LEINSTER WATCHED PROVINCIAL rivals Munster and Ulster qualify for the quarter finals and could go very close to following them with an away win. The Top 14 champions are focusing on league endeavours after an underwhelming European campaign, with many of their top players rested for the afternoon.
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Final score below
Welcome along to our live coverage of Leinster’s Pool 1 clash with Castres at Stade Pierre Antoine. An away win will put Matt O’Connor’s men on the brink of the knock-out stages and an [unlikely] bonus point will clinch a spot in the last eight. Here are your teams:
Leinster: R Kearney, D Kearney, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, E Reddan: J McGrath, S Cronin, M Ross; D Toner, M McCarthy; K McLaughlin, J Murphy, J Heaslip (Capt.)
Replacements: A Dundon, J O’Connell, M Moore, L Cullen, S Jennings, I Boss, I Madigan, Z Kirchner.
Both teams are on the pitch and kick-off is 60 seconds away…
A touch of frost on the pitch and Castres have the first dart before Leinster turn the ball over. Max Evans pouches the clearance but runs into traffic.
Leinster looking comfortable at the scrum but Fitzgerald is penalised for holding on in the tackle. Castres hit the line but lose the lineout in the Leinster 22.
Yannick Forestier making life uncomfortable for Ross at a scrum on the left flank. Leinster get possession back but Fitzgerald is isolated and the ball is lost. Castres kick deep into the Leinster 22.
TRY! Castres 7-0 Leinster: (Gray ’8)
Remi Lamerat has made the Leinster defence look quite foolish. He evades about seven white shirts and almost scores a superb solo try. He is eventually stopped three metres short of the line but keeps the ball alive. Castres have numbers and Richie Gray is on his own and dives over to score. The conversion is successful from Cederic Garcia. Terrible start for the visitors.
Trouble in paradise for Leinster as another scrum goes down. Back slaps to Forrestier but Jack McGrath, the loose-head, walks back shaking his head. 15 minutes gone and it is all Castres.
Reddan with a superb break off the ruck but he is a man alone deep in the Castres half and chooses to run laterally to wait for support. Smart idea as they retain the ball and Heaslip puts a charging Cronin through. He gets so, so close to the line but Diarra steals the presented ball, legally. Chance lost.
TRY! Castres 14-0 Leinster (Dulin ’20)
Diarra makes a crucial tackle on Jordi Murphy off a Blues lineout. Babillot bursts, draws the men in and Leinster are caught short out left. Grosso burns up the left wing and finds fullback Dulin in support. Simple try that Garcia converts.
The scrum is mincing Leinster’s but Nigel Owens gives them a reprieve as he felt they were not in control of the ball. Lucky escape. D’Arcy tries to get Leinster on the front foot but the ball is lost again.
First chance for points on the board as Leinster’s rolling maul gets to within yards of the line before it is illegally pulled down. They opt for the lineout. Toner wins and Murphy is agonisingly close. He doesn’t get it down and the ball is stolen by No.8 Faasalele. Disaster.
TRY! Castres 14-7 Leinster (Gopperth ’30)
Strong Leinster scrum, Reddan finds Gopperth and he steps scrum-half Garcia to race through and dot down. Lovely, simple move. He converts to reduce the arrears further.
Another Leinster scrum is battered into next week as McGrath, then Cronin pop up. Murphy runs around the side, going offside in the process, and gives Nigel Owens a second reason to award a penalty.
Absolutely dirt penalty attempt from Garcia as he misses right and wide from just outside the 22.
Remi Tales, who limped off after that Gopperth try, is not coming back. The captain and first-half 10 will be sorely missed. Leinster will not be too upset if they can get in at the break just seven points adrift.
Cian Healy is on the Leinster bench, by the way. He was a late addition to the bench for Jack O’Connell. He may be drafted in early in the second-half.
PEN: Castres 17-7 Leinster (Garcia ’39)
The scrum-half — not even the second choice kicker — nails a kick from longer out and on the right flank. Leinster did not need that.
TRY! Castres 17-12 Leinster (Gopperth ’40)
Great break from Fitzgerald has Castres reeling. Reddan to O’Driscoll, who slings a long pass to Gopperth. The Kiwi steps inside AGAIN and shows great power to hold his man off, stretch and dot down. Great score but he pushes his conversion right and wide.
