Leinster turn on the style to put 50 points on Scarlets

Leo Cullen’s side delivered a performance full of power and skill as they welcomed back some big-hitters.

Andrew Porter and Caelan Doris celebrate a try.
Andrew Porter and Caelan Doris celebrate a try.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster 50

Scarlets 15

Ciarán Kennedy reports from the RDS

HAVING MADE LIGHT work of the Bulls, scraped past Dragons and hammered a hapless Zebre side across the opening three rounds of the United Rugby Championship season, Leo Cullen will feel that this evening’s meeting with the Scarlets provided his team with their toughest test of the campaign to date. 

The Scarlets came to play, and after doing well to stay in the fight after taking a surprise early lead, a Leinster team stacked with Ireland internationals simply proved too strong, too skillful and too clever for their visitors, crossing for seven tries – six supplied by forwards plus one penalty try – as they continued their 100% start to the season in style – hitting the 50-point mark to give the 14,000 supporters in attendance full value for their money.

Scarlets were first on the scoreboard, Sam Costelow splitting the posts after Leinster were pinged for not rolling away. The hosts replied through a Johnny Sexton penalty after Ioan Nicholas was called for not releasing. 

In those early stages both sides had a couple of snipes without ever really threatening, before Scarlets took the lead against the run of play, Johnny McNicholl breaking clear after some excellent hands by Johnny Williams and Ioan Nicholas, moving the Welsh side 8-3 ahead.

Not many visiting teams take a lead at this stadium, and Scarlets’ advantage didn’t last long. A Sexton crossfield kick saw Jordan Larmour fail to collect under pressure from Nicholas, the ball falling back to Hugo Keenan who appeared to ground it. Referee Marius van der Westhuizen said no try.

jordan-larmour-with-jonathan-davies-and-sam-costelow Jordan Larmour in possession for Leinster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Leinster went again. Rónan Kelleher found Caelan Doris at the lineout, the hooker then joining the maul and taking back possession before powering over, Ross Molony connecting at just the right time to provide the vital extra shove. Sexton dragged his conversion across the posts and the teams were level.

Cullen’s side were now beginning to find their rhythm. Sexton mixed up the attack, throwing offloads, kicking to the corner and carrying hard when needed. At times Ciarán Frawley stepped in as first receiver to keep the Scarlets on their toes. Jack Conan, making his first appearance of the season, showed no signs of slowing down after his superb end to the 2020/21 campaign, including one lung-bursting surging run from deep.

The second try eventually arrived just before the half hour mark, and again it was a member of that dynamic new front row that provided the finish, Andrew Porter dotting down after Jamison Gibson-Park made a smart break off another well-worked lineout move.

Sexton converted to move his team 15-8 clear. They kept the foot down, but were frustrated by a stubborn Scarlets defensive effort, Gibson-Park coming closest when forced out of play just inches from the tryline.

A penalty try awarded just before half-time saw Leinster go in at the break with a 14-point cushion, having enjoyed over 70% of the territory. 

You felt there was more to come, and it didn’t take long for Leinster to hammer home their superiority after the restart. This time Kelleher burst free and timed his pass to perfection to play in Caelan Doris, with Frawley taking over kicking duties to add the extras.

tadhg-furlong-is-tackled-by-samson-lee Tadhg Furlong made his first apperance of the season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was turning out to be another encouraging outing for the Leinster centre, who then ended up taking the brunt of an unfortunate clash of heads with Gareth Davies, the clash removing Frawley for a HIA, which he subsequently passed.

As Leinster made the necessary changes to their backline, Scarlets got over for their second try, Tomas Lezana crossing after a well-worked series of passes through the hands. 

As the teams went back into position Cullen sent on Ross Byrne in place of Sexton, who had turned down their last conversion and briefly received some treatment after Lezana’s score.  

Cullen will surely be pleased with the manner in which his team responded to that momentary blip, winning a couple of strong turnover penalties to take the momentum again before substitute Cian Healy muscled over from close range just moments after entering the action, the Leinster forward pack once again proving too much for Scarlets. 

Now 19 points clear with just under 20 minutes to play and a fresh front row of Healy, Dan Sheehan and Michael Ala’alatoa in situ, it felt like a case of just how many more scores the home side would tack on.

Scarlets lost McNicholl to a yellow card as Leinster attacked the Scarlets line again, the hosts adding another try with the next play as Sheehan got in on the act from yet another powerful lineout maul, Byrne then clipping over the most testing conversion of the evening.

There was still time for more. Ryan Baird went on one of signature rampaging runs, Garry Ringrose almost broke free after a great turn of pace, before Sheehan gathered Ross Byrne’s crossfield kick at the second attempt to cross for his second.

It was easy to forget how much tighter the first half had been. On nights like this, it’s hard to see how anyone will stop them.

Leinster scorers:

Try: Kelleher, Porter, penalty try, Doris, Healy, Sheehan (2)

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Conversion: Sexton [1/2], Frawley [1/1], Byrne [3/3]

Penalty: Sexton [1/1]

Scarlets scorers:

Try: McNicholl, Lezana

Conversion: Costelow [0/1] Jones [1/1]

Penalty: Costelow [1/1]

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Ciarán Frawley (Tommy O’Brien 47-58 HIA, 65), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain) (Ross Byrne 51), Jamison Gibson-Park (Luke McGrath 57); Andrew Porter (Cian Healy 57), Rónan Kelleher (Dan Sheehan 57), Tadhg Furlong (Michael Ala’alatoa 57); Ross Molony (Ryan Baird 61), James Ryan (Ross Molony 69), Caelan Doris (Rhys Ruddock 72), Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.  

SCARLETS: Ioan Nicholas; Johnny McNicholl (Tom Rogers 21-31 HIA), Jonathan Davies (captain) (Tom Rogers 63), Johnny Williams, Ryan Conbeer; Sam Costelow (Dan Jones 47), Gareth Davies (Kieran Hardy 57); Wyn Jones (Rob Evans 57), Ken Owens (Ryan Elias 47), Will Griff John (Samson Lee HT); Sam Lousi, Lloyd Ashley (Morgan Jones 74); Aaron Shingler (Shaun Evans 63), Tomas Lezana, Blade Thomson.

Yellow card: McNicholl 69

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen [SARU]  

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discuss depth in Munster, Nathan Doak’s Ireland prospects, and whether rugby is survival of the richest on The42 Rugby Weekly

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Ciarán Kennedy

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