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Leinster beat Benetton

Leinster made their first trip outside of Dublin for 7 1/2 months on Saturday to face a Benetton side that pushed Ulster all the way last week. It was a largely scrappy affair with both sides struggling to get going. For a second game in a row Benetton were denied a losing bonus point despite being good value for it having put up a tremendous fight. In front of 1000 fans were in attendance at Stadio Monigo as Benetton showed themselves to be ever improving, while Leinster got their 21st consecutive league win, spanning across 3 seasons.

Two and a half minutes in Leinster had the opportunity to go in front, and Ross Byrne took it, pointing to the posts. Michael Bent, the oldest player in the Leinster squad for this game at 34, went off for a blood sub. Will O’Connors was also struggling with an injury, but was strapped up and able to continue. Benetton immediately won a penalty back, Paolo Garbisi made no mistake from the tee. 4 minutes in it was 3 points a piece. Ross Byrne hit another penalty in what was a stop start opening 10 minutes.

Benetton saw themselves down to 14 when their number 14 Tavuyaru was shown yellow for what was deemed to be an intentional knock-on. Possibly harsh as it seemed a genuine attempt at gathering the ball but having only gone with one hand he couldn’t have too many complaints. Garbisi leveled the scoring once again with a penalty. Benetton defended well against Leinster but gave away a penalty. The Boys in Blue went to the corner against the Italians who were down a man, with James Tracey crossing over. Byrne curled the conversion over. The score was 6-13 with Benetton back to their full compliment.

Benetton were arguably the better side in the first 30 minutes. They consistently put Leinster under pressure, particularly at the lineout. When James Ryan was shown a yellow card for cynical play and the Italians went to the Italians went to the corner it seemed ominous. Baird turned over the lineout but the Benetton pressure meant it was carried over the try line by a Leinster player, leading to a 5 metre scrum. This was Benetton’s best opportunity of the half. And they got there. Negri reached over the line to the joy of the home crowd. The conversion was a casual effort, the flags went up but their were questions whether it had gone over. 13-13.

Leinster went on the attack, Garry Ringrose went on a mazey run nearly getting there. Eventually Leinster did get over with James Lowe showing quick feet to touch down with just under 3 minutes to go. Gibson-Park drew the tackle sending the winger on his way. Byrne’s conversion made it 13-20. Leinster went in at halftime ahead despite not being at their best, just as they did so often in last years league campaign.

Benetton didn’t lie down in the second half, they got a try back to bring the game within 2 points, Faiva the scorer. Front row changes for Leinster made a difference. Healy and Cronin helped Conan drive over the line, the ball was knocked on. However Leinster were given a penalty try and awarded 7 points.

Another Byrne penalty stretched the lead. A try with 7 minutes to go for Benetton made it a 5-point game. Leinster hit back with a James Ryan try late on to seal the win. Benetton pushed for a losing bonus point. They went until the 86th minute but were cruelly denied anything from the day.

Benetton 25-37 Leinster

Benetton have proved a stumbling block for Leinster in recent years. One of the last two league games Leinster failed to win was in the RDS against Benetton, a 27-27 draw. Jordan Larmour’s shoulder injury will make Andy Farrell sweat ahead of Ireland’s resumed Six Nations. Leinster’s next opponents are Zebre at home. You would have to fear for the Italian minnows going up against the league champions, who will have to face the fact they are not in the European Cup final the week prior.

Benetton face Scarlets at home next. They have had two tough games against last seasons beaten finalists to open this campaign. If they can keep up their intensity for a full 80 minutes they’ll have every chance of a Champions Cup play-off, or even a Pro14 Quarter Final spot.

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Injuries Mar Comfortable Leinster Win

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.

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