Sunday 21 April 2019

Deegan stars as Leinster limp into semis with mediocre showing

Leinster 19 Cheetahs 7

Man of the match: Max Deegan. Photo: Sportsfile
Man of the match: Max Deegan. Photo: Sportsfile

Des Berry

Leinster limped their way to the PRO14 semi-finals with a routine win at the RDS last night.

There was nothing much to shout as it was a mediocre performance from the reigning champions which smacked of looking beyond what was right in front of them.

In fairness, the muted audience of 10,057 didn't exactly come expecting fireworks.

The first shot in earnest came from Cheetahs prop Ox Nche for a late and high hit on Fergus McFadden.

The wing was left prone on the ground as referee Nigel Owens looked at the replay on the screen at the Anglesea Road end of the ground.

Amazingly, the decision was for a yellow card, not red, and Nche returned to action 10 minutes later.

This performance was a case of Leinster playing down to their opponents, the lift from Conor O'Brien's try off a flat pass from Jamison Gibson-Park, converted by Ross Byrne, failing to ignite the crowd or themselves.

Instead, the Cheetahs left wing Rabz Maxwane has an opportunistic instinct and this was on show from centre Benhard Janse van Rensburg's kick ahead which the speedster gathered with ease, and out-half Tian Schoeman squared it from the conversion.

Leinster then regained the lead early in the second quarter as winger Byrne, fed by O'Loughlin's long pass, stepped inside Maxwane's tackle and touched down under pressure from Louis Fouche.

The remainder of the first half proved to be rather listless, with the Cheetahs maintaining their tactical kicking, while Leinster were unable to get back into scoring range, despite promising runs from man of the match Max Deegan and captain Rhys Ruddock near halfway.

Ireland prop Andrew Porter conceded two penalties following his 43rd-minute introduction but a lineout infringement, in particular, went unpunished, with Schoeman pushing his kick wide from the right.

Leinster eventually managed to get the scoreboard moving again approaching the hour mark.

The Cheetahs initially defended a maul threat but O'Loughlin chipped over the top, dinked the ball on and won the race to the touchdown. Fly-half Byrne added a well-struck conversion from the left.

Leinster ended the game hunting for a bonus-point score through their forwards but the Cheetahs held them at bay. It means Leinster take a whopping 26-point overnight lead in an uncompetitive Conference B.

Leinster - D Kearney (B Daly 66); A Byrne, R O'Loughlin (N Reid 66), C O'Brien, F McFadden; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park (H O'Sullivan, 76); P Dooley (E Byrne 54), B Byrne (J Tracy 54), M Bent (A Porter 44); R Molony, S Fardy (M Kearney, 71); R Ruddock (J Murphy 63), M Deegan, C Doris.

Cheetahs - L Fouche (R Paige 78); W Small-Smith (C Marais 17-20, S Venter 51), BJ van Rensburg, D Swanepoel, R Maxwane; T Schoeman, T Meyer; Ox Nche (C Marais, 63), R Venter (J du Toit 51), A Coetzee (L de Bruin 51); W Steenkamp, JP du Preez (S Manjezi 53); G Olivier, A Nonkontwana (M van der Merwe, 77), J Pokomela (H Venter 40)

REF - Nigel Owens (WRU).

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