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Leinster Rugby 24 (10) - (17) 17 Cardiff Blues

Royal Dublin Showground
Saturday, 16 February 2008, 19:30
Att: 14,322

A scratch Leinster team took on Cardiff, for whom the six nations was not as disruptive to the availability of players. A win was essential for Leinster as a win for Cardiff would see them join the league leaders at the top.

Leinster showed signs of unfamiliarity and ring-rustiness early on and Cardiff surged into an early first half lead. Cardiff's first try came with barely five minutes on the clock. The Blues picked and drove their way up to Leinster's try line and Maama Molitika stretched over to open the scoring. Ben Blair obliged with the extra two points.

If the assembled crowd expected Leinster to be jolted into action by the early score they were in for a rude surprise. Instead Cardiff doubled their advantage with Nick Macleod crossing the whitewash. Leinster looked loath to put in tackles as Cardiff surged through the Leinster defence. Blair again struck the extras and Leinster were 14-0 down inside ten minutes and facing just a second home defeat of the season in the R.D.S.

Leinster were handed a route back into the match on twenty minutes when they were awarded a penalty. Felipe Contepomi struck three points to put Leinster on the scoreboard.

Leinster were beginning to click and dominate in the forwards. Putting together