Match report: Leinster Rugby 35 Dragons 5
Match report: Leinster Rugby 35 Dragons 5
October 2, 2020 / Ryan Corry
Leinster Rugby opened their defence of their Guinness PRO14 title with a five-try defeat of Dragons at the RDS Arena tonight.
First half-tries from Garry Ringrose, Jordan Larmour and James Lowe as well as successful conversions from three different kickers helped Leinster to a 21-0 lead at the break.
They followed that up with two further efforts, a Lowe second as well as another from replacement Ryan Baird, just minutes after his introduction.
The Irish province nearly opened the scoring with Johnny Sexton’s grubber giving Hugo Keenan an outside chance at winning the race to the line, the full-back beating Jonah Holmes to the pounce, only to lose control of the ball.
The combined work of number eight Ross Moriarty from the base of the scrum and Rhodri Williams from the boot took play up towards halfway.
When Michael Bent could not hold onto Jamison Gibson-Park’s fizzing service, Dragons had field position. But, Leinster’s linespeed forced Dragons backwards and their out-half Sam Davies into kicking in behind.
Then, the Welsh club outfoxed Leinster, refusing to engage in a maul to swindle a turnover scrum for accidental obstruction. They were hunting points when hooker Rónan Kelleher’s counter-ruck led to a relieving penalty.
A burst from Kelleher and a touch of creativity from James Lowe down the left was eventually undone by Lowe’s inaccurate follow-up pass to Tommy O’Brien.
Then, Lowe popped up to take Sexton’s no-look pass up the middle, the speed of the ball causing consternation. Jamie Roberts took O’Brien too high, for what was soon deemed to be a yellow card, and Garry Ringrose strolled over for the first try, Sexton converting for 7-0 in the 18th minute.
From the restart, Leinster went into overdrive, moving the ball from touchline-to-touchline, punching through 23 rapid-fire phases with Sexton’s long, looping pass enabling Larmour to touchdown in the 23rd minute. Ringrose added the sideline conversion as Sexton was replaced by Ross Byrne.
The pressure from James Ryan was enough to cause Joseph Davies to spill a lineout before Kelleher’s nuisance value hampered Rhodri Williams and Josh van der Flier seized on a loose ball. Ross Byrne’s punt forward and Keenan’s chase was just about foiled by the work-rate of Aaron Wainwright.
The tide of possession was washing over the Dragons, a rare van der Flier mistake releasing the pressure. Lowe’s footwork, Ringrose’s mazy run and blurring hands created the overlap for Lowe to snap up the third try, Byrne converting from the left touchline for 21-0 on 33 minutes.
Second row Ryan made up for conceding a penalty when snatching a 5-metre lineout away from Wainwright. At last, it looked like Sam Davies was about to hit back from Jonah Holmes’ set-up until he lost his feet and the ball from O’Brien’s super-flexible poach.
The Dragons had to make something happen or risk becoming completely detached on the scoreboard. They scrapped away for almost the length of the third quarter, making a better fist of gaining territory.
Nick Tompkins took on Ringrose in contact and Cian Healy was penalised for Dragons to apply lineout pressure which Ryan shut down.
At the other end, Leinster went up the guts of a maul from Sean Cronin’s throw to Scott Fardy, the ball transferred left for James Lowe to hold-off Holmes into the left corner to seal the bonus-point, Byrne stitching on the conversion in the 57th minute.
Before long, the penetration of Jamie Roberts and hooker Elliot Dee provided the space on the left for wing Ashton Hewitt to complete an acrobatic finish under pressure from van der Flier on the hour.
Out of nothing, Ryan ripped the ball away from Wainwright and took off for what looked like a certain try until Williams clipped his heels with a tap tackle.
Straight away, Baird was onto a botched lineout to bowl over two tacklers on his way to a stunning try for Byrne to tag on a fifth conversion.
Hooker Cronin blasted his way out of defence, Ryan was the link man and Rhys Ruddock the chaser in the next attack. Ringrose was the chief creator for Larmour to go close.
The Dragons were not quite done, the dancing feet of Hewitt leading to two penalty advantages and Hugo Keenan having to turn quickly to prevent further damage.
Two more infringements meant yellow for Rhys Ruddock, a challenge they responded to, in holding their line intact.
They kept enough in store to hammer out one more attack, Luke McGrath hailed down short of glory and Keenan denied by a foot in touch in what was a satisfactory night’s work.