Sloppy Leinster earn bonus but not many positives
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.
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.”