Leinster edge out plucky Dragons

13th Apr 2007, 21:19

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Leinster finally edged a topsy-turvy Magners League encounter against the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Friday, winning 22-23.

Leinster finally edged a topsy-turvy Magners League encounter against the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Friday, winning 22-23.

But there was an enormous amount of controversy in an explosive match with a gripping finale that saw the Dragons' proud home record ended.

The Welsh region were defending a 10-match unbeaten run in all competitions and got off to a flying start in their mission to make it 11 victories, stretching back to September.

The Dragons had the initial momentum after Argentinian fly-half and Leinster captain Felipe Contepomi missed a long-range penalty in the first minute.

Leinster had come across the Irish Sea with a big compliment of star backs but the first points to go on the board came from the boot of a Welsh international when fly-half Ceri Sweeney, watched in the stand by national coach Gareth Jenkins, boomed over a 35-metre penalty as Leinster were accused of not releasing the ball at a ruck.

And the perfect start for the Dragons continued on 15 minutes when hooker Steve Jones, recently returned from a long-term injury, scored the opening try.

Sweeney had hoofed a touch finder right into the Leinster danger area and, from the attacking line-out, the ball found its way into the middle where the Dragons won a ruck, acting skipper Michael Owen sent the ball left and Jones was unopposed to run in from five metres.

It was just as well that the Dragons got those early points on the board as Leinster turned up the heat at the start of the second quarter.

Gordon D'Arcy, Shane Horgan and Contepomi tried to carve their way through the home defence but without success.

However, when the Dragons strayed offside, centre Kieran Lewis was quick-minded enough to tap the penalty to himself, set up a ruck underneath the posts for the ball to find its way to hooker Brian Blaney.

Blaney went over from two metres, with his captain adding the conversion and suddenly Leinster were only a point in arrears.

But the hooker turned from hero to villain when he punched Jones on halfway and spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

Within seconds of the banishment, Leinster were punished as prop Adam Black restored the eight-point lead by going over under the posts for Sweeney to convert.

It seemed like the Dragons would go in at the break with their tails up but seconds before the whistle, American centre Paul Emerick was sin-binned for coming in on the wrong side at an attacking ruck for Contepomi to boot a simple three points and make the score 15-10 at half-time.

There had been a lot of niggle between the sides and it spilled over again in the second half as three men from either side got to grips with each other, although Scottish referee Malcolm Changleng chose not to yellow card anyone this time.

And flanker Stephen Keogh was lucky not to be sent off as he jumped into a ruck two-footed and landed on Cooper.

Leinster erased another three points from their deficit through a Contepomi penalty as Emerick came back on and was immediately accused of being offside close to the posts.

Home lock Ian Gough was yellow-carded for a ruck infringement and soon afterwards Sweeney was also sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle of Contepomi that saw the Argentinian boot Leinster in front with a 40-metre penalty.

The Irishmen took further advantage when replacement scrum-half Chris Whitaker stormed over under the posts for a try that Contepomi converted.

But within seconds, Black was over in the corner for his second try.

A touchline conversion by replacement Aled Thomas put the Welsh region with a chance of snatching the win but they could not get the one more score to keep their winning home record intact.

The Scorers:

For Dragons:

Tries: Jones, Black 2
Cons: Sweeney, Thomas A
Pen: Sweeney

For Leinster:

Tries: Blaney, Whitaker
Cons: Contepomi 2
Pens: Contepomi 3

The Teams:

Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Gareth Wyatt, 13 Paul Emerick, 12 Nathan Brew, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Michael Owen (c), 7 Jamie Ringer, 6 Colin Charvis, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Lee Harrison, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Adam Black.
Replacements: 16 Ben Daly, 17 Rhys Thomas, 18 Peter Sidoli, 19 Joe Bearman, 20 Richard Fussell, 21 Aled Thomas, 22 Alex Walker.

Leinster: 15 Girvan Dempsey, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Kieran Lewis, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Denis Hickie, 10 Felipe Contepomi (c), 9 Guy Easterby, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Keith Gleeson, 6 Stephen Keogh, 5 Malcolm O'Kelly, 4 Trevor Hogan, 3 Will Green, 2 Brian Blaney, 1 Reggie Corrigan.
Replacements: 16-19 from Stan Wright, Harry Vermaas, Cian Healy, Owen Finegan, Kevin McLaughlin, 20 Chris Whitaker, 21 Luke Fitzgerald, 22 Rob Kearney.

Referee: Malcolm Changleng (SRU)
Touch Judges: Phil Fear (WRU), Howard Hopkins (WRU)