Friday 14 December 2018

Under-par Leinster slump to historic loss to Treviso


Joey Carbery of Leinster is tackled by Luca Bigi of Benetton
Joey Carbery of Leinster is tackled by Luca Bigi of Benetton

Ruaidhri O’Connor at the RDS

Leinster suffered a home defeat to an Italian opponent for the first time as Treviso made them pay for a disjointed performance with a famous win at the RDS.

It has taken 18 attempts between the two franchises, but Kieran Crowley’s men deserved the result which keeps the Guinness PRO14 season interesting for another few weeks yet as the hosts missed the chance to wrap up Conference B with a win.

In truth, they can probably plan for a home semi-final given they remain five points clear of Scarlets thanks to their losing bonus point and have a considerable cushion on points.

Ulster, however, won’t thank them since the win keeps the Italians just a point behind them in the race for a home European Champions Cup play-off against Ospreys.

Leinster’s focus will quickly switch to their home semi-final against Scarlets in a week’s time

Sean O’Brien got through 40 unremarkable minutes on his comeback and appeared to be carrying his left shoulder heavily, while Jordan Larmour also looked rusty after a spell on the sidelines and Robbie Henshaw was involved in the warm-up.

Otherwise there was little to warm Leo Cullen’s heart after a poor display from his team.

Leinster don’t lose here often, this was just their second defeat in 38 games but they could have no complaints.

The pack were out-muscled and, operating on poor ball, Joey Carbery couldn’t put his stamp on things at No 10 and looked like a player who hasn’t played there for Leinster all season. Which he hasn't.

The big guns were watching from the stands and there won’t be much of a knock-on effect next week, but there will be a lot of disappointed fringe players who will know they played themselves out of contention.

Despite the much-changed line-up, Leinster started strongly and they were ahead within seven minutes through Richardt Strauss.

The hooker played a part in getting the team in position as he was on the end of a neatly worked move involving Barry Daly and Jamison Gibson Park and when the Italians conceded a penalty and Leinster went to their maul Strauss was on the end of things to touch down.

Carbery nailed the conversion, but the visitors hit back within five minutes of the restart in similar fashion their No 2 Luca Bigi touching down at the back of a rampant maul.

Tommaso Allan missed the chance to level with the conversion and what followed was 20 minutes of poor fare with Treviso edging it and Leinster guilty of playing as individuals.

They needed a spark and Jordan Larmour provided it, latching on to a fine Noel Reid pass to race clear of the Italians’ defence but even after they conceded a penalty the Treviso defence held firm.

Although they only needed to win to top their conference, they turned down points at every opportunity and with less than two minutes remaining in the half they opted for a scrum in the Treviso ’22.

They forced a penalty through their first penalty and captain Jack McGrath again called for the set-piece and this time they struck out left with Daly finishing well after good hands from Larmour and Joey Carbery.

The fly-half missed the conversion and Leinster took a 12-5 lead into the break.

It didn’t last long as Fergus McFadden got caught under a horrible bounce and Jayden Hayward pounced before finding Federico Russo on his shoulder to score.

Allan again missed the conversion but he made amends as McGrath threw a wild pass into space and the out-half reacted quickest, hacking ahead and diving on his own kick to score.

He converted but Carbery narrowed the gap with a penalty directly from the kick-off, but Treviso continued to have the upper hand until their scrum-half Tebaldi had a moment of madness – stamping directly on a prone Max Deegan just as his side were marching towards a bonus point try.

Referee Ben Whitehouse had no hesitation in reaching for his yellow card and Leinster escaped.

Yet they couldn’t turn the screw despite their man advantage and Tebaldi returned with his side still two points to the good.

And it stayed that way, they might have even gone for a bonus point but opted to take the four points to the delight of the small coterie of visiting fans behind the goal at the Simmonscourt End who celebrated a little bit of history.

LEINSTER - J Larmour; F McFadden (R Byrne 62), R O'Loughlin (A Byrne 52), N Reid, B Daly; J Carbery, J Gibson-Park (N McCarthy 62); J McGrath (capt) (E Byrne 62), R Strauss (J Tracy 51), A Porter(M Bent 62); R Molony, I Nagle (M Kearney 65); Jordi Murphy, S O'Brien (P Timmins h-t), M Deegan.

BENETTON - J Hayward; A Bronzini, T Iannone, A Sgarbi (capt), M Ioane; T Allan, T Tebaldi; F Zani (C Traore 47), L Bigi (E Makelara 56), S Ferrari (T Pasquali 47-72); M Lazzaroni (M Fuser 9-18) (I Herbst 56), A Zanni (M Fuser 47); F Ruzza (D Budd 67), S Negri, N Manu.

Ref - B Whitehouse (Wales).

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