Monday 16 September 2019

Leinster kids run riot but Cullen still wary of Bath's inside man

Dragons 10 Leinster 59

Conor O’Brien on the break for Leinster during Saturday’s PRO14 game against Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Conor O’Brien on the break for Leinster during Saturday’s PRO14 game against Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

James Candy

Leo Cullen is wary of Bath's inside man as Leinster switch their focus to wresting back control of their Heineken Champions Cup pool next weekend.

The European and PRO14 champions gave themselves the perfect preparation for the crunch double header with a nine-try thumping of the Dragons on Saturday night.

The Leinster players gather in a team huddle after their victory. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
The Leinster players gather in a team huddle after their victory. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

The victory sent them 15 points clear of Scarlets in the domestic conference, but the province are still playing catch-up to Toulouse in their European pool.

The Leinster head coach will welcome back his frontline stars for the trip to the Rec on Saturday after the kids came good once again at Rodney Parade.

Bath will be relying heavily on the knowledge of former Leinster star and coach, Girvan Dempsey, who was brought in to reinvigorate their attack at the start of the season. And Cullen is expecting his tactics to be picked apart by his old teammate.

"We will watch Bath's game against Sale very closely, and they have a coach in Girvan Dempsey who knows us very well, which is always dangerous," said Cullen last night (Bath drew today's game 7-7).

Head coach Leo Cullen in conversation with former Leinster player Reggie Corrigan. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Head coach Leo Cullen in conversation with former Leinster player Reggie Corrigan. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"Girvan has worked very closely with us over a number of years and I'm sure he'll have built himself up for this game.

"He's so meticulous in his preparation, he's been amazing in developing some of the younger guys you see out there today and the work he's put in through the academy has been brilliant.

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"We'll keep a keen eye on them tomorrow and see how they're playing. We've definitely seen some familiar traits in their playing style, so it should be a great match."

Ruthless

Johnny Sexton and Co. were not needed for the trip to South Wales as Cullen's second-string stood up and showed their ruthless streak in a bonus-point 59-10 triumph.

Lloyd Fairbrother of Dragons is tackled by Caelan Doris, left, and Bryan Byrne of Leinster. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Lloyd Fairbrother of Dragons is tackled by Caelan Doris, left, and Bryan Byrne of Leinster. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ross Byrne orchestrated the victory to stake his claim for a place in the starting XV for the Champions Cup clash with Bath, with a near faultless performance, as he set up two scores for Dave Kearney and one for full-back, Hugo Keenan. Scott Penny and Scott Fardy made sure Leinster went in at half-time with a comfortable 16-point advantage before Kearney wrapped up the bonus-point three minutes into the second-half.

Caelen Doris, Hugo Keenan, Bryan Byrne and Jimmy O'Brien completed the win with a late double to make it six wins in-a-row against the Welsh region.

The performances of out-half Byrne and centre Conor O'Brien came to the fore during the Rodney Parade rout. And Cullen admits his job may not be as simple as just throwing his Ireland stars back into the starting XV.

"We'll have a look back at the game and dig in on how some of the individuals performed," added Cullen, whose opposite number, Bernard Jackman, was serving the second game of his two-week stadium ban for criticising officials. "There will be some tough decisions to be made, but that's what we wanted.

Caelan Doris of Leinster in action against Lloyd Fairbrother of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Caelan Doris of Leinster in action against Lloyd Fairbrother of Dragons. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"We want the young guys to challenge the more established guard, and they were excellent this weekend.

"Bath have so much quality and depth in their squad, they have a lot of very experienced players and the Rec is a tough place to go.

"There is a slightly different focus now, with Bath next week, and there will be some interesting selection decisions to make.

"The trip to South Africa was really good for this group. We went away, spent a lot of time with each other and we brought in a few young guys for some time away and they learned and understood what we're trying to do as a group."

Dragons' experienced captain, Richard Hibbard, pulled no punches after the game and admitted the squad needed to pull together ahead of two difficult European away trips.

"We let ourselves down out there," said Hibbard. "We had the worst possible start and it wasn't down to them, they are a good team and we know that Leinster are clinical, but we gave them possession and a hell of a start.

"I honestly can't put my finger on it, I thought that we lacked physicality out there, and cohesion."

Dragons now turn their attention to Europe and Hibbard is under no illusions as to the size of the tests ahead.

"The challenge doesn't get much bigger than Northampton and Clermont, but I think that's great and it's straight back on the horse," he said.

Dragons - J Williams, J Rosser (A Warren 56), T Morgan, J Sage, H Amos, J Tovey (A Robson 66), R Williams (T Knoyle 61), R Bevington (A Jarvis 72), R Hibbard (E Dee 47), L Fairbrother (L Brown 40), R Landman, L Evans (C Hill, 40), H Keddie (R Moriarty 47), A Wainwright, O Griffiths.

Leinster - H Keenan, A Byrne, J O'Brien, C O'Brien, D Kearney (T Daly 64), R Byrne (C Frawley 70), J Gibson-Park (P Patterson 66), E Byrne (P Dooley 52), J Tracy (B Bryne 52), M Bent (A Porter 48), R Molony, S Fardy (captain), J Murphy (M Deegan 52), S Penny (M Kearney 62), C Doris.

Ref - L Linton (Scotland).

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