This picture of Dave Kearney getting mashed sums up what a battle Leinster are currently involved in. INPHO/Billy Stickland
Looking at that Dulin try again, Lamerat was the key figure again as he bounced off O’Driscoll and drew in Dave Kearney out on the wing before finding Grosso to create the two-on-one with Dulin on his shoulder. Lamerat has been impressive for the French side.
Leinster are still in the hunt and looking dangerous once they get into the Castres danger/red zone. The problem is getting there as they have been bossed at the breakdown for long stretches and, after a long start, getting pulverised at the scrum.
The teams are back on the pitch and Leinster have the wind at their back. Gopperth kicks off.
Daniel Kirkpatrick, on for Tales, juts inside the on-rushing Leinster line to break 30 metres upfield but his pass to Max Evans is forward. Scrum for Leinster but that is by no means a good thing.
Nigel Owens is getting wolf-whistled as their scrum disintegrates but play continues. The ball is eventually knocked on and Castres get the put-in. 46 minutes gone.
Lamerat again! He burns up straight through the Leinster backline and flips a pass out the back-door to Dulin. Castres chew up 50 metres in six magical seconds. They keep the move going and win a scrum over on the left-hand side of the pitch, just outside the Blues 22.
Leinster are so focused on holding steady at the scrum, and committing all eight men, that Faasalele is able to peel off the back unopposed. His charge is halted three metres out but play goes right and Murphy misses a tackle. The ball is eventually turned over but Fitzgerald can break no further than his 22.
Poor kick from O’Driscoll. The wind takes it and it goes out on the full, bringing his team all the way back to the 22, where Castres will have the lineout. Jennings is on for McLaughlin after the 51 minute mark.
The Leinster hero so far — Jimmy Gopperth. INPHO/Billy Stickland
Leinster get out of jail as Bai boshes into the 22 and bounces Gopperth off, who went too high in the tackle. Kirkpatrick is held up a metre short of the line and Leinster turn the ball over again. Crucial interception.
PEN: Castres 17-15 Leinster (Gopperth’ 55)
Lamerat, for once, is wrapped up and we have fisticuffs as O’Driscoll charges in to throw a shove at Garcia for raking a teammate with the boot. Video replay and he is found guilty but not yellow-carded. Gopperth slots over.
Into the final 15 minutes and Leinster are motoring now. Leo Cullen is on, joining Healy and Moore, who came on five minutes previous.
YELLOW-CARD: Sean Cronin will sit out minutes 69 to 79 after coming in from the side after deciding the ball was in play after Garvey had been taken to the turf.
Leinster now must play the closing stages with 14 men and the pressure is ON.
Eight minutes left and Owens is warning Leinster to keep their discipline. It will take a mighty effort to hold the French side out. I may be tempting fate here but Kirkpatrick is nothing better than a journeyman.
Castres knock on, Leinster get the advantage but ‘you can keep yer scrum’. Kearney hoofs clear, into the French 22 and the home side have to do it all over again. Into the final five minutes.
Leinster pressing high and it fails to pay off yet again. Evans cuts inside and tries to find Grosso with a chip but D’Arcy is back to cover. His clearing kick gains five metres at most and we have a Castres lineout from just 10 metres from the Leinster line.
Great defence from Jennings, with Healy in support and the maul crumples. Penalty for Leinster and they will be able to clear into the opposing half. Four minutes left.
TRY!! Castres 17-29 Leinster (Murphy ’77)
Madigan finds Healy, who steps inside two many shirts and drifts out to the right. Murphy is in support and he outpaces the covering defence to touch down in the corner. Conversion missed but game over!
Castres pushing for a consolation so the prospect of a Leinster bonus point seems unlikely. Still, a superb result after falling 14-0 behind. We have a TMO…
TRY: Castres 22-29 Leinster (Lamerat ’80)
That man Lamerat gets low, gets under Murphy and touches down on his second movement. Nigel Owens drags out the end-game by asking for multiple replays. No doubt about it, surely.
Leinster came back from a disastrous start and a 14-0 deficit to claim a hugely impressive win over a team that were unbeaten in their last 12 home games. The pack concentrated on surviving at scrum-time and the work of Heaslip, McCarthy, Cronin and D’Arcy was vital as Castres wilted at the breakdown.
Subs Jennings, Healy and Moore made a big difference too and Matt O’Connor’s men just need to beat Ospreys t home in the next round and a home quarter-final may well be on the cards.
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