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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 14 December, 2018
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Out-of-sorts Leinster blown away by rampant Falcons in final pre-season outing

It was a difficult night for Leo Cullen’s side as they leaked six tries at Donnybrook.

Leinster 17

Newcastle Falcons 42

Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook 

HARDLY AN IDEAL final warm-up for the opening of their Pro14 title defence in two weekends’ time, but the hope for Leinster is that this horribly disjointed and error-strewn pre-season performance will have at least focused minds and blown off some of the cobwebs.

Joe Tomane tackled by Josh Matavesi and Alex Tait Joe Tomane impressed before going off injured. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

It would be a bit dramatic to sound the early-season panic button off the back of this showing, but the Monday morning review session won’t make for pretty viewing as the European champions were simply blown away by a rampant Newcastle side.

More worrying, however, was the loss of three players to injury at various stages of this physical encounter, as Will Connors, Ciaran Frawley and then Joe Tomane all hobbled from the action.

With their frontline internationals watching from the stand, Leinster were cut apart at will and in leaking six tries, slumped to a heavy, and eye-opening, defeat in front of a large Friday evening crowd at Donnybrook.

While Leinster’s rusty performance left a lot to be desired, Newcastle were utterly clinical as they took full advantage of a porous defensive effort from the hosts to round off their preparations for the new Premiership season in some style.

Dean Richards’ side played a high-tempo brand of rugby from start to finish and dominated in nearly every facet, with their explosive backline hitting some scintillating running lines.

Leinster lacked any semblance of structure or composure throughout the 80 minutes, as Newcastle’s aggressive blitz defence and surgical attack saw the visitors take a commanding 21-7 lead into the break, and they added three more tries in the second period.

The early loss of Connors with a knee injury and Frawley to what looked like a shoulder/arm problem didn’t help matters, but Leinster were horribly inaccurate in their execution of the basics and slipped off far too many tackles.

Hugo Keenan, fresh off a strong season on the Sevens circuit with Ireland, was put under pressure in the air by Tom Arscott, and when the ball came loose, Newcastle unveiled their expansive attacking game for the first time, with Toby Flood, Santiago Socino and Simon Uzokwe all heavily involved.

Leinster scrambled defensively as the Falcons remained patient through a multi-phase passage of play, before Flood’s deft offload set Tom Penny through for the opening score, which was converted by the former England out-half.

Stuart Lancaster urged Leinster to up the intensity from the gantry, but promising breaks from Barry Daly and then Scott Fardy — who captained the province on the night — yielded no return, again the Falcons impressing in defence.

It took the European champions 20 minutes to manufacture a move of any continuity, as Tomane showed all his power in midfield to create the opening, only for another handling error to cause more frustration in the coach’s box.

Will Witty wins a line out ahead of Scott Fardy There was a healthy Friday evening crowd in attendance at Donnybrook. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Tomane was lively throughout and was the orchestrator-in-the-chief for the one of few highlights for Leinster, as he injected tempo into a swift counter with a flat pass out to Barry Daly, who in turn fed the supporting Tom Daly on his left shoulder.

Daly suffered pre-season pain 12 months ago when he sustained an ACL injury in Perpignan but has been given the chance to stake his claim at out-half over the last two Fridays.

The Carlow native nailed the touchline conversion to bring Leinster back on level terms, but that was as good as it got for the hosts, as their sluggish defensive display made it all too easy for the flying Falcons.

Their second try — a brilliantly-executed training-ground move — would have given Dean Richards huge satisfaction, as Zach Kibirige scythed through a gaping hole after a reverse pass off the lineout left Leinster chasing shadows.

At the breakdown, Leinster struggled to gain any sort of control with their back row unable to make an impact, either in slowing Falcons ball down or getting their side on the front foot.

What Leinster lacked in continuity, the visitors had in abundance. Quick hands around the fringes, aggressive running and dominance at the set-piece provided the platform and they pulled clear with scores either side of the break.

Firstly, Uzokwe ploughed over from close range in the right corner after good work from Socino and Alex Tait and then replacement winger Adam Radwan got in on the act on 44 minutes.

Despite making 11 changes in personnel at the interval, the Premiership side maintained their stranglehold at the scrum and after Leinster infringed, Radwan hit an explosive line at second receiver to dot down, powering in off the left wing.

The introduction of Luke McGrath for Jamison Gibson-Park sparked Leinster into life, but after the scrum-half was cut down yards from the line having created the opening with a trademark dart, Newcastle struck for a fifth try down the other end.

Mark Wilson was given the freedom of Donnybrook as he weaved through the Leinster midfield and the supporting James Elliot was left with the simple task of finishing under the posts with the blue shirts left in his wake.

Tom Daly celebrates scoring a try with Joe Tomane and Scott Fardy Tom Daly crossed twice for Leinster. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

As if the night couldn’t have gone any worse, Cullen then lost Tomane to injury, with the sight of the Australian grimacing as he limped off rubbing salt into early-season Leinster wounds.

Leinster did, at least, finish strongly and were eventually rewarded for a sustained period of territory when Adam Byrne crossed and then Tom Daly showed power and pace to finish after a good work from the forwards.

The late salvo lifted a few spirits around Donnybrook but there could be no masking the glaring deficiencies, with Rory O’Loughlin throwing an intercept pass in the dying embers to allow Johnny Williams to race away to round off the scoring.

It just about summed up Leinster’s night, leaving last season’s double-winners with a lot of work to do in the next fortnight ahead of their campaign opener away to Cardiff Blues.

Leinster scorers:Tries: Tom Daly [2], Adam Byrne
Conversions: Tom Daly [1 from 3]Newcastle:Tries: Tom Penny, Zach Kibirige, Simon Uzokwe, Adam Radwan, James Elliot, Johnny Williams.
Conversions: Toby Flood [3 from 3], Joel Hodgson [3 from 3]

LEINSTER: 15. Dave Kearney, 14. Hugo Keenan, 13. Rory O’Loughlin, 12. Joe Tomane, 11. Barry Daly, 10. Ciarán Frawley, 9. Jamison Gibson-Park; 1. Ed Byrne, 2. James Tracy, 3. Michael Bent, 4. Scott Fardy (captain), 5. Mick Kearney, 6. Josh Murphy, 7. Will Connors, 8. Caelan Doris.

Replacements used: Peter Dooley, Bryan Byrne, Vakh Abdaladze, Ross Molony, Ian Nagle, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath, James Lowe, Tom Daly, Adam Byrne.

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: 15. Alex Tait, 14. Tom Arscott, 13. Tom Penny, 12. Josh Matavesi, 11. Zach Kibirige, 10. Toby Flood (captain), 9. Sam Stuart; 1. Adam Brocklebank, 2. Santiago Socino, 3. Jack Payne, 4. Will Witty, 5. Calum Green, 6. Simon Uzokwe, 7. Connor Collett, 8. Callum Chick.

Replacements used: Sami Mavinga, George McGuigan, Trevor Davison, Tevita Cavubati, Glen Young, Mark Wilson, Will Welch, Tom Marshall, James Elliott, Joel Hodgson, George Wacokecoke, Johnny Williams, Chris Harris, Adam Radwan, Simon Hammersley.

Referee: George Clancy [IRFU].

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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