Friday 23 March 2018

Leinster's stirring fightback nabs three vital points

Leinster 34 Glasgow 34

Isaac Boss, Leinster, dives over to score his second, and his side's fourth try of the game, despite the tackle by Jonny Gray, Glasgow Warriors
Isaac Boss, Leinster, dives over to score his second, and his side's fourth try of the game, despite the tackle by Jonny Gray, Glasgow Warriors
Jordi Murphy goes over to score his Leinster's third try
Jordi Murphy, left, is congratulated by his Leinster team-mate Cian Healy, right, after scoring his side's third try
Leinster's Tom Dentonholds off Chris Fusaro, Glasgow Warriors
Leinster's Marty Moore battles through a tackle from Chris Fusaro, left, and Connor Braid, Glasgow Warriors
David Kelly

David Kelly

A draw that may have felt like a win for Glasgow but a defeat for Leinster - even though few gave the home side a prayer at the break when they trailed 27-7.

It was that kind of night; both sides nabbed three points, scoring four tries each as Leinster returned, briefly, to the play-off positions.

They nearly threw this one away - twice. Then again, so did Glasgow.

After Peter Horne had converted Mark Bennett's third Glasgow try for 24-7 in the 35th minute of a one-sided half, the home support were begging for the half-time break to save their side's blushes; Glasgow did not, Bennett booming a long-distance penalty for a faintly believable 27-7 half-time lead.

If that seemed like the Scottish centre nailing down a coffin lid, his colleague Glenn Bryce prised it open again just 19 seconds into the second half when Isaac Boss, on for shoulder injury victim Eoin Reddan, charged down his attempted clearance kick.

Glasgow were starting to wobble, conceding penalties at scrum and breakdown unlike in their dominant opening half.

Ian Madigan punished them for a midfield breakdown offence and at 17-27, the contest was engaging the hitherto subdued crowd much more than it had 20 minutes earlier. Leinster thrive when errors do not disinfect them.

Glasgow could have done with all their players on the field too; their scrum-half Niko Matawalu was binned when elbowing half-time replacement Cian Healy on the noggin, even though he would have got a penalty as the Irish international was pulling his shirt.

No matter, Matawalu trudged off in the 52nd minute and then, seconds later, Jordi Murphy hit a wonderful line and was sent clear by Zane Kirchner's wonderful pass.

Now they were just three adrift; no sooner had Luke Fitzgerald emerged from the bench - which he did - they were 31-27 ahead, Boss nipping in unopposed for this second of an eventful night.


Leinster didn't retreat from Glasgow's half for fully 25 minutes. After a brief absence, Madigan kicked a goal for 34-27 but back came Glasgow, and Bryce, for the away side's four-try bonus and Horne's brave kick to level at the death.

The visitors under their intelligent coach Gregor Townsend had arrived in bullish mood and their ability to field all those back-line players who wilted so meekly under Irish fervour in Edinburgh last weekend hinted at their ambition.

Townsend had vowed that he wanted his side to mirror Barcelona; losing Finn Russell, the talented young playmaker, would not exactly compare to losing Lionel Messi but his ankle injury was a blow nonetheless. The harshest of Leinster fans have accused their team or being more like Brentford than Barcelona of late; a vivacious opening from the Scots intended to arm the critics with more ammunition.

A sloppy restart and lineout, not to mention Glasgow's power in the tackle, depth in attack and technical proficiency in the breakdown helped create a dream start.

After some magnificent phased play, Richie Vernon blasted through Michael Bent before offloading to Stuart Hogg.

Where Jamie Heaslip had succeeded memorably a week ago, Reddan could not, being swatted away too easily as the full-back located the butt of the posts; Horne converted. By the 11th minute, it was 10-0 to the visitors; after Nigel Owens used the TMO to adjudge that Hogg's touchfinder - from a scrum penalty - had just about guaranteed a five-metre scrum, Mike McCarthy illegally sacked Al Kellock.

Horne nailed the points; their tight-head Zander Ferguson had earlier departed, collapsing twice and needing oxygen but their team was thriving; it was Leinster who needed air, and fast.

From their first territorial incursion in the 25th minute, they got it; belatedly, Shane Jennings' quick hands offering pace on the ball for the first time all evening.


Fergus McFadden was the ultimate beneficiary. But then, after Leinster kicked away an advantage, Glasgow stormed back from halfway; Horne blasted back Michael Bent, of all people, allowing the space for Richie Vernon to wriggle to the line, benefiting from Jennings' soaked tackle.

Now 17-7 on the half-hour; it should have been more; Vernon butchering a try-scoring pass to Seymour. They were making mincemeat of Leinster, though, and a third duly arrived.

Power and precision once more proved the perfect combination as Glasgow ruthlessly sliced through the gaping holes in the crumbling blue wall; this time Bennett gleefully gambolling for the line.

The second-half script would be substantially re-written.

Leinster - Z Kirchner; F McFadden (L Fitzgerald 51), B Te'o (G D'Arcy 72), I Madigan, D Kearney, J Gopperth; E Reddan (I Boss 33); M Bent (C Healy h-t), R Strauss (S Cronin h-t), M Moore (T Furlong 54), T Denton, M McCarthy, J Murphy, S Jennings capt, J Conan (D Ryan 66).

Glasgow - S Hogg (G Bryce 39); T Seymour, M Bennett, R Vernon (C Braid , DTH van der Merwe; P Horne, N Matawalu ( H Pyrgos 64); A Allan (J Yanuyanutawa 64), F Brown (J Strauss 66), Z Fagerson (M Cusack 13), T Swinson, A Kellock capt (J Gray 52), R Harley, C Fusaro (P MacArthur 48), J Strauss (A Ashe 59)

Ref - N Owens (WRU)

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