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Wasteful and sloppy - Leinster come through a bad day in Newport

The Irish province scored just once despite 16 visits to the Dragons 22.

Leinster struggled in Wales.
Leinster struggled in Wales.
Image: Andy Watts/INPHO

WHEN MAX DEEGAN crossed for a try in the 13th minute, just after Dragons scrum-half Lewis Jones had been yellow-carded, most people sensed that Leinster would have little trouble in kicking on.

Ross Byrne’s conversion had them 7-0 ahead and the Dragons soon lost a second player to the sin bin as Josh Lewis was punished for a deliberate knock-on.

It looked ominous for the Dragons at that point but instead, the Welsh region gave Leinster a fright and came close to recording their first win over one of the Irish provinces in four years. 

A victory should never be disregarded but yesterday was a very frustrating afternoon for Leinster as they delivered one of their worst performances in years. Dragons deserve credit for a gritty, feisty showing in which they made 171 tackles and put pressure on the Irish province, of course, but the visitors to Rodney Parade were poor.

While conditions were tough, 30 turnovers conceded is a startling figure for a team as good as Leinster. A week earlier against the Bulls, Leinster had nailed the basics of the game but delivered almost the opposite yesterday.

They are usually ultra-clinical in the opposition 22 but they had a dire day in that regard too.

Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster’s side had 16 visits into the Dragons 22 but only scored points on one occasion. 13 times, they turned the ball over to the Dragons and twice they conceded penalties.

A clinical edge in the opposition 22 is a key indicator of success in rugby and Leinster had been good in this area against the Bulls a week earlier, scoring 2.2 points per entry, but that figure dropped to 0.4 per entry against the Dragons.

james-ryan-after-the-game James Ryan captained Leinster yesterday. Source: Andy Watts/INPHO

Usually patient and controlled in the 22, Leinster looked slightly frantic in possession, while their ball security in contact was poor as they were stripped by Dragons defenders on several occasions.

Meanwhile, the lineout had a disappointing outing as Leinster won only 75% on their own throw, several of their losses coming at key points and allowing momentum to ebb back to the Dragons.

With their handling so poor, Leinster only managed two clean linebreaks in attack. 

Their kicking game was very inconsistent, with out-half Ross Byrne likely to have been very frustrated as one first-half grubber rolled into touch-in-goal and another went dead as he attempted to find wing Rob Russell in space.

Leinster are generally one of the most cohesive-looking teams in this part of the world, regardless of changes to personnel each week, but that wasn’t the case yesterday against the Dragons as individuals seemed to be working in silos.

They also usually get a great bench impact but that wasn’t quite the case in Newport either.

More positively, they kept the Dragons attack shackled for much of the game, winning three breakdown turnovers and regularly slowing down the Welsh side’s possession. Keeping the home team try-less would have been satisfying.

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Leinster certainly won’t be allowing a poor performance here to fester. Their review is certain to have been a tough one for those who featured in Wales and many of them will have big points to prove on the training ground or when next selected to play.

jamison-gibson-park-watches-on-as-rob-russell-gathers-the-ball Leinster conceded 30 turnovers. Source: Andy Watts/INPHO

There will have been relief at holding on for a victory to make it two wins from two in the URC, while Cullen and Lancaster understand that bad days are part and parcel of sport.

It can be hard to pinpoint the cause of these performances, but the Leinster coaching staff will have reflected on what led to a very un-Leinster-like display in which their players lacked the required concentration and application.

It’s impossible to say from the outside whether that came from complacency, disregarding the challenge of the Dragons, or something else entirely, but it won’t be sitting well with a set-up as ambitious as Leinster’s.

They welcome Michael Bradley’s Zebre to the RDS this Saturday and it would be a shock if there is not a big response.

- This article was updated at 9.15am on 5 October to correct the venue for this weekend’s game between Leinster and Zebre to the RDS.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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