Saturday 23 February 2019

Leinster crack 50-point mark as stars turn on the style at the RDS in comprehensive win over the Dragons

Leinster 52 Dragons 10

15 September 2018; Jordan Larmour of Leinster goes over to score his side's fourth try during the Guinness PRO14 Round 3 match between Leinster and Dragons at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
15 September 2018; Jordan Larmour of Leinster goes over to score his side's fourth try during the Guinness PRO14 Round 3 match between Leinster and Dragons at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The inevitable turkey-shoot that everyone had arrived at the RDS expecting to see, duly arrived as Leinster demolished a Dragons side who never looked like breathing fire into an utterly one-sided contest.

Not that Leinster will matter a jot however, as they bounced back from last week's disappointing defeat to the Scarlets and gave valuable game time to the likes of Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Rob Kearney.

It was an ideal scenario for the rest of Leo Cullen's returning internationals to come into and they steamrolled a Dragons side who have a lot of work ahead of them.

Leinster scored seven tries to the Dragons' one, which told its own story, but the manner in which the Welsh side were dominated in the contact area will have hugely frustrated their head coach Bernard Jackman, who didn't exactly enjoy a happy homecoming.

Man of the Match Jamison Gibson-Park helped himself to two tries, while Sean Cronin, Josh van der Flier, Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Furlong and Scott Fardy also got in on the rout.

Sexton's spell as captain got off to an ideal start as the out-half, making his first appearance of the season, ran the show expertly. He was however helped by the slick service of Gibson-Park, whose reputation was enhanced here.

For all of their dominance, Leinster lost three first half lineouts, which is sure to be a talking point in Monday morning's review.

They were nowhere near their fluid best as they left a couple of opportunities behind them, but even still, they easily dispatched of the Welsh visitors.

Ringrose had a try chalked off after four minutes after the TMO correctly spotted a neck roll by Ed Byrne earlier in the move.

Never mind, it only took Leinster another five minutes to make up for it as Cronin showed a clean pair of heels to skip clear under the posts after Henshaw had made a strong carry in midfield.

Sexton added the easy extras and tacked on a penalty just shy of the half hour mark for a 10-0 lead.

Andrew Porter forced a crucial turnover penalty under his own posts five minutes before the break after a rare Dragons foray into Leinster territory.

It allowed Leinster clear their lines and as they reassumed control, Ross Moriarty took Sexton out for what the referee and his TMO adjudged was a shoulder charge. It was perhaps slightly on the harsh side but it was brainless stuff all the same from the Welsh international.

It wasn't until Leinster were stopped just short of the Dragons line that play was halted for Moriarty to be sent to the bin.

The home side sensed blood and with the clock in the red, they opted for the scrum and a perfectly executed training ground move saw Jack Conan's clever reverse pass put van der Flier under the posts.

Showing no ill effects of the knock he shipped from Moriarty's challenge, Sexton knocked over the conversion for a commanding 17-0 half-time lead.

Any brief hope that the Dragons might have had after Josh Lewis put them on the board with an early second half penalty were immediately wiped out when Gibson-Park ran a good support line off Ryan, who had the wherewithal to offload to the scrum-half after he sucked in a couple of defenders.

Sexton maintained his 100pc record from the tee by adding the conversion and he repeated the trick three minutes later as Leinster wrapped up the bonus point.

This time Gibson-Park turned creator as his clever kick through saw Larmour turn on the afterburners and dot down for a 31-3 lead.

It was a question of how many more tries Leinster would score and the home crowd didn't have to wait long for their fifth as Gibson-Park got over for his second with Sexton again tacking on the extra two points.

Just as it looked like the onslaught would continue, Jordan Williams conjured up a piece of individual magic as he danced his way through some very soft Leinster tackling to score a fine try. Another sore point for Monday's review.

Arwel Robson's conversion brought the score back to 38-10, but the moment was short lived as Leinster went straight back down the other end of the pitch and scored again through Tadhg Furlong. Sexton's last act of an assured display was to take his personal haul to 15 points.

Fardy, who had another superb game, added a seventh try that Noel Reid converted late on to heap further misery on the Dragons.

Tougher tests unquestionably lie ahead for Leinster, but as Saturday strolls in the park go, this was as good as it gets.

Leinster - R Kearney; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw (J Tomane 64), D Kearney; J Sexton (capt) (N Reid 64), J Gibson-Park (H O'Sullivan 67); E Byrne (P Dooley 53), S Cronin (B Byrne 53), A Porter (T Furlong 53); S Fardy, J Ryan (R Molony 64); M Deegan, J van der Flier, J Conan (C Doris 26-36, 76)).

Dragons - J Williams; D Howells, A Warren, J Dixon ( Sage 59), H Amos; J Lewis ( Robson 59), R Williams (T Knoyle 50); B Harris (R Bevington h/t), E Dee (R Hibbard 50), L Fairbrother (Harris (L Brown 72); M Screech (B Nansen h/t), C Hill (capt); A Wainwright (O Griffiths 47), N Cudd, R Moriarty.

Referee: Q Immelman (SARU)

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