Planet Rugby

Leinster slay the Dragons

12th September 2009 20:50

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Isa Nacewa versus Harlequins

Try-scorer: Isa Nacewa

Leinster recorded their first victory of the new Magners League season with a 23-14 success against the Dragons at the RDS on Saturday.

Nathan Hines and Eoin Reddan made their competitive debuts for the Dubliners as the European champions scored a workmanlike win.

The introduction of the pair midway through the second half - along with Hines' Lions colleague Gordon D'Arcy - helped Leinster battle to their first victory this term.

Despite losing Gavin Thomas and Ashley Smith to the sin-bin in the first half, the Dragons were just 9-6 behind until free-running full-back Isa Nacewa burst clear for Leinster's only try.

His opposite number Martyn Thomas replied with a well-worked try and while a penalty from James Arlidge cut the gap to six points again, Leinster sealed the result with a late drop-goal from Shaun Berne.

Boosted by last week's home defeat of Ulster, the Welshmen showed confidence on the ball early on with Wayne Evans building momentum with his forwards.

Debutant winger David Kearney was sprung for a 40-metre gallop that drew the 15,145-strong crowd's approval, but Leinster struggled to capitalise on their breaks.

The deadlock was broken on fourteen minutes when Jonathan Sexton slotted the first of his four penalty successes - only for Arlidge to response quickly, after Kevin McLaughlin was pulled up for a binding offence.

Thomas' sin-binning for killing the ball preceded another Sexton penalty. Down to fourteen men, the Dragons maintained possession impressively with Smith and Grant Webb heavily involved.

The visitors engineered a drop goal shot, which Arlidge pushed wide, and a chip chase from Richard Fussell did not come off in the left corner.

The nip-and-tuck nature of the game continued. A forceful run through the middle from man of the match Sean O'Brien lifted Leinster and Cian Healy was inches away from nabbing a try.

Smith walked, seven minutes before the break, for spoiling at a ruck. Leinster had to settle for another Sexton kick and the Dragons' determined drives forward were rewarded on the stroke of half-time with an Arlidge drop goal.

An eye injury prevented Dragons stand-in captain Luke Charteris from returning for the second half and they needed flanker Thomas to produce a crucial steal as Leinster piled forward.

The Dragons' resistance was finally broken on 54 minutes. The try was worth the admission price alone - a sumptuous wrap-around between Sexton and Berne set D'Arcy free near halfway and his well-placed pass put Nacewa thundering past Fussell and over from 30 metres out. Berne tagged on a drop-goal soon after as Leinster led 17-6.

The Dragons maintained their composure and hit back when Tom Riley tied up D'Arcy near the Leinster 22, allowing Fussell the time and space to put full-back Thomas through for an unconverted try.

Sexton steadied the home ship with a close-range penalty but the Leinster outside half saw yellow for a ruck offence and Arlidge kicked the Dragons to a likely bonus point.

However, Leinster pressed on and Berne's final-minute drop-goal confirmed the Irish province's tenth successive win at the RDS.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Nacewa
Pen: Sexton 4
Drop: Berne 2

For Dragons:
Tries: Thomas
Pen: Alridge 2
Drop: Alridge

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Shaun Berne, 11 David Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Chris Keane, 8 Sean O'Brien, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen (capt), 3 Mike Ross, 2 John Fogarty, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Stan Wright, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Stephen Keogh, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Gordon D'Arcy, 22 Simon Keogh.

Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Aled Brew, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Richard Fussell, 10 James Arlidge, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 tbc, 7 Grant Webb, 6 Gavin Thomas, 5 Luke Charteris (capt), 4 Robert Sidoli, 3 Nigel Hall, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Ali McKenzie.
Replacements: 16 Duane Goodfield, 17 Hugh Gustafson, 18 Gethin Robinson, 19 Adam Jones, 20 James Harris, 21 Jason Tovey, 22 Alex Walker.

Referee: Graham Knox (Scotland)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Jonathan Peak (Ireland)
Television match official: Tom Redmond (Ireland)
Assessor: Tom Aplin (Ireland)

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