut to announce his arrival. The New Zealand-born out-half showed Italy international Luke McLean a clean pair of heels to score an Ian Madigan-style effort from 10 metres after some fine work by the sharp-looking Noel Reid.

It was a cracking start to his senior career and the score came as a double-blow to Treviso, who lost captain Alessandro Zanni to an injury suffered in the build-up.

During the opening stages, Leinster played with real attacking intent and width as they looked to stretch the Italians, but despite some nice touches they lacked the finishing pass and slowly but surely the visitors picked their way into the game.

They might have drawn level had Andrea Buondonno managed to connect with Angelo Esposito when he made a fine break, while Tommaso Allan hit the post with a kickable penalty when Reid was penalised at ruck-time.

The Treviso scrum was getting some joy but Josh van der Flier made a telling intervention on his goal-line as it looked like the pressure might tell and instead it was Leinster who were celebrating when Carbery picked up a loose pass just outside his own '22, slipped a tackle and then balanced himself.

When he saw a gap open up, the 21-year-old went for it, racing clear before rounding Jayden Hayward to score a wonderful try.

It wasn't all perfect from the boy wonder who allowed Italy out-half Allan past him in the build up to Treviso's first try.

Scrambling, Leinster conceded a penalty and Giorgio Bronzini tapped quickly to put the hosts on the back foot again. He then cleverly drew Brian Byrne from his post and slipped Marco Fuser through the resulting gap and he scored despite Healy and Van der Flier's best efforts.

Although he missed the conversion, Allan did narrow the gap with a penalty after half-time as Leinster struggled to re-capture their earlier fluency.

Kearney missed an important touch-finding penalty, then almost made up for it with a searing break only for Marco Lazzaroni to get a hand in on his pass to Luke McGrath.

First game or not, the home fixture against Treviso is always marked out as a five-point banker in these parts but the clock ticked towards 70 minutes and Leinster remained rooted on 15 points, just a converted try ahead of last year's bottom team.

McKinley came on to a rousing reception and Leinster attempted to lift it; Carbery's cross-kick just didn't have the legs to reach McFadden after strong work from Ringrose, while his chip-ahead for Jamison Gibson-Park had too much on it.

So, the forwards took responsibility, earning a scrum penalty and then mauling the lineout from the edge of the 22 before James Tracy peeled off to score.

The chance to secure the five points came on the cusp of full-time as part of a nice piece of play between Rory O'Loughlin and Gibson-Park that came undone when the centre knocked on.

The point slipped through their grasp, but no one really seemed to mind. There's plenty more on offer in the long season to come.

Leinster - R Kearney (R O'Loughlin 75); Z Kirchner, G Ringrose, N Reid, F McFadden; J Carbery, L McGrath (capt) (J Gibson-Park 62); C Healy (A Porter 46), B Byrne (J Tracy 46), M Bent (M Ross 46); R Molony, M McCarthy (H Triggs 58); D Ryan (J Murphy 65), J van der Flier, D Leavy.

Treviso - J Hayward; A Esposito, T Bienvenuti (D Odiete 76), L McLean, A Buondonno; T Allan (I McKInley 61), G Bronzini (E Gori 58); N Quaglio (A Di Marchi 54), O Gega (R Santamaria 64), S Ferrari (T Pasquali 52); M Fuser (M Barbini 70), F Paulo; F Minto, M Lazzaroni, A Zanni (capt) (M Barbini 3) (D Budd 58) (M Fuser 80).

Ref - B Whitehouse (Wales).

Irish Independent

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