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Dublin: 3 °C Sunday 19 January, 2020
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Leinster's young stars shine through the rain in 8-try rout of Dragons

James Lowe and Dave Kearney scored four between them, but they were massively aided by the injection of youth.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster 50

Dragons 15

THE NOVEMBER RAIN teemed down, there were young bucks to find their feet and yet Leinster’s 100% start to the season continued with a terrific eight-try demolition of the Dragons.

While experienced heads on the wing Dave Kearney and James Lowe, touched down two tries apiece this was a performance flecked with precocious youthful talent.

A trio of 20-year-olds caused havoc for the visitors: out-half Harry Byrne scored a try on his first start and was named man-of-the-match. But even more impressive were his peers in the pack  openside Scott Penny and fellow 20-year-old Ryan Baird, who proved destructive on maul defence and powerful in the loose.

Early season results that included a big win away to Zebre and at home to the depleted Warriors served to warn of a Dragons resurgence under new director Dean Ryan. And six days on from a stodgy 3-0 win away to Zebre, a hungry young crop of Leinster players were never going to be troubled by complacency.

Yet while the bouns point was secured by the 44th minute, it was not a perfect performance from the hosts in the early stages. Greasy conditions on a damp Dublin night brought handling errors in midfield, the energetic Jamison Gibson-Park smashed an early kick out on the full and the visitors’ first-half try was the result of a downright mess.

And yet, between Michael Bent’s ninth-minute barge over the try-line and Byrne’s first senior try with 33 on the clock (assisted by referee Andrea Piardi getting in Richard Hibbard’s way), there was a scintillating attack to showcase the promise of the present and future of Leo Cullen’s side.

Space was at a premium down the right flank, but slick handling ensured Leinster made the most of it. Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin combined before passing outside to Penny and the openside – who only turned 20 in September – flicked the ball back inside to send Kearney blazing a trail to the try-line.

The scoreboard read 19-8 at half-time and was blurred by a thick mist of rain early in the second half. Not alone did it make handling more difficult for both sides, it took some wind out of the crowd as many left their seats in the uncovered north and south ends of the ground.

It was poor weather for running rugby, but ideal for an attacking maul to pave the way for a Ronan Kelleher score. And with the rain only just easing, Leinster showed another flash of their ambition to bring about Kearney’s scintillating second.

caelan-doris-is-tackled-by-leon-brown-and-rhodri-williams Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Byrne’s cross-field kick found Kearney on the right, he flung a long pass inside to find Conor O’Brien on the run. The centre had Penny in support and the seven again provided the assist for Kearney, this time the veteran wing showing off his finishing prowess with a scything cut off his right foot before finding the whitewash.

At 29-8 the game was already over when the crowd gave an ovation to captain Devin Toner as he was called ashore. And from there on in it was a rout, Jimmy O’Brien buzzed into tackles on halfway to create enough space for James Lowe – showing no ill effects from an early shoulder knock.

The exuberant Kiwi would grab a second too, an intercept to bring up 50 on the scoreboard after Hugh O’Sullivan was gifted a first senior try by a costly spill metres from the line.

The international contingent will begin filtering back in among Cullen’s ranks next week, but those who were left holding the fort will be keen on holding the jersey with the loss column still marked by a zero.

Scorers

Leinster

Tries: M Bent, D Kearney (2) H Byrne, R Kelleher, J Lowe (2), H O’Sullivan.

Conversions: H Byrne (5/8)

Dragons

Tries: J Williams, O Jenkins

Conversions: S Davies (1/2)

Penalties: S Davies (1/1)

Leinster: Jimmy O’Brien, Dave Kearney, Rory O’Loughlin (CIan Kelleher ’64), Conor O’Brien (Ciaran Frawley ’60), James Lowe, Harry Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park (Hugh O’Sullivan ’60); Peter Dooley (Michael Milne ’53), Rónan Kelleher (James Tracy ’53), Michael Bent (Jack Aungier ’53), Devin Toner (Ross Molony ’57), Ryan Baird, Max Deegan, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris (Will Connor ’70).

Dragons:  Jordan Williams, Owen Jenkins, Adam Warren, Connor Edwards, Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Luke Baldwin ’59); Brok Harris (Josh Renolds ’75), Richard Hibbard (Ellis Shipp ’70), Leon Brown (Lloyd Fairbrother ’70), Joe Davies, Matthew Screech (Max Williams ’65), Harri Keddie (James Benjamin ’59), Taine Basham, Huw Taylor.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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