Dublin: 12°C Thursday 23 September 2021

A sensational second half Dragons comeback could have ended Leinster's Pro12 playoff hopes

Leinster let a 14-point second half lead slip in Newport.

Rhys Thomas crosses for the game's first try.
Rhys Thomas crosses for the game's first try.
Image: Ian Cook/INPHO

Dragons 25 Leinster 22

LEINSTER HAVE MADE every Pro12 final since the playoff system was introduced in the 2009/2010 season but after yet another defeat this afternoon, they are unlikely to even make the final four, let alone defend their crown.

They entered today’s game away to the Dragons nine points adrift of the Ospreys in fourth place and desperately needed a win, and or long periods it looked like they would travel back to Dublin with five points.

A few minutes after half time Matt O’Connor’s men led 22-8 and had three tries in the bag, but the Welsh region powered back into the game with three tries of their own to earn a three-point win.

In the end, O’Connor’s decision to rest key internationals such as Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien and Ian Madigan backfired and this latest loss, Leinster’s seventh of the campaign, almost certainly eliminates them from playoff contention.


Leinster made a physical start with wing Dave Kearney, who was omitted from the 23 for the Bath game, dropping Welsh international Taulupe Faletau with a strong tackle. His forwards then initiated an effective counter-ruck and Kearney was the first man in to poach the ball.

But the home side, who were impressive in their Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Cardiff last weekend, took control thereafter. Jason Tovey opened the scoring with a penalty after Jack McGrath was penalised at the scrum.

And minutes later, Rhys Thomas crashed over at the back of a rumbling maul. Leinster then almost scored a classy try after a Zane Kirchner offload freed Darragh Fanning on the left touchline. The wing did well to play the ball back inside to Ben Te’o but the supporting centre was driven into touch before he could touch down.

The visitors didn’t have to wait much longer for their first score though, with Gopperth narrowing the gap from the tee after the Dragons were penalised for offside in front of the posts.

Later, the Kiwi had a chance to put Leinster deep in the opposition half but missed touch badly with a penalty. Leinster moved the ball well at times – Jack Conan was particularly destructive going forward – but the Dragons were able to force a couple of key turnovers to keep their line intact.

Get exclusive
rugby analysis

Access members-only podcasts, analysis and insider reports from The42’s Murray Kinsella

Become a Member

A searing 30m break from second row Ben Marshall saw Leinster win a scrum 5m from the Dragons line but despite winning a penalty at the first put-in, McGrath was then penalised once again, allowing the visitors to clear.

But the Leinster pressure was finally rewarded on half time as Ben Te’o beat two defenders to dot down a minute before the break.


Not content to end the half, Gordon D’Arcy carried strongly over the gain line in his own territory before Jimmy Gopperth cleverly stepped inside the Dragons rearguard to put the visitors in front.

Te’o extended Leinster’s lead just after the break with a similar score to his first one – the only difference was that his second effort was from 30m out. The Kiwi showed great power to break the defensive line and finished under the posts.

With a 14-point advantage and three tries on the board, it looked like the current champions would kick on but the visitors fought back.

First, centre James Dixon crashed over from close range and then Eoin Reddan – who flirted with a charge-down try against Bath – had his box-kick blocked and James Benjamin touched down.

Luckily for Leinster, Tovey struck the post with a straightforward conversion and they held onto a narrow 22-20 lead. There was also a key sin-binning during that period, with Te’o getting ten minutes on the line for what was judged to be a no-arms tackle.

The home side were able to march down the pitch one more time and wing Hallam Amos gave the decisive pass for Benjamin to cross for his second try.

Tovey missed the conversion but the Dragons held on to deal Leinster’s hope of winning a third successive league crown a massive blow.

One of Toulon’s stars could miss the Leinster match after being hit by a human torpedo

Two former Munster men will be in the Top 14 next season as part of one of France’s richest clubs

About the author:

Read next: