Planet Rugby

Leinster strike back for Ireland

10th November 2007 15:18

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Andy Goode v Leinster

Going nowhere: Andy Goode is stopped in his tracks by the Leinster defence

Leinster gave Irish rugby a timely boost on Saturday, handsomely beating Leicester Tigers 22-9 with a superb second-half display in the Heineken Cup
at the RDS in Dublin.

Irish rugby was boosted, but it was Argentina star Felipe Contepomi who conducted proceedings, setting up the only try and kicking six out of eight for a personal haul of 17 points.

Otherwise the win was founded on a resilient defensive performance, with the English champions throwing themselves helplessly at a blue wall every time.

In an arena made famous for equestrian pursuits, England's famous shirehorses were out-muscled, out-thought and out-shone by a dynamic display from a province traditionally accused of being no more than a stable for one-trick showponies.

Buoyed by the recent arrival of some bulk - including Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings from Leicester - the Dubliners finally seem to have a pack that can look their fabulous backline in the eye, and the two units worked with a cohesion seldom seen in these parts.

And how well they defended!

It seems returning home early from the World Cup hasn't been all bad for the Irish - they have already learned the lessons from France and their limpet-like defence was pure Argentina.

Marcelo Loffreda, still not quite in charge of the Tigers, could only look on as his own ruse was employed against his new charges to such devastating effect.

The stellar defensive performance surprised and stymied the Tigers. They were expecting Leinster's wide game but what they got was trench warfare.

Claustrophobia is normally manna from heaven for the men from Leicester, but today it sucked the life force out of them - Leinster were that good.

The scrum also proved to be have a large bearing on the game, with Leicester's famed pack coming a dubious second to the Irish. Julian White would claim that wily old Ollie le Roux managed to pull the wool over the eyes of referee Christophe Berdos, particularly after he was penalised at the set-piece early in the game.

And so it was the Leinster opened the scoring via the first of five penalties from Contepomi.

Andy Goode, sporting Wyatt Earp's whiskers in support of the Matt Hampson Trust, replied in kind before a kick down the middle by O'Driscoll soon caused the back-tracking pivot all sorts of problems and Contepomi duly pocketed his 300th point in Heineken Cup rugby.

Leicester, as is their wont, refused to be cowed by the gathering storm and dispatched a kickable penalty into the corner - only to knock-on at the line-out.

Despite the poor omens, Leicester stuck with their gameplan of finding one-on-one mismatches for the likes of Alesana Tuilagi, Seru Rabeni and Ben Kay.

But mismatches they were not. Leinster defended heroically, shrink-wrapping and dispossessing raid after raid.

Goode managed to land a second penalty to level the scores, but Leicester's famous self-confidence finally began to creak as a rampaging Tuilagi was wrapped up and dispatched on the stoke of half-time.

As they had in the first half, Leinster exploded into the last forty minutes, with O'Driscoll tossing his mate Geordan Murphy - another wannabe gun-slinger - into touch in the green 22. Contepomi then pushed home the point by converting a penalty after Leicester were once again pinged at a scrum.

The slender lead whipped the boys in blue into a frenzy and they kept Leicester pinned to their own posts for the lion's share of the half.

More aggressive defence then caused the Tigers to cough up a penalty in possession and Contepomi stepped up to double the lead.

The six-point cushion gave the Leinstermen the confidence to go back to their roots, and a beautiful first-phase move soon led to celebrations in the right corner.

It was Contepomi who kick-started the mini adventure, looping around O'Driscoll's back before sending a long pass out to Shane Horgan who powered over for the first try of the game, and the ice-cool Argentinian - clearly enjoying his return to the number ten jersey - slotted the conversion.

Leicester looked to be condemned to half an hour of purgatory, but some stern words from Martin Corry stiffened English sinews and the visitors were soon within striking distance of the line in the opposite corner of the pitch.

The locals diced with self-destruction by killing two raids illegally before turning the ball over in the wake of a five-metre scrum. It was heroic moment, and surely one that would have closed out the game, but a huge Leicester scrummage forced Jamie Heaslip to pick-and-go from the base and the next phase saw Le Roux cough up a penalty.

Goode pocketed the three points to cut the deficit to ten, but it was quickly back to 13 as Contepomi slotted yet another penalty for yet another incident of non-release.

Leicester looked in line for a consolation try in the dying moments of the game as Murphy intercepted in his 22, but Leinster - with Horgan the hero - tracked back and turned over possession as if they were defending a one-point lead.

The moment summed up Leinster's attitude and had fans of all colours nodding in agreement: Leinster are now real contenders for the European crown. Even the on-looking Eddie O'Sullivan managed a smile, and why not? The World Cup is receding into past, and Irish eyes can smile once again.

Man of the match: Some real heroics from each and every Leinsterman, with special mention going to Bernard Jackman, Shane Jennings and Gordon D'Arcy. But how can we ignore the many talents of Felipe Contepomi? So cool, so cerebral, so audacious! Fresh from helping his country to the world podium, the Argentina playmaker looks hungry for some bona fide silverware.

The scorers:

For Leinster:

Try: Horgan

Con: Contempomi

Pens: Contempomi 5

For Leicester Tigers:

Pens: Goode 3

Leinster: 15 Girvan Dempsey, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Rob Kearney, 10 Felipe Contepomi, 9 Chris Whitaker, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Keith Gleeson, 5 Malcolm O'Kelly, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Stan Wright, 2 Bernard Jackman, 1 Ollie le Roux.

Replacements: 16 Brian Blaney, 17 Juan Francisco Gomez, 18 Cameron Jowitt, 19 Kevin McLaughlin, 20 Cillian Willis, 21 Christian Warner, 22 Luke Fitzgerald.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Seru Rabeni, 13 Ollie Smith, 12 Dan Hipkiss, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Lewis Moody, 6 Martin Corry (c), 5 Ben Kay, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Julian White, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Marcos Ayerza.

Replacements: 16 Mefin Davies, 17 Martin Castrogiovanni, 18 James Hamilton, 19 Luke Abraham, 20 Christophe Laussucq, 21 Paul Burke, 22 Johne Murphy.

Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)

Touch judges: Eric Gauzins and Jean Marie Schutz (both France).

Video official: Daniel Gillet (France)

By Andy Jackson

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