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Madigan drags limp Blues over the line

Not one of Leinster's more distinguished performances, but a victory nonetheless, and one which equals Munster's record of 14 league games unbeaten.

Whether they would have achieved it against any other top-flight rugby side is perhaps debatable.

The accuracy normally associated with Joe Schmidt's men wasn't quite there on a difficult night in the Italian backwater of Viadana, where the Heineken Cup kingpins struggled to break down the most porous defence in European rugby.

Aironi, limited as they are, were unable to take advantage of Leinster's shortcomings on the night, and were undone by the kicking accuracy of Ian Madigan before a late try by Noel Reid put the icing on the cake.

Afterwards, Schmidt admitted that his side had not been at their best, but rejected the notion that they had been listless in their approach.

"Of course we would want better from ourselves, but I wouldn't agree that we were lethargic," he said.

"The slow ball never allowed us to play with the tempo that we like to play with.

inaccuracy

"The work was being done; it was just our inaccuracy that cost us on a couple of occasions."

At one stage, it looked as though Leinster's imprecision might indeed cost them the match as Aironi went through a purple patch midway through the second half.

Trailing 9-3, the home side battered the visiting line for a sustained period before eventually forcing a penalty which Luciano Orquera converted to make it a one-score game.

Gradually, Leinster's class began to shine through, however, with Madigan knocking over two penalties before Reid intercepted a pass late on to score a breakaway try.

Before that, there wasn't all that much to get excited about, in particular during a drab first half in which Leinster were guilty of giving the ball away too often, and too cheaply.

The line-out repeatedly misfired and there was a distinct shortage of attacking guile, save for one outstanding break by Fionn Carr, who ducked and dodged his way out of a tight corner to break the Aironi rearguard and set up a chance for Luke Fitzgerald. Predictably, the ball failed to stick, however, and the chance disappeared.

After a two-month lay-off, Fitzgerald was understandably rusty, and his fumble was perhaps forgivable.

It should be noted, also, that he made several impressive contributions, not least one potentially try-saving tackle during the first half when Aironi were coming on strong.

"We were keen to put him through 80 minutes, and he was probably good for about 60 of them," added Schmidt.

"But considering he had been out for seven weeks, it was just good to see him playing again, and hopefully he will come into contention for future games."

Aironi -- G Toniolatti; R Pavan (G Pavan 69), R Quartaroli, G Pizarro, S Sinoti; N Olivier (L Orquera 54), T Tebaldi (T Keats 54); M Aguero (A de Marchi 44), R Santamaria (c) (F Ongaro 77), L Romano (S Perugini 44); G Biagi, C del Fava (F Ferrarini 24); N Cattina, S Favaro, J Sole.

Leinster -- L Fitzgerald; A Conway, E O'Malley, B Macken (N Reid 62), F Carr (D Hudson 74); I Madigan, I Boss (J Cooney 77); H van der Merwe (J McGrath 72), R Strauss (A Dundon 75), N White (J Hagan 62-67); D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings (c) (D Ryan 60), R Ruddock (L Auva'a 54)

Ref -- A Macpherson.

Irish Independent