On Friday Leinster began their quest for an unprecedented 4th league title in a row just 3 weeks after claiming an unprecedented 3rd league title against Ulster. There was no sign of a hangover after an extremely disappointing loss in the Heineken Cup Quarter Final, as Leinster were comfortable winners, despite picking up several injuries.
In front of an empty RDS, Johnny Sexton captained the side at Outhalf, with Jamison Gibson-Park starting as scrum-half. Ciarán Frawley was switched to center, with Hugo Keenan taking the fullback role off the departed Rob Kearney. With Furlong still injured Michael Bent started at Tight-Head. James Ryan and Jack Conan started, now fully fit.
Aside from a garish pink and grey kit donned bu the Dragons, the only upset here was the injuries. Sexton went off shortly after setting up Larmour for a try. Andrew Porter went off late on with a leg issue, adding a further tight-head conundrum for Ireland ahead of the resumed Six Nations. Max Deegan and Ciarán Frawley also picked up knocks. It’s clear Cullen will have to use every bit of Leinster’s squad depth in the early stages of the league campaign.
Leinster were relentless from the get-go. Keenan possible should have been awarded a try, although he was deemed to have knocked on a Sexton grubber kick. However the boys in blue wouldn’t be denied, as Ringrose touched down. Jamie Roberts was shown yellow for a high tackle in the build-up. Sexton added the extras.
The captain also set up Jordan Larmour with a skip-pass for the 2nd. Larmour battled over the line to touch down. Sexton then had to go off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Farrell will have to wait on his fitness ahead of the remaining Six Nations games and the Autumn Nations Cup. Ringrose showed he was a man of many talents, kicking the conversion from wide.
Leinster had a 3rd try as the clock ticked towards the red. Ross Byrne, who had come on for the injured Sexton, Larmour, and O’Brien combined to send James Lowe on his way, the newly eligible Ireland winger crossed over in the corner. Byrne maintained Leinster’s 100% record from the tee. Dragons had some pressure late in the half, but weren’t able to get a score.
The bonus-point was sealed in the scrappy early stages of the second half. James Lowe crossed over once again after a well set up maul. Byrne converted. Dragons got one back with a fantastic acrobatic finish by winger Ashton Hewitt. The score was 28 – 5. Ryan Baird stole a Dragons lineout and broke through three tackles to put the result well beyond any doubt.
FT Leinster 35 – 5 Dragons
Ringrose was fantastic once again, and is quickly becoming indispensable as a leader in the team. Hugo Keenan staked his claim to the Ireland fullback jersey which for so long had been held by Rob Kearney. The Leinster pack were dominant, clearly hungry to get the Heineken Cup Quarter final out of their minds. A 20th league win in a row for Leinster, a record that now extends over 3 seasons and a lockdown.
Hopefully fans can return to the RDS in the coming months to see this impressive Leinster side.