Sloppy Le­in­ster earn bonus but not many pos­i­tives

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Rugby -

A bonus-point vic­tory will suf­fice in an over­all con­text but not the per­for­mance as Le­in­ster stag­gered their way to vic­tory in windy Port El­iz­a­beth yes­ter­day.

The vis­i­tors were no­tably sloppy at times against a South­ern Kings side that strug­gled with dis­ci­pline, los­ing four play­ers to yel­low cards. Le­in­ster should have won at a can­ter but with the match clock in the red zone at the end of the game, they gave the South Africa fran­chise a chance to earn an un­likely draw.

The vis­i­tors con­ceded five tries, two were a legacy of in­ter­cep­tions, one from a slip and 14 points were coughed up when the Kings were a player or play­ers down. Le­in­ster’s care­less­ness in pos­ses­sion, and at times in de­ci­sion-mak­ing, will make for a painful re­view. Few will emerge un­scathed. Leo Cullen’s side also lost Rory O’Lough­lin (knee) and Joe To­mane (ham­string) to in­jury in the first half.

On the pos­i­tive side, Dan Leavy came through 80 min­utes of ex­cel­lent work, while the team amassed six tries. Le­in­ster pul­verised the scrum un­til late on and it was a lu­cra­tive av­enue for points. The wind played havoc with the li­ne­out throw­ing, both sides elect­ing for trick plays at the front on oc­ca­sions.

Per­fect start

The home side got the per­fect start when Yaw Penxe prof­ited from a slip by Le­in­ster wing Adam Byrne as he chased back a grub­ber kick from Martin du Toit. The winger was able to shove the ball over the line with his foot and dot down. Byrne re­sponded with a mus­cu­lar fin­ish on 15 min­utes and Le­in­ster took the lead with a penalty try only to throw away that ad­van­tage when Jami­son Gib­son-Park had a pass in­ter­cepted by his op­po­site num­ber Ste­fan Un­gerer, who raced over un­op­posed.

Three tries in the last five min­utes of the half against a Kings side that were down to 13 play­ers at one point sealed the bonus point. Gib­son-Park, Leavy and Max Dee­gan crossed with Noel Reid adding three con­ver­sions to leave Le­in­ster 33-12 ahead at half-time.

If Cullen had words at half-time about Le­in­ster’s lack of ac­cu­racy they ini­tially had lit­tle ef­fect, as Un­gerer claimed a sec­ond try soon af­ter the restart fol­low­ing an­other Le­in­ster move that broke down with the ball go­ing to ground. Re­place­ment hooker Bryan Byrne crashed over for a try as the game en­tered the fi­nal quar­ter but Le­in­ster’s profli­gacy con­tin­ued as they con­ceded two late tries to Lu­phumlo Mguca and Dries van Schalk­wyk.

Cullen ex­plained: “The con­di­tions were un­be­liev­ably dif­fi­cult; it’s like be­ing in a wind tun­nel. Parts of our per­for­mance were a lit­tle bit mixed; we strug­gled to con­trol the ball in the first half. Then we got a bit of dom­i­nance in the scrum and we got some good re­wards off that. The three tries be­fore half-time was the win­ning of the game. In that last 10 min­utes we lost a bit of con­trol. I know we had in­juries and play­ers play­ing out of po­si­tion but even still we prob­a­bly should have man­aged the end of the game a lit­tle bit bet­ter.”

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