Leinster 38 Cardiff 14
Leinster’s unbeaten start to the season continued with a 17th successive victory, 13 in the United Rugby Championship, as a young team produced an admirable performance in the wet conditions, cohesive for the most part, and entertaining for large tranches of a dominant display.
Six tries was a fair return for their enterprise and accuracy against a more experienced Cardiff team that will have been disappointed with a largely careless effort. Luke McGrath (2), Max Deegan, Max O’Reilly, Brian Deeny and Liam Turner crossed for the home side while the excellent Harry Byrne kicked three conversions and Charlie Tector one.
Deegan was a deserving man of the match, the halfbacks Byrne and McGrath managed the game well while a coterie of the younger players like Michael Milne, John McKee, Brian Deeney, Ben Brownlee and Liam Turner should be very satisfied with their respective contributions.
Molly Scuffil-McCabe: ‘Being able to be professional, for this to be your job, it just makes all the difference’
Leinster enjoyed an early breakthrough. An excellent diagonal kick from Harry Byrne pushed Cardiff back to within five metres from their own line and when the throw was adjudged crooked, Leinster opted for the scrum.
Deegan was stopped inches short but after the visitors conceded a penalty at a ruck, the Leinster number eight could not be denied a second time, driving over from close range with a little assistance. Harry Byrne hooked the conversion wide.
Leinster’s second try on 19 minutes was another beautifully worked tap penalty move, Deegan providing the screen pass and Byrne found his halfback partner Luke McGrath with a well-timed inside flick that enabled the scrumhalf to dive over. The outhalf added the conversion to give the home side a 10-0 lead.
Cardiff hooker Kirby Myhill was fortunate not to escape censure for sliding feet first into Harry Byrne in vying for a loose ball on the ground, clumsy rather than malicious; the fact that referee Jaco Peyper and television match official Marius Jonker ignored it was surprising.
The visitors continued to make a million mistakes, primarily handling errors, and Leinster were inclined to punish them. Byrne followed up a superb break, with another beautifully weighted kick that pinned Cardiff back and when the Welsh side coughed up possession again, McGrath was sharp in finding a gap first and then scooting over.
Byrne’s conversion saw Leinster establish a 19-0 interval lead. It had been a reasonably good half from a team perspective, while individually there were several standout contributions, Milne and McKee in the frontrow carried the ball extremely effectively; Deeney demonstrated the value of good footwork in contact.
Rhys Ruddock, Scott Penny and Deegan excelled in all facets while McGrath and Byrne were alive to opportunities. Brownlee and Turner combined to eat up 50 metres, making a break each but the move petered out subsequently with a turnover in the Cardiff 22.
Peyper initially missed a deliberate slap down by Cardiff wing Jason Harries that prevented Leinster from scoring a try, the referee suggesting that the ball had gone forward in the act of the player making the tackle. His TMO, Jonker intervened and after a consultation, Harries received a yellow card.
Leinster went from a lineout to the Cardiff line from where secondrow Deeny powered over; this also required a review, but the original decision stood. Byrne converted but could not improve upon Leinster’s fifth try, finished by wing Max O’Reilly. Cardiff conceded 12 points during Harries sin bin sabbatical.
Leo Cullen brought on five replacements in one go, a new front row, Will Connors back after bicep surgery and Nick McCarthy.
The next order of business for the home side was to put in a four-minute defensive set where they successfully repelled wave after wave of Cardiff attacks inside their 22 but after conceding a penalty the visitors did belatedly manage a try from replacement Rory Thornton, converted by Jarrod Evans.
James Culhane and Aitzol King came on to make their respective Leinster debuts as the game lost much of its structure with the raft of changes on both sides.
Cardiff scored a second try through Kristian Dacey converted by Evans, albeit benefiting from a forward pass in the build-up, but the home side had the final say when Turner pounced on a loose ball; to touch down. Charlie Tector’s conversion, the final act of the evening.
Scoring sequence - 6 mins: Deegan try, 5-0; 19: McGrath try, Byrne conversion, 10-0; 29: McGrath try, Byrne conversion, 19-0. Halftime: 19-0. 49: Deeny try, Byrne conversion, 26-0; 54: O’Reilly try, 31-0; 67: Thornton try, Evans conversion, 31-7; 78: Dacey try, Evans conversion, 31-14; 80(+2): Turner try, Tector conversion, 38-14.
Leinster: C Cosgrave; M O’Reilly, L Turner, B Brownlee, D Kearney; H Byrne, L McGrath; M Milne, J McKee, M Ala’alatoa; R Molony, B Deeny; R Ruddock (capt), S Penny, M Deegan.
Replacements: T McElroy for McKee (56 mins), M Hanan for Milne (56), T Clarkson for Ala’alatoa (56), W Connors for Penny (56), N McCarthy for McGrath (56); J Culhane for Ruddock (65), C Tector for Byrne (65), A King for Cosgrave (68).
Cardiff: R Priestland; O Lane, R Lee-Lo, B Thomas, J Harries; J Evans, L Williams; B Thyer, K Myhill, K Assiratti; L Timani, S Davies; J Turnbull (capt), J Botham, J Ratti.
Replacements: M Morgan for Priestland (20 mins), K Dacey for Myhill (53), C Domachowski for Thyer (53), R Thornton for Davies (66), S Lewis-Hughes for Turnbull (66), E Bevan for Williams (69), A Summerhill for Lane (71); W Davies-King for Assirrati (73)
Referee: J Peyper (South Africa)
Yellow card: J Harries (Cardiff) 48 mins.