Leinster no match for class Cheetahs
Cheetahs 38 Leinster 19
Barry Daly's hat-trick could not save Leinster from a blasting from The Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last night.
There are those among the management that will be glad to see the back of South Africa and some of what came out of it.
The Cheetahs were built for speed and width, moving the ball early and often to make the altitude a problem from the hour mark.
It didn't even take that long.
Not augur well
The first quarter going would tell all and Jamison Gibson-Park's loose kick did not augur well.
The ball was returned with interest, drawing Leinster up offside for out-half Ernst Stapelberg to smack the opening points.
This was met with a lightening counter from Joey Carbery, the link from Isa Nacewa for Mick Kearney to be stopped short by Springbok centre Francois Venter.
The home side went sharply from a defensive lineout, number eight Teboho Mohoje spilling the ball at his own sticks.
Leinster were patient enough for Jack Conan to truck it up and Noel Reid's skip pass to put Barry Daly away to the left corner for 5-3 in the sixth minute.
Jordi Murphy's agility earned a penalty on the floor out of full-back Sergeal Petersen for Ross Byrne to miss his second kick.
Second-row Kearney's obstruction was spotted by referee Mike Adamson for Stapelberg to wrest back the lead.
The Irish province was struggling badly in contact until Josh van der Flier ripped the ball away from flanker Henco Venter.
When Conan was too slow to roll away and Byrne deliberately knocked-on, Stapelberg made penalties in the 20th and 26th minutes.
The majority of Leinster tackles made were of the soaking variety, hooker James Tracy's poach turning the tide temporarily.
They were hanging on by Van der Flier's fingertips for a vital turnover in the shadow of their posts.
It was the home side which had to survive Gibson-Park's tap-and-go when Carbery was taken down by William Small-Smith with the line in sight.
Then, the porous Leinster midfield was exposed from a surging scrum for Small-Smith to spear the defence for an electric try, converted by Stapelberg, for 19-5 at the break.
This was a fair reflection of how the game had gone and it was shaping up as a test of character. Leinster's discipline was desperate, Tracy being binned for no arms in the tackle and hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld powering over in the 46th minute.
It was turning into a rout.
Leinster had no choice but to open up and this is what The Cheetahs wanted.
The new front-row of Peter Dooley, Seán Cronin and Andrew Porter gave away a penalty and position.
The over-powering carry of replacement prop Ox Nché was too much for Rhys Ruddock, Byrne and Cronin for Stapelberg to make it 31-5 in the 55th minute.
There was a second try from Barry Daly straight off the training ground for Byrne to convert from the left touchline.
Finally, Leinster had the bit between their teeth and they began to find the front foot more regularly.
The clear out work of Porter was a standout facet of their play and the scrum started to cause problems for the home side.
The unheralded left wing struck for his hat-trick on the back of Carbery's counter and Conan's carry for Byrne's conversion to make it 31-19 in the 74th minute.
Suddenly, there were two pints on the table for four tries and losing by seven points or less.
The flow to Leinster's attack made that look more likely than possible as Max Deegan showed up well for a superb poached penalty.
This was taken away when Cathal Marsh, on for Byrne, telegraphed his pass to the outside.
The ball with was taken away by Luther Obi's last play try, converted by Stapelberg.
All of a sudden, Leinster's unbeaten start to the season is in the bin and there will be a lot of players looking in the mirror.
This number of missed tackles and inability to win the gain line were too bad to be true.
Leinster need their frontline international backs quickly as Europe looms.
Leinster need their frontline international backs quickly as Europe looms