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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 24 February 2021

'It's an incredibly proud day for our family': One Byrne replaces another

Harry Byrne made his senior debut for Leinster last night, replacing his older brother Ross at out-half.

AMID THE TENSION of Saturday night’s finale in Treviso, the significance of Harry Byrne’s arrival for his senior Leinster debut may have been lost somewhat as the province looked to close out an important opening-game win in the Pro14.

Leo Cullen’s side had to dig deep to see-off 14-man Benetton in last night’s round one game in Italy, with the defending Pro14 champions requiring a 65th-minute Dave Kearney try to secure the spoils.

jimmy-obrien-and-ross-byrne Ross Byrne in action against Benetton. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Shortly after Ross Byrne had converted Kearney’s third try of the evening to give Leinster a 29-27 lead, the Ireland international was called ashore to be replaced by his younger brother Harry.

With the game still very much in the balance, it was a big moment for the 20-year-old out-half to be stepping into, but after a word of inspiration from his brother, Harry kicked a late penalty to ensure Leinster got over the line at the Stadio Monigo.

Afterwards, the Byrne brothers were able to reflect on a very special moment for their family.

“It was obviously a very tough game,” Ross told Leinster Rugby TV. “A bit of rustiness first game out but we did well to grind out the win in the end.

“It’s a very special day. For Harry to get his first cap and to replace me, hopefully that doesn’t happen too much more, but it’s an incredibly proud day for our family. Long may it continue.”

Ireland U20 international Harry had featured during Leinster’s pre-season schedule and was sent on for the closing stages to see out the win, and send over a 75th-minute penalty for his first Pro14 points.

“It was brilliant, really good,” he beamed at full-time. “It was pretty special to come on for him [Ross] as well. He gave me a nice chat as soon as I came on to settle me bit. We did well to close out the game and start the season right.”

Kearney’s hat-trick and a first-half try from Adam Byrne ensured Leinster got their title defence up and running ahead of their return to the RDS to face Ospreys on Friday night.

After a long pre-season, and with a host of internationals away on World Cup duty, Cullen was pleased to travel home with the points but the head coach knows there is a lot to work on.

“We’re pleased to get a win,” he said.

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dave-kearney-celebrates-his-try-with-jamison-gibson-park Dave Kearney scored a hat-trick. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

“Feeling a little bit fortunate maybe. It was tough for Treviso when they went down to 14 men but they stuck at it really well. I thought we started the game really well and Treviso came back into the game.

“We could never really get far enough in front to be safe and I thought the players showed good composure to get back down this end of the field to come up with the scores to win the game.

“A very mixed fare from us, it’s fair to say, but pleasing to get another couple of players to make their Leinster players in Michael Milne and Harry Byrne.

“As you’d expect, it’s round one so not perfect and there’s plenty for us to work on. We’ll try and turn the page as quickly as possible now into Ospreys next week.”

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Ryan Bailey

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