A home win would Leinster in charge of their pool ahead of a December back-to-back with Northampton Saints.
LEINSTER WERE LOOKING to follow-up their impressive away win over Ospreys with a win over Castres at the RDS. A squalid afternoon made the four-try bonus point a far-fetched hope but Leinster sought to secure the victory before chasing glory.
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Leinster 19 — 7 Castres
Welcome along to our live coverage of Leinster’s Heineken Cup clash with Top 14 champions Castres. Billy Ocean has just finished singing about when the going gets tough on the P.A system. The inclement conditions should make for slick, soap-bar passing and a bonus point may prove a stretch for Matt O’Connor’s men.
Talking about bonus points so early in the piece is, of course, disrespectful to a Castres team that are joint-top of their league but Leinster were most impressive against Ospreys last weekend.
Let’s whet your rugby appetite and need for team news with… the team news.
Leinster Rugby: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (c)
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Michael Bent, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald.
Castres Olympique: Brice Dulin; Romain Martial, Romain Cabannes, Remi Lamerat, Maxwell Evans; Remi Tales (c), Rory Kockott; Mihaita Lazar, Brice Mach, Anton Peikrishvili, Richie Gray, Rodrigo Capo Ortega, Jannie Bornman, Pedrie Wannenburg, Antonie Claassen
Replacements: Marc-Antoine Rallier, Karena Wihongi, Saimone Taumoepeau, Christophe Samson, Ibrahim Diarra, Julien Tomas, Geoffrey Palis, Daniel Kirkpatrick.
To keep you in the loop of the other Irish province in action, Connacht lead Zebre 33 — 6 with five minutes to play and are hunting down that try-scoring bonus point.
15 minutes from kick-off so here are some great articles by our rugby-writing posse on today’s game:
Holy crap. Cardiff Blues have just beaten reigning Heineken Cup champions Toulon!
All over in Parma and Connacht are up and running after an impressive away win. Dan Parks kicked 23 points in an excellent outing for Pat Lam’s men. Read how it went down here.
5 minutes away from kick-off.I better leg it to grab my seat!
Right on cue, here comes the sun at the RDS. Are the Gods in Leinster’s favour? McFadden and McLaughlin, earning their 100th caps, lead the team out.
KICK-OFF as Gopperth lets fly…
PEN: Leinster 3 — 0 Castres (Gopperth ’3)
Leinster dominate early possession after Toner claims a Cronin lineout. Early pressure forces a penalty inside the Castres 22 and Gopperth has the simple task of slotting over.
The nerve of Castres! A super Leinster crossfield kick is toe-poked on by Rob Kearney who gathers the bouncing ball. He is isolated, though, and the French side steal to break. Mach bulls up the centre and links up with inside centre Lamerat but Leinster scramble back to snuff out the danger near their 22.
PEN: Leinster 6 — 0 Castres (Gopperth ’12)
Mop-haired Richie Gray is penalised for tackling Healy from about three yards offside. Another penalty attempt coming up as Gopperth eyes the posts under the watchful gaze of Brian O’Driscoll in the stands. A beauty from 48m out.
PEN: Leinster 9 — 0 Castres (Gopperth ’17)
Anton Peikrishvili concedes a penalty at the scrum after fine work from Healy. Castres upset about that and Gopperth adds to their early woes.
Deary me. Rory Kockott misses from just 30m out and to the left of the posts. Heaslip and Cronin slow to get out of the way (Or, obstructing) from the kick-off to give the scrumhalf that chance but he eeked his kick left and wide.
Cronin’s weakness, which is a nasty one for a hooker, is his occasional lineout howler. He is not straight this time and Castres get the scrum but Kockott’s scrum put-in is not straight so Leinster are on the attack again.
O’Brien gets the crowd roaring with a great tackle busting run into the 22 but he is hauled down 10 metres short. 25 minutes gone.
Gopperth floats a helium balloon pass to allow Romain Cabannes an intercept. Possession regained and Kearney almost touches down after a nifty box-kick by Boss. Scrum five for the visitors as the Boys in Blue chants start up.
Palis is on for the injured English/Scotsman Max Evans with just over 30 minutes gone. Castres show they are decent scrummagers to force a Leinster put-in to squirt out before Kockott hacks on.
Ulster lead Montpellier 7 — 3 in France after an early Andrew Trimble try but Ruan Pienaar is off-form from the kicking tee this afternoon and has missed a trio of penalties.
