herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Leinster repel cardiff surge

Luke McGrath's late try ensures bonus point

Some eyes were on Kane Douglas, some on Ian Madigan at twelve, some on Gordon D'Arcy at thirteen.

All were on four or even five points and they came as late as the last play, Luke McGrath flying to the posts for Madigan's conversion to make it 37-23 at The RDS.

The direct running of Jimmy Gopperth, Sean Cronin and Rob Kearney drew an early penalty which Madigan sent between the sticks in the fifth minute.

Referee Ian Davies, from Wales, was way too eager to get in on the action, awarding the home side a penalty on immediate engagement at a scrum. Madigan struck again from distance.

Cardiff full-back Rhys Patchell halved the leeway with a penalty for illegal defence of the ensuing maul.

Patchell made it all square from his third shot when Gopperth was whistled for not releasing on the floor under pressure from Josh Navidi.

Leinster were looking for a spark and they found it through a 38th minute power surge from flanker Rhys Ruddock, coming on a hard line to fend off scrum-half Lewis Jones for a try converted by Madigan.

There was still time for retribution. The Welsh looked on the brink of breaking back only for Devin Toner to shake wing George Watkins in the tackle, Patchell's third penalty making it 13-9 at half-time.

Leinster returned without their best player Kearney, the super-versatile Madigan moving to full-back, Fergus McFadden to centre and Darragh Fanning switching to right wing to accommodate Mick McGrath on the left.

It wasn't long before D'Arcy's ice-cool transfer and Madigan's composure as a go-between put McGrath speeding towards the first League try of his professional career halfway into a two-month contract. Madigan converted for 20-9 daylight.

A lineout maul fulfilled its' purpose, Gopperth took the inside shoulder and gifted D'Arcy his first of the season in the 52nd minute for Madigan's conversion.

Cardiff were not finished. Cory Allen seized on Madigan's slip and Sam Warburton followed up straight away from a criminally forward pass for Patchell's pair of conversions to give them life at 27-23 in the last quarter.

A seven-point cushion was restored by Madigan's 73rd minute penalty.

It was all back in the balance before hooker Bryan Byrne's footwork and fine hands sent McGrath hurtling towards the bonus point with the clock turned red.

Connacht could not resist Glasgow at Scotstoun, falling 39-21 and coming up one try short of a bonus-point.

The veteran looked to the manor born at thirteen with an array of sharp passes.

Luke McGrath's last gasp sprint for the posts came out of hooker Bryan Byrne's footwork and soft hands

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