Saturday 25 November 2017

Horgan brace helps Leinster bag bonus

LEINSTER 27 DRAGONS 6

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

NIGHTS like these aren't what the Magners League marketing men remind you of when they're selling their product, but after a bonus-point victory Leinster won't care about the lack any glamour.

Wales' least attractive regional team arriving on an international weekend was never going to be the biggest draw, and the crowd was the RDS's lowest attendance of the season as 10,390 filtered through the gates.

However, a sixth win on the trot moves last season's finalists into the top four and renders their poor start a distant memory.

Those who did show up were treated to a decent display from a vastly understrength side.

One thing that Joe Schmidt inherited was squad depth and with Shane Horgan crossing for a brace and the likes of Shane Jennings, Rhys Ruddock and Shaun Berne leading the way, they cruised past the limited visitors.

The only concern for Schmidt will be callowness of his back-up at hooker where Jason Harris-Wright failed to convince when introduced at the interval and he will be praying Richardt Strauss can stay fit until Christmas.

Elsewhere, the hosts were by far the more impressive team and got into their groove early on with Schmidt delivering on his pledge for his depleted charges to go for it and they scored within three minutes of kick off.

Leinster put the ball through the hands with Isaac Boss moving it out to Strauss who straightened the line and fed Ruddock and he found Horgan.

He was held up short of the line, but found Berne who gleefully crossed for his first try of the season. Isa Nacewa converted and added a penalty minutes later to put Leinster 10-0 ahead.

The Dragons were content to keep it tight, but a Jason Tovey penalty was all they had to show for a spell of decent play and they were punished down their left flank once again as Leinster's passes started to stick and they moved menacingly into Dragons territory.

Clint Newland almost put David Kearney away but the winger knocked on with the line at his mercy, but Horgan wasn't so profligate on the other side as Ruddock won a penalty at the ruck and Berne went to the corner.

Spotting a wealth of space on the right, the Australian chipped crossfield for the big Meathman who collected and touched down, Nacewa adding the extras.

The visitors got a boost almost immediately at the other end as Berne knocked on in his own 22' putting his side under pressure and Boss was lucky to escape without a card for spoiling.

The Dragons went for touch and Leo Cullen brought his man down in the air and he wasn't so fortunate.

But the Welsh side couldn't breach 14-man Leinster's rearguard and indeed, it was the hosts who finished the half in the ascendancy and went in 17-3 up.

Schmidt made three changes at the break with Mike Ross, Jason Harris-Wright and Ed O'Donoghue introduced, but it was the Dragons who struck first.

Narrowed

Having missed a chance to pull three points back, Jennings handed Tovey another penalty opportunity with what appeared to be a bodycheck on Thomas Willis and the out-half duly narrowed the gap.

Leinster reacted by setting up camp in the Dragons 22 and after a spell of pressure Gavin Thomas saw yellow as the video referee denied Stephen Keogh a try.

Ross and co provided the thrust at the scrum that led to Boss feeding Horgan and the winger brushed aside William Harries' shocking tackle to score.

The hosts went in search of the bonus point and it was Eoin O'Malley's dancing feet that unselfishly set up Boss to score the fourth.

LEINSTER -- I Nacewa; S Horgan, E O'Malley, F McFadden, D Kearney (A Conway 70); S Berne (I Madigan 75), I Boss; H van der Merwe, R Strauss (J Harris-Wright ht), C Newland (M Ross ht); L Cullen (capt), T Hogan (E O'Donoghue ht); R Ruddock (P O'Donohoe 80), S Jennings, S Keogh (D Ryan 66).

DRAGONS -- P Leach; W Harries, T Cheeseman (R Gomer Davies 70), A Smith, A Hughes (J Leadbeater 80); J Tovey (M Jones 71), W Evans; P Price, T Willis (capt) (L Burns 49), N Hall (D Way 73); S Morgan, R Sidoli; A Jones (H Ellis 70), G Thomas, L Evans.

REF -- Stefano Penne (FIR).

Irish Independent

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