TRY! Leinster 9 — 5 Castres (Kockott ’32)
Far too easy as Castres spin the scrum and Claasens feeds Kockott to race free up the left wing.
CON: Leinster 9 — 7 Castres (Kockott ’33)
From the touchline, the almost naturalised Frenchman [next June, French fans] curves it over. McFadden was exposed in a two-on-one for that try but his tackle on the scrumhalf was weak.
Shane Horgan, up in the Sky Sports commentary booth, declares that Sean O’Brien is a ‘groundhog’ as the Tullow Tank earns a penalty at the breakdown. Gopperth hits the line, the lineout is claimed and yet another penalty goes to the home side. 40 metres out but the Kiwi drags his kick left and wide. His 100% kicking record of late comes to an end.
Rob Kearney tries to spark his team with an ambitious, 45 metre drop goal attemot but is closer to the hotdog stand than the South Stand posts.
Nothing to get too excited about yet and Castres will be the happier of the two at half-time.
I have done Ruan Pienaar a disservice. The three penalty misses are a joint effort with Paddy Jackson.
Leinster have relied heavily on four men in the opening 40 minutes — Healy, O’Brien, Kearney and Gopperth. The supporting cast needs to step up as a shock may be on the cards.
Gopperth slots over one of his three first-half penalties. INPHO/Ryan Byrne
KICK-OFF and Toner claims. Boss tries to get the home side going, using their patented wraparounds to try turn chinks into gaps.
Leinster in serious trouble and they are so, so lucky that a chip kick over the top bobbles over the dead-ball line as there was no-one home and Palis on the hunt. Dulin split them open with a smart chip and gather but he was hauled down 5m short of the line. Lucky escape.
McFadden then required to put his body on the line as he slides in to cradle a kick through just two yards from his line. Leinster earn a 5m scrum and they survive fierce pressure to hoof clear. Reddan on for Boss with just 48 minutes gone.
Moore forced into scrumhalf duties as Leinster seek to relief the Castres pressure. There is only one team in it at the moment.
Luke Fitzgerald is on for Macken at outside centre as Leinster seek a spark. Kockott has missed a 43m penalty right and wide after the Blues were penalised at the breakdown. They were looking down the barrel there. Quinn Roux on for Leinster now too.
Lamerat is yellow-carded after a stupid, high tackle on Dave Kearney as he hared up the left wing. Could be a momentum changer. Lineout setpiece squandered as Cronin’s throw is stolen by Claasen.
Fitzgerald and O’Brien get the home crowd into a frenzy as they get into the Castres 22 but the flanker spills forward when holding on was the wiser option. 60 minutes gone now.
TRY! Leinster 16 — 7 Castres (McGrath ’62)
D Kearney burns up the left wing and gets into the 22 and Leinstyer camp out on the Castres line. Jack McGrath ploughs over from just to the right of the posts. Gopperth adds the extras.
Lamerat is back on but the damage may be done. 67 minutes gone but Leinster would like another three points to give themselves a comfy scoreboard cushion.
PEN: Leinster 19 — 7 Castres (Gopperth ’69)
Kockott is off injured and Tomas, his replacement, concedes a silly penalty. 35m out and to the left of the posts, Gopperth sends his kick sailing over. The win should be safe. Madigan on for D’Arcy, who had a decent game, and Ruddock is on for McLaughlin.
Should be game over as Julien Tomas, not content with crooked scrum put-ins and conceding penalties, gets sent to the sin-bin. That is one cameo to forget for the scrumhalf.
The victory is now in the bag but Leinster have been less than impressive. One can imagination that Matt O’Connor will only be pleased [in public] if they can deny Castres a losing bonus point.
TMO for Castres…
Wannenburg crashed over from close range but did he have full control of the ball. Two movements involved but he may have just feathered the whitewash. Jeers ring out at the RDS as the video decision is taking an age. This could be extremely crucial…
No try! Sweet relief for Leinster. Three minutes to survive any late drives from the visitors to salvage something. That was millimetres away.
Gopperth clears the lines for Leinster with a superb kick that gets a kind bounce and sets Castres on their heels. They will have to conjurer a score from 70 metres back now with the clock ticking into the red.
The last attack comes to nothing and Leinster get the home win and four points. Castres leave with nothing but regrets as Gopperth is announced man-of-the-match.
What did you make of all that?
Cheers for the company. Stay with us for post-match reaction and you can head over to see how Munster get on against Gloucester here from 6pm.