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Youthful Leinster thrill RDS crowd with bonus point victory over Dragons

That’s now four wins from four for the provinces this weekend.

Adam Byrne had another storming game on the wing.
Adam Byrne had another storming game on the wing.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Leinster 28

Newport Gwent Dragons 15

– Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS 

FEW WOULD HAVE bet against this outcome at the start of the night, but the manner in which a youthful Leinster side stormed to an important bonus point victory leaves great grounds for optimism.

Bristling with attacking intent and energy from the outset, Leo Cullen’s charges dispatched a limited Dragons outfit with minimal fuss on an evening many of the province’s young guns thrilled the RDS crowd.

First-half tries from Peter Dooley, Ross Molony and Jack Conan were followed by Joey Carbery’s second-half score but there was so much more than the result to be excited about.

Across the board, Leinster were superb and dominated every aspect of the game to bonce back from last week’s defeat to Scarlets in emphatic fashion.

Five points sees them move level with Munster at the top of the Guinness Pro12 — and ahead of a busy, and crucial, month there were hugely encouraging signs with the province’s internationals still to return to duty.

Luke McGrath demonstrated his growing prowess and maturity while Carbery pulled the strings until his withdrawal shortly after he crossed the line.

Peter Dooley with Brok Harris Peter Dooley set the home side on their way with his first try for the province. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

By that point, the hosts had sealed the bonus point and it allowed Cullen to look ahead to the resumption of the Champions Cup campaign next weekend and also hand the likes of Andrew Porter, Ross Byrne and debutants Charlie Rock and Max Deegan valuable game time.

A flurry of second-half changes — Leinster used their full matchday 23 — sucked some of the energy out of the performance for the final quarter and it allowed Dragons add a touch of respectability to the scoreboard.

But they were never really in the contest as the Welsh side found themselves being cut apart at will by Leinster’s lethal running game during the first 50 minutes.

Right from the off, there was real purpose to the way Leinster went about their business. McGrath was a bundle of energy around the breakdown and every chance to restart the game as quickly as possible was taken.

Jack Conan was superb and was duly awarded man-of-the-match for his efforts but it could have gone to a number of candidates. Rhys Ruddock, Hayden Triggs, Dan Leavy, Adam Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin all deserve mentions.

It took Dragons 16 minutes to get their hands on the ball but by the time they managed to string a couple of phases together, they were already chasing the game.

McGrath’s quick-thinking, and opportunism, to tap and go caught the visitors napping and Dooley didn’t need a second invitation to run over the tackle and power his way over for a first try in Leinster colours.

An early lead was the least the hosts deserved for their bright start and it was only an indication of things to come.

Joey Carbery Carbery ran the game during an impressive cameo. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

It was clear that Leinster would run with ball in hand when they could and it paid dividends almost instantly. The offloading was slick, handling even better and there was always a support runner available to maintain the impetus.

McGrath was again the arthichect for the second try as his piercing run from halfway had the Dragons scrambling. Triggs provided the support and while he was hauled down yards from the line, Leinster did enough to recycle and keep the move alive.

Noel Reid’s initial attempt to get it wide was foiled but there were blue shirts in numbers on the right to ensure the chance would be converted through the industrious Molony.

At this stage, Leinster were running the ball at will with Carbery orchestrating proceedings.

Byrne was particularly threatening on the right wing and looked like scoring everytime it came his way. The UCD man continues to grow in stature with every passing minute in a Leinster shirt and but for the bounce of the ball, would have added to his tally of five tries for the season.

The third score did eventually arrive shortly after the half hour mark. After patient build-up, Conan burst through the tackle and had the simple task of dotting the ball down under the posts to stretch the lead further.

Leinster thought they had sealed the bonus point before the interval but Rory O’Loughlin’s effort was chalked off after the referee, with help from his TMO, spotted a forward pass in the build-up.

Luke McGrath with Lewis Evans Luke McGrath was a bundle of energy throughout. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

But the home crowd of 10,979 didn’t have to wait long for the maximum haul to be secured. O’Loughlin again was involved but on this occasion was the provider with a powerful run from deep before a deft offload allowed Carbery to seal his night’s work with a third try for the province.

The flurry of changes allowed Dragons to regain a footing in the game and they crossed for two tries of their own. Firstly, Pat Howard finished off a well-worked move and after a period of sustained pressure, replacement Sarel Pretorius dotted down.

The concession of late scores will frustrate Cullen and his coaching staff but overall it won’t take away from a thrilling performance which gives Leinster the perfect platform to launch themselves into an important festive period.

Not a bad night’s work at the RDS.

Leinster scorers:
Tries: Peter Dooley, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Joey Carbery
Conversions: Isa Nacewa [4 from 4]
Dragons scorers:
Tries: Pat Howard, Sarel Pretorius
Penalties: Angus O’Brien [1 from 1]
Conversions: Angus O’Brien [1 from 2]

LEINSTER: 15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Adam Byrne, 13. Rory O’Loughlin, 12. Noel Reid (Tom Daly 19′), 11. Isa Nacewa (captain), 10. Joey Carbery (Ross Byrne 45′), 9. Luke McGrath (Charlie Rock 63′); 1. Peter Dooley (Andrew Porter 52′), 2. James Tracy (Richardt Strauss 52′), 3. Jeremy Loughman (Oisin Heffernan 52′), 4. Ross Molony, 5. Hayden Triggs (Mike McCarthy 63′), 6. Rhys Ruddock (Max Deegan 76′), 7. Dan Leavy, 8. Jack Conan.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: 15. Carl Meyer (Tom Prydie 20′), 14. Pat Howard, 13. Tyler Morgan, 12. Jack Dixon, 11. Adam Warren, 10. Angus O’Brien, 9. Tavis Knoyle (Sarel Pretorius 55′); 1. Phil Price (Thomas Davies 46′), 2. Elliot Dee (Rhys Buckley 56′), 3. Brok Harris, 4. Nick Crosswell (Cory Hill 50′), 5. Rynard Landman, 6. Lewis Evans (captain), 7. Nic Cudd, 8. Harrison Keddie (James Thomas 46′)

Replacements not used: 18. Lloyd Fairbrother, 20. James Thomas, 22. Geraint Rhys Jones.

Attendance: 10,979

Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)

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