Fergus McFadden’s last-minute penalty clinched a hard-earned 23-18 victory for Leinster as they battled past defending GUINNESS PRO12 champions Glasgow Warriors at the RDS…
The Warriors impressed in defence and attack as they built a 13-6 half-time lead, young prop Zander Fagerson rumbling over for a converted try with Duncan Weir and Fergus McFadden kicking two penalties apiece.
Luke McGrath and Taqele Naiyaravoro swapped tries in the third quarter, but a double whammy for Glasgow – a yellow card for winger Naiyaravoro and a penalty try – saw Leinster edge ahead, and McFadden made certain of the win in the dying seconds.
The visitors, boosted by six returning Scotland internationals, set the early pace and Leinster needed a Ben Te'o-led choke tackle and a couple of scrum penalties, with Fagerson singled out twice, to claw back some territory.
But the Warriors broke the deadlock in the 13th minute, Rob Harley and Rory Hughes having key involvements in a multi-phase attack that eventually finished with the 19-year-old Fagerson muscling over from close range.
Weir's conversion was quickly cancelled out by McFadden's first successful penalty. A second right-sided kick from the winger closed the gap to one by the 21st minute, rewarding Aaron Dundon for a well-won ruck penalty and accurate lineout throw in the build-up.
Weir then punished Leinster for collapsing an advancing maul, punching over a fine 43-metre strike. He repeated the trick from the opposite left wing when Mike McCarthy infringed at a maul six minutes before the interval.
Leinster missed a chance to close out the first half with a third penalty goal, McFadden wobbling an injury-time effort wide after Pat MacArthur saw yellow for a 'reckless' forearm-led tackle that ended Dundon's involvement in the game.
The home side made their numerical advantage count on the resumption, though. Two-and-a-half minutes in, scrum half McGrath's blindside switch led to Garry Ringrose racing up the right touchline and following a bout of forward pressure, McGrath stretched over for McFadden to convert.
Leinster were only level for six minutes, the Scots hitting back with a terrific spell of attacking and a power-packed finish to the right of the posts by big Fijian Naiyaravoro. Weir was unable to convert at 18-13.
Noel Reid fumbled a low-slung pass from Ringrose following the latter's impressive burst on the right, but Leinster's attacked clicked in the lead up to their penalty try. Replacement Isaac Boss exploited a gap and Isa Nacewa's well-weighted kick set up a foot race between McFadden and Naiyaravoro – the latter was deemed to have deliberately slapped the ball over the end-line as the pair lunged for the ball. After consulting with the TMO, referee Ian Davies awarded the penalty try and sin-binned the Fijian, with McFadden's conversion splitting the sides on the scoreboard.
Weir missed a long range penalty in the swirling wind and aided by some excellent carrying from man-of-the-match Ringrose and replacements James Tracy and Tadhg Furlong, Leo Cullen's men saw out the result with McFadden nailing his final kick of the night.
This was an excellent outcome for the province given they had to come from behind on two occasions. Reid caught the eye in attack, making a couple of searing midfield runs, while Ross Molony and Jack Conan stood out in a tireless collective effort from the pack.
LEINSTER SCORERS: L. McGrath (1 try), Penalty try, F. McFadden (2 conversions and 3 penalties)
GLASGOW WARRIORS SCORERS: Z. Fagerson (1 try), T. Naiyaravoro (1 try), D. Weir (1 conversion and 2 penalties)
15. Isa Nacewa CAPTAIN (Cian Kelleher, 75)
14. Garry Ringrose
13. Ben Te'o
12. Noel Reid
11. Fergus McFadden
10. Cathal Marsh
9. Luke McGrath (Isaac Boss, 58)
1. Michael Bent (Peter Dooley, 50)
2. Aaron Dundon (James Tracy, 40+3)
3. Marty Moore (Tadhg Furlong, 50)
4. Ross Molony
5. Mike McCarthy
6. Rhys Ruddock (Dominic Ryan, 70)
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan
REPLACEMENTS NOT USED: Daniel Leavy, Ross Byrne.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Sean Lamont; Taqele Naiyaravoro, Richie Vernon, Fraser Lyle, Rory Hughes; Duncan Weir, Mike Blair; Alex Allan, Pat MacArthur, Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Scott Cummings, Rob Harley CAPTAIN, Simone Favaro, Ryan Wilson.
REPLACEMENTS: Kevin Bryce, Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Mike Cusack, Greg Peterson, Adam Ashe, Hugh Blake, Grayson Hart, Rory Clegg.
REFEREE: Ian Davies (WRU); ASSISTANT REFEREES: Leo Colgan, Olly Hodges (both IRFU); CITING COMMISSIONER: Eugene Ryan (IRFU); TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU).