Thursday 20 September 2018

Leinster to look for retribution

Blues aim to beat Dragons at Rodney Parade for the first time in three years

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen.

When the dust had settled on the PRO12 League, Leinster had moved above The Ospreys to sit second in behind Munster.

It came at a heavy cost for coach Leo Cullen, in terms of bodies down, from their five points against Edinburgh (winning 39-10) on Friday night.

They lost wing Dave Kearney, flanker Dominic Ryan and centre Noel Reid to concussion.

These three will be rerouted through the return-to-play protocols with Kearney's outside shot at international honours on hold again.

More significantly, Josh van der Flier was forced off with a direct impact to the point of his AC shoulder joint.

The assumption is that the flanker will take no part in Ireland's Six Nations match against France at the end of the week.

Rory O'Loughlin also gave way to a shoulder injury which, apparently, the centre carried into the game.

Mike McCarthy experienced cramp to his calf, forcing hooker Bryan Byrne to finish out the game in the back row. The same cramping affliction to Joey Carbery meant Leinster actually concluded the evening shift with captain Luke McGrath on the wing and down to 14 men as they ran out of numbers from the bench.

"I thought it was a very physical game," said coach Leo Cullen.

"Edinburgh came with real intent, fired into us. They wanted to hit hard in all their actions."

Leinster looked in serious trouble as they were hit with wave-after-wave of Edinburgh attack right from the outset.


They were largely restricted to hitting on the break and this is where their first try came from for left wing Barry Daly.

Their defensive work was the basis for a a fortunate 8-3 lead at half-time.

Given the littany of injuries causing disruption, the manner in which Leinster transformed the action for five more tries was deeply impressive.

"After weathering the storm for the majority of the first-half, I thought we kicked on and capitalised on the chances," said Cullen.

And the secret to the dramatic turnaround?

"I just think we were smart about how we managed the game. We controlled the ball well and recognised where the space was and, also, played through the line.

"Overall, when you consider the way the game went, it was great to score 39 points at home," he reviewed.

It leaves Leinster to prepare for something of a payback trip to Wales

Rodney Parade is no place to be going with a patched-up side shorn of so many Ireland internationals and club captain Isa Nacewa.

It was two years ago that The Dragons held out 25-22 in Matt O'Connor's last season at the helm.

Leinster were unable to take away as much as a losing bonus-point last season from a 23-13 defeat at a time when they were desperate for points.

The Welsh club will hunt a three-in-a-row with good reason to be confident at home to Leinster on Friday night.

"We had a very tough game there last year," said Cullen.

"I remember that game very well. We need to make sure we learn the lessons from last year.

"There are going to be some challenges this week the Irish game. We will assess the injuries and how bad they are."

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