Nacewa admits win over Aironi was 'lucky'
This was a Thursday night fright. Italian no-hopers Aironi took their first losing bonus-point away from home in what was an instantly forgettable Magners League tie marooned in midweek.
This was mostly Leinster's British & Irish Cup squad. It showed. They were in deep trouble until the second-half introduction of Shane Jennings and Isaac Boss ignited their continuity game in a 21-16 win that moves them, temporarily at least, into second place in the table.
"They are an opportunist team and they countered off most of our mistakes. We are lucky to get away with it," reacted man of the match Isa Nacewa. But the Fijiian international was not one to dwell on the negatives: "It is our first time out with all the young guys. We've got to take it hard to Cardiff next week. It will be a tough ask."
The pressure is back on the leaders, Munster, who will be in Treviso on Sunday, and the third-placed Scarlets, away to Connacht tomorrow evening.
This one had nightmare written all over it in the first-half. Aironi rescued the kick-off for scrum-half Tito Tebaldi to hammer a penalty from wide on the left in the first minute. Prop Fabio Staibano then played the ball in front of his own player to allow Nacewa to tie it up with his second attempt at goal.
Aironi fielded half-a-dozen Italian internationals with the imported quality of former Munster number eight Nick Williams and South African Danwel Demas. They played the more controlled, cohesive rugby. While Leinster carried the ball, Aironi carried the greater threat.
From a scrum, the charging Williams was held up over the line. He got a second chance straight away, running over the top of fly-half Ian Madigan for a try, converted by Tibaldi, for a 10-3 lead in the 35th minute.
Leinster had to restart quickly. They did.
The tempo rocketed. Eoin O'Malley, Kevin McLaughlin and Stephen Keogh came onto the ball at pace. Nacewa posted a penalty.
Their first try was all about Richardt Strauss. The hooker fended the first tackler, shot through a gap and found a sympathetic offload to send Niall Morris under the posts. Nacewa's extras put Leinster 13-10 ahead in the 47th minute.
Jennings and Boss were called from the bench for their decision making. Despite this, Aironi full-back Paolo Buso stepped up to slam over a drop goal from distance. Nacewa's third penalty restored Leinster's lead just past the hour and left wing Dave Kearney sealed the deal.