Le­in­ster fin­ish strongly to help pa­per over the cracks

Late flurry seals bonus point but early sea­son cob­webs re­main

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Gavin Cum­miskey at the RDS

Le­in­ster 37 Tries: Tracy, Cronin, Daly, McCarthy. Cons: Byrne 4. Pens: Byrne 3. Cardiff Blues 9 Pens: Shin­gler 3.

All cracks get pa­pered over by the ruth­less fin­ish. When Ross Byrne, after an un­con­vinc­ing night un­til it re­ally mat­tered, put one of his trade­mark cross field punts high into the right cor­ner Barry Daly soared, jug­gled and landed for Le­in­ster’s third try.

Byrne wasted no time land­ing the touch­line con­ver­sion.

Moments later Jack Co­nan – de­servedly named man of the match – burst through mid­field with some deft, high risk of­fload­ing even­tu­ally see­ing Nick McCarthy slide over for the bonus point. Never in doubt. Ex­cept for a ropey open­ing hour lit­tered with er­ror and slow de­ci­sion mak­ing.

With Le­in­ster’s mini voortrek, to Port El­iz­a­beth be­fore fin­ish­ing against the Chee­tahs at al­ti­tude, this next fort­night will re­quire a wider use of re­sources to avoid the ig­nominy of be­ing the first Pro 14 side to lose in South Africa (Ze­bre should take care of that).

Mis­guided per­for­mance

But, de­spite Byrne’s im­pres­sive poise late on, ab­sent half backs Jami­son Gib­son-Park and Joey Car­bery should ben­e­fit the most from this mis­guided per­for­mance.

If it’s too com­pli­cated it is not go­ing to work. Bill Belichick said that. The Stu­art Lan­caster blue­print es­pouses sim­i­lar means for get­ting Le­in­ster from A to B with min­i­mum fuss.

It can be ex­plained away as early sea­son cob­webs. And there was never any need to panic against a Cardiff Blues out­fit that failed to re­alise a valu­able four points were for the tak­ing.

That 13 Le­in­ster men trot­ted back over half­way with a 7-6 lead after 32 min­utes showed how dom­i­nant they should be. Isa Nacewa was in the sin-bin for clothes-lin­ing Alex Cuth­bert while Rob Kear­ney was be­ing treated for a ham­string in­jury.

The Ire­land full­back, who avoided a yel­low card for a late tackle on Garyn Smith, was re­placed at half-time by Daly (Dan Leavy is an­other in­jury con­cern). This forced a reshuf­fle with Jor­dan Lar­mour given the run of the back field on his home de­but.

Nacewa re­turned as Ross Byrne con­verted James Tracy’s try after the hooker was mauled over the Cardiff try line.

Byrne then atoned for an ear­lier missed penalty to put Le­in­ster 10-6 ahead at the turn.

Oth­er­wise the open­ing 40 min­utes at a damp RDS was as much a chance for the sea­son ticket hold­ers to reac­quaint them­selves with the old horse arena than to see any de­cent rugby. Of­fi­cially 13,535 were on site. A good few must have looked out the win­dow and slumped back on the couch.

Wil­lie Dug­gan was re­mem­bered. The pre-match si­lence in mem­ory of the leg­endary Kilkenny and Black­rock num­ber eight fit­tingly turned into col­lec­tive ap­plause. Mal O’Kelly was also spot­ted in the new stand.

Nei­ther man would have many com­plaints about Scott Fardy. A blind­side by trade, the Wal­laby has enough size and dis­played plenty of grunt in the five jersey but it was his turnover that cre­ated the chance for Seán Cronin to race clear for the try that put Cardiff out of reach.

So long as the 33-year-old’s body holds up the home grown locks will be bat­tling it out for num­ber four if Devin Toner – his 200th game in blue last night – re­mains in the Ire­land squad come Novem­ber.

James Ryan, cur­rently nurs­ing a shoul­der is­sue, will force his way into this con­ver­sa­tion soon enough.

There is plenty more to come from Le­in­ster; per­son­nel wise and im­prove­ments in how Lan­caster wants them to at­tack. The shape is vis­i­ble. Next comes ex­e­cu­tion. Byrne has some way to go in this re­gard. Much of the de­ci­sion mak­ing, which tended to be low kicks into space, came from Nacewa at sec­ond-five-eight.

Kick­ing groove

Some ur­gency was badly needed after Scott Shin­gler’s third penalty made it 10-9 early in the sec­ond half.

Scrum dom­i­nance at least gave Byrne a chance to find his kick­ing groove. Both up­rights helped him make it 13-9 but a poor kick over the top kept Cardiff in the fight.

On 52 min­utes Leo Cullen in­tro­duced as dy­namic a fron­trow as any team in this Pro 14 league can boast. Cronin, Ed Byrne and An­drew Porter got to work.

Cardiff col­lapsed the next maul but Byrne’s fifth strike at goal, again, hit the post, this time bounc­ing into vis­it­ing hands.

The pack needed to take over. And they did as Byrne planted a cen­tral, long range penalty to fi­nally cre­ate some breath­ing space.

Le­in­ster won on au­topi­lot with Cronin dash­ing away, like only he can, with 10 min­utes re­main­ing on the clock.

Only then did they come alive.


Alex Cuth­bert of Cardiff de­nies Le­in­ster’s Barry Daly a try dur­ing last night’s game at the RDS.

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