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Off the mark! Leinster strike late against Cardiff to get Pro14 title defence off to winning start

Bryan Byrne’s late try helped edge the tie for Leinster.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Cardiff Blues 32

Leinster 33

James Candy reporting at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park

BRYAN BYRNE’S LATE score snatched a dramatic 33-32 trough over Cardiff Blues to get Leinster’s Pro14 title defence off to a winning start.

Johnny Sexton and Co. watched from home as doubles from Jason Harries and Rey Lee-Lo looked to have given new coach John Mulvihill the perfect start.

Scores from James Tracy, Bryan Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park kept Leinster within touching distance, before replacement Byrne burrowed over again with two minutes remaining to snatch a bonus-point victory.

Cardiff out-half Jarrod Evans booted the hosts into the lead before things got worse moments later when last season’s Pro14 top try scorer Barry Daly was forced off through injury.

Leo Cullen’s side were caught cold again when a set-piece move from their Welsh opponents had the defence all at sea. Evans was put into space before fending off a weak tackle attempt by debutant Joe Tomane and passing for Lee-Lo to score.

Ross Byrne kicked a simple penalty to make it 8-3 with 21 minutes gone before the mini comeback was complete thanks to the opportunism of James Tracy.

The hooker pounced at a five metre lineout to pick-off a pass from Blues scrum-half Lloyd Williams and wrestle his way to the line to level the scores.

The frantic opener swung back the way of the Blues when they put the ball through the hands to Harries, who beat the last man to score.

Evans converted to make it 15-11, but Byrne hit a penalty on the stroke of half-time to close the gap to a single point.

But Leinster were chasing the game again after the Blues scored two tries in four minutes.

Rhys Gill with Caelan Doris Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

First Harries combined with Owen Lane and Matthew Morgan before sprinting down the wing to score his second at the corner.

Lane then sent a looping pass for Lee-Lo to waltz over the line to complete his brace from broken play.

Evans converted both tries to give the Blues a 29-14 advantage, before Brian Byrne was mauled over the line to bring Leinster back to within 10.

The introduction of Gibson-Park came up trumps when he scurried over for a converted try with 13 minutes to go to have the Blues sweating.

And there was still time for Byrne to power over from close range for his second in the 78th minute, with Ross Byrne converting for a dramatic 33-32 triumph.

Scorers:

Cardiff Blues
 scorers: Tries: Lee-Lo 11, 49; Harries 38, 45

Conversions: Evans 39, 47, 50
Penalties: Evans 5, 71Leinster
 scorers: Tries: Tracy 27; B Byrne 53, 77; Gibson-Park 67
Conversions: R Byrne 68, 78
 
Penalties: R Byrne 22, 40; McFadden 34

CARDIFF BLUES: Morgan; Harries, Lee-Lo, Halaholo (Smith 71), Lane; Evans, L Williams (T Williams 57); Thyer (Gill 59), Dacey (Lewis 59), Arhip (Andrews 59), Davies, Thornton, Turnbull, Jenkins (capt) (Earle 67), N Williams (Robinson 52)

Replacements not used: Shingler

LEINSTER: D Kearney; A Byrne, O’Loughlin, Tomane (Reid 75), Daly (McFadden 9); R Byrne, McGrath (Gibson-Park 64); Dooley (E Byrne 52), Tracy (B Byrne 52), Bent (Porter 52), Molony, Fardy, Murphy (M Kearney 57), Ruddock (capt), Doris (Deegan 67)

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

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About the author:

James Candy

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