Sunday 23 September 2018

Listless Leinster limp into Europe

D'Arcy bids home adieu to The Blues

Leinster must have been glad to see the back of Treviso and the season as they qualified for The Champions Cup with one round to spare last night.

When the Benetton bus cracked into a pillar on the way into The RDS, they could have taken it as a sign of things to come.

Instead, they went toe-to-toe and, at times, blow-for-blow in an increasingly fractious affair.

The home side looked to take the ball up, their hooker Richardt Strauss tempting centre Enrico Bacchin into an infringement.

Jimmy Gopperth rifled the ball into the 22. Devin Toner made good on the ball in the air. The maul drew a penalty. Jamie Heaslip followed Toner's lead out of touch. Sean O'Brien came close. Eoin Reddan too.

Eventually, Heaslip was whistled for holding on under pressure from hooker Davide Giazzon.

The Kearney brothers, Rob and Dave, combined to gain ground and a scrum.

From there, Jack McGrath forced the wheel, opening up the blindside for Heaslip to find the line. Ian Madigan's conversion made it 7-0 in the ninth minute.

The handling was surprisingly sure in rank conditions for playing positive rugby.

Leinster weren't the only ones interested in continuity. Full-back Jayden Hayward was comfortable on the ball.

A lovely angled kick from Madigan hopped up into the hands of Zane Kirchner, the danger being defused by an accidental obstruction.

The Italians were not to be taken lightly. Centre Bacchin clamped down on Rob Kearney to force a penalty Hayward could not convert.

They came calling again. Sean O'Brien bided his time to pick a pocket at the breakdown. Strauss did likewise.

Understandably, the fluidity began to suffer, even Heaslip fumbling in the midfield.

When the captain had the ball ripped away by Luamanu, referee Leighton Hodges apportioned redemption in identifying an offside.

The ball was sent to touch. The lineout-maul sucked in Treviso. The penalty came. Madigan thought it was over. Hodges didn't agree to leave it 7-0 at the interval.

The news of Edinburgh losing 9-0 to The Dragons at Rodney Parade must have filtered through before Hayward's teasing kick put Leinster back on their heels.

Flanker Paul Derbyshire coughed up a penalty for blatant side entry to a maul.

Rob Kearney's left foot was put to use. Gopperth's cross-field chip was taken up by Heaslip with Kirchner unable to tame the pass.

A sound lineout was triggered by Jordi Murphy's decision and O'Brien made a hole that was quickly filled by Treviso's scramble.

Madigan put Kirchner away down the right. The cavalry was just too slow to get there.

Treviso held another maul at bay for a turnover and even came forward for Hayward to fluff his second shot at goal in the 59th minute.

Gordon D'Arcy entered the equation to rousing applause as the game deteriorated.

Treviso were almost gifted seven points when Gopperth spilled a steepling kick for left wing Ludovico Nitoglia to come within one grasp of a try.

D'Arcy popped up with a typically bullish carry to lift the drenched crowd.

The Italians started to look the more likely with scrum-half Edoardo Gori humming at the heels of his pack until O'Brien poached a turnover.

D'Arcy's timing onto the ball created chaos which was met with a spear tackle by Gori, punished by a red card, O'Brien and Francesco Minto seeing yellow for their personal disagreement.

It all ended with Gopperth slicing the posts for 10-0 in the 77th minute on his last night in Dublin.


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