A penalty try eight minutes from time left Leinster ‘A’ with their work cut out to qualify from British & Irish Cup Pool 4 at the end of a match they led by 14 points at one stage, writes Andy Mitchell…
Tom Daly and Nick McCarthy seized upon Nottingham’s shaky start and Max Deegan pounced immediately after the hosts had hit back with a converted try, but both sides looked dangerous with every attack in an open contest in which handling errors were a significant factor.
Crucially, Nottingham got another try back on the stroke of half-time and then broke from a sustained spell in their own 22 to level with 25 minutes to play.
Standout performer Cathal Marsh, who produced a calm and measured display on his return from a three-month lay-off, kicked Leinster ‘A’ ahead once more but Nottingham’s second half territory eventually told.
The differing fortunes early on was typified by Viliami Hakalo’s double slip from the visitors’ kick-off and Hugh Hogan’s men soon made the most of Nottingham’s hesitancy.
Andrew Porter burst through a gap in what should have been a congested midfield before laying off for centre Daly on the edge of the 22 and the Carlow man dived over for a well-worked but simple opener with less than two minutes played.
Leinster ‘A’ continued to rattle their shell-shocked hosts as prop Porter again picked up possession from a scrum in Nottingham’s 22 and although they survived that scare, it proved a mere stay of execution. Dominic Ryan stole the ball and after play had been swiftly moved right to left, scrum half McCarthy scampered away. His half-back partner Marsh made it 14-0.
It was telling that Nottingham failed to reach the province’s 22 until the 17th minute but when they did, there was a sustained spell of pressure and despite some robust challenges from Marsh, David O’Connor and Jimmy O’Brien, Darryl Veenendaal eventually bustled his way through.
But no sooner had the hosts reduced the arrears, slick and fast play proved their undoing with Marsh and captain Peadar Timmins combining for Deegan to waltz over the whitewash.
Ryan was given 10 minutes on the sideline after half-an-hour for a high tackle on Morgan Eames and although Leinster ‘A’ looked to have stood firm, Hakalo touched down after the ball had been chipped forward from the back of a scrum.
With just seven points separating the teams – 21-14 – and the wind at Nottingham backs, Leinster ‘A’ had to weather an early storm in the second half but they soon re-established their foothold.
However, ill fortune struck. As Marsh moved the ball out towards Billy Dardis in search of a fourth try, James Stephenson intercepted and ran the length of the pitch to hit Leinster ‘A’ with a sucker punch. Sam Olver’s third successful kick levelled the match.
Leinster ‘A’ kept probing and opted to go for goal, retaking the lead through Marsh’s fourth successful kick of the night on 58 minutes.
Marsh’s kicking record was blemished, albeit from distance, with 18 minutes left and Leinster ‘A’ spurned a golden chance to score when Dardis passed forward to unopposed replacement Jordan Larmour who had been destined for the right corner.
The visitors paid a heavy price when Stephenson’s tenacious running earned the scrum from which referee Rhys Thomas gave the decisive penalty try and in truth, Nottingham held out with relative ease late on.
NOTTINGHAM SCORERS: D. Veenendaal (1 try), V. Hakalo (1 try), J. Stephenson (1 try), Penalty try, S. Olver (4 conversions)
LEINSTER ‘A’ SCORERS: T. Daly (1 try), N. McCarthy (1 try), M. Deegan (1 try), C. Marsh (3 conversions and 1 penalty)
NOTTINGHAM: James Stephenson; Joe Cobden (Lawrence Rayner, 74), Oli Evans, Viliami Hakalo, Calum Hall; Sam Olver, Darryl Veenendaal; Kieran Davies (Tom West, 55), TJ Harris (Ben Brownlie, 62), Ben Hooper (Tom Heard, 62), Toby Freeman, Morgan Eames (Josh Poullet, 62), Ben Morris CAPTAIN, Jordan Coghlan (Matt Everard, 55), Shane Buckley (Jacob Nash, 80+1).
LEINSTER ‘A’: Billy Dardis; Hugo Keenan (Jordan Larmour, 55), Jimmy O’Brien, Tom Daly, Barry Daly; Cathal Marsh, Nick McCarthy; Andrew Porter (Ed Byrne, 58), Bryan Byrne (Sean McNulty, half-time), Oisin Heffernan (Jeremy Loughman, 58), David O’Connor (David Aspil, 68), Ian Nagle, Peadar Timmins CAPTAIN, Dominic Ryan, Max Deegan.
REFEREE: Rhys Thomas (WRU)