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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 16 September, 2019
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THE HEINEKEN CUP is now in full swing, so join us live from the RDS as we bring you the necessary details as they happen from the RDS.

As always, we’d love to hear from you, so send us your thoughts and comments on all the action.

E-mail us at sean@thescore.ie, tweet us @thescore_ie, post to our Facebook wall or leave a comment below.

Leinster 9 – 6 Exeter

Afternoon folks, Sean Farrell here at a squint-inducingly sunny RDS in Ballsbrdge where we’re a little over 15 minutes away from kick off.

The good news is that both teams will start as they were named yesterday. So, here are the squads in full.

Leinster: I Madigan; A Conway, B O’Driscoll, F McFadden, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E  Reddan: C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen (c), D Browne; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, H van der Merwe, J Hagan, D Toner, L Auva’a, J Murphy, I Boss, F Carr.

Exeter Chiefs: L Arscott, I Whitten, P Dollman, J Shoemark, M Jess; G Steenson, H Thomas: B Sturgess, S Alcott, C Rimmer; T Hayes (c), J Hanks; T Johnson, J Scaysbrook, R Baxter.

Replacements: C Whitehead, C Budgen, B Moon, A Muldowney, D Mumm, W Chudley, I Mieres, S Naqelevuki.

Time for the game. Exeter come out to polite applause and assemble themselves in a 15-man pink huddle as the home side enter the tunnel and enter to a standing ovation.

KICK OFF: Steenson gets us underway, aiming the ball at Jamie Heaslip to start. The number eight passes, but the arriving pink shirts quickly cause a knock on. Central Chiefs scrum on the 22.

The scrum was stopped for an early engage and Leinster tapped their free-kick before kicking away. Arscott returned the favour but found Madigan who injected pace, making 20 metres on a break through the middle.

From a line-out in Exeter’s 22, Leinster took it down, set a base before unleashing Sexton. McFadden was held up and the Chiefs soon turned the ball over. Matt Jess’ offload was a highlight before the home side came back.

With advantage for offside, on the left, O’Driscoll attempted an audacious outside of the boot kick for Nacewa to chase to the right corner. We come back for the kick by Sexton, but he pulls his penalty badly wide of the near left post…. but he’ll have another chance.

PENALTY: Leinster 3 – 0 Exeter (Sexton ’10)

Immediately from the 22 dropout, Tom Johnson is penalised for going in from the side. On the 10 metreline, a harder kick than his first attempt, Sexton nails it.

You can add Gareth Steenson to the ‘missed kickable penalty’ column. The Ulster man had a central shot from 40 metres out drift left of the posts.

A little bit of wind blowing, but it has caught out both kickers so far.

Madigan passes another test of fullback duty, but Exeter have yet to get a chaser close to him. He feeds Nacewa who is tackled by Whitten before Damien Browne give away the penalty allowing the visitors creep up the sideline.

Good pressure from the Chiefs, but they look like they have wasted an overlap when Steenson cross-kicks. But the bounce deceives everyone and Madigan looks like he deliberately flicks the ball away just as a pink jersey is about to score a try on the loose ball.

The referee goes upstairs, though, and the decision is a 22 drop-out. To us, Exeter have a case for a yellow against Madigan there.

OOMPPH. Big hit from Nacewa on Arscott as the hosts attempt to turn the tide. After a Whitten offload O’Driscoll forces a turnover just inside his half and the crowd are on their feet.

As Leinster make it to the 22, however, Strauss is penalised for sealing off and Cian Healy looks to be out cold. A quick talk with the physio and he’s right as rain.

27 mins: This is beginning to get attritional. Neither side able to go far without giving up a penalty, Tom Hayes is caught holding onto the ball 15 inside Leinster’s half and the blues are away thanks to a long Sexton punt of the left touchline.

Oh yes, the English side are loving this game. They just will not allow Leinster a foothold at the breakdown. Jason Shoemark puts in a brilliant effort, coming through the gate and then Reddan to force a knock on.

And again the whistle favours the visitors as Browne is pointed at for not rolling away. Steenson, to the surprise of the Englishmen in the press box, had the distance but it drifted right of the upright.

Sturgess is the latest to drw the referees ire in midfield and fro the resulting lineout Leinster look to McFadden for a crash-ball, but Scaysbrook is on hand to force a quick turnover and the pink shirts flood downfield again.

PENALTY: Leinster 3 – 3 Exeter (Steenson ’39)

The Chiefs deservedly draw level after their attack on the left broke down due to a forward pass from Rimmer. Leinster were penalised at the set-piece and the Dungannon man bisected the posts.

HALF TIME: Leinster 3- 3 Exeter

An absorbing, if not entertaining, first half comes to a close. The Chiefs, as expected, have come with serious intent and can count themselves unfortunate to not be leading at the break. They are doing a tremendous job at the breakdown, stifling the home side at every turn.

Second half: Guns ‘n Roses are in the jungle again, the teams are on the field. Jonathan Sexton will kick into the Simmonscourt end with the home side hoping for a little more style to the rugby in the next 40 minutes.

An off-the-ball penalty has given Chiefs a platform int he Leinster half, they look the only side capable of continuity at the minute and they are probing along the line for space.

But probe is all they can do, the blue wall ensured they only go right to left and back again before they are whistled for holding on. Leinster lineout just inside their own half now.

Referee perhaps reacting to pressure from the home crowd there as the bay for a decision and get it as Sturgess is blamed for bringing the scrum down.  The Chiefs do not give possession away lightly, and the the blue pack are growing frustrated without the ball. The crowd is now fully awake and screaming for their boys in blue.

The blue pack have upped the ante, and Reddan manages to dig the ball out for Sexton. O’Driscoll breaks the line, but his return to Sexton is knocked-on with the fly-half claiming he was tackled early.

It feels like the Heineken Cup now.

Pressure building on Chiefs. Jess’ return kick from his 22 doesn’t make it past the 10 and  Reddan is on hand to switch the play.

After a big carry and hand-off from Strauss Leinster are awarded a penalty on the left flank.

PENALTY Leinster 6 – 3 Exeter (Sexton ‘ 54)

That’s the end of Leo Cullen’s day. Devin Toner is in, but so too is Heinke van der Merwe. He replaces Cian Healy at loose head.

Jonathan Sexton understands momentum. With Johnson called for sealing off as Chiefs attacked in the Leinster 22. Sexton grabbed the ball and hoofed it upfield towards the corner before the Chiefs could set their back three. The ball bounced over Whitten’s head and out for a line-out.

….and, as I had my head bowed into my laptop, a penaltywas awarded to the home side. But having brought Leinster all the way upfield, Sexton’s kcik from the left touchline does not find the target.

Having Toner on the field hasn’t helped the line-out. That’s three in succession given away and it’s sucking the life out of them.

PENALTY: Leinster 6 – 6 Exeter (Steenson ’66)

And we’re all square again as Steenson bisects the posts from inside the 22. Big 15 minutes for both sides coming up.

‘The Bull’s brother’ as a commenter has called Tom Hayes chips and chases a kick into the corner. Reddan clears, but the pink wave flows back. The home side could be on the rack here. But they turn the ball over on the 22 and spin left where Nacewa is on the gallop.

The Kiwi chips ahead, but it flies into the grasp of Arscott.

Under 10 minutes remaining by my watch. Will we have a winner? Will we have a try?

The backs in blue are working with the utmost purpose now, but they still cannot find a clear gap. Strauss offloads to O’Driscoll at full pace but he’s upended ant he ball flies forward, out of McFadden’s reach.

Sexton beginning to step back and feel what it’s like in the pocket, but as Strauss makes another carry, a pink shirt strays offside.

PENALTY Leinster 9 – 6 Exeter (Sexton 77)

A central kick from 30 metres, nobody expected Jonathan Sexton to miss that one. Clutch.

A kick out on the full from Reddan looks a lifeline for Exeter, but they steal the line-out…. but then the cough it up again and the stubborn Exeter pack rumble forward again. Before they can calm it down and put Mieres in the pocket, McLaughlin forces a turnover.

The game is frantic now and Jess keeps the ball in play, but after he is tackled the ball spills out the back of the ruck and van der Merwe wins the race to the loose pill.

Across the field from me Joe Schmidt can’t stand still in his box. Leinster making every tackle count on the halfway line now…. but McLaughlin is whistled. It will be a 49 metre penalty.

FULLL TIME: Leinster 9 – 6 Exeter

Mieres had the range, and for a while it looked like he had the distance, but the monster penalty drifted just a foot wide and lets the European champions off the hook. An outstanding display from Tom Hayes and co. and had the kick gone over, few could have argued with the result.

Well, that’s it from me folks, I’m off to see what the coaches made of it all. Squeaky bum time for Leinster, but they survive.

As I write, Tom Hayes is indeed awarded man of the match. The baby bull?

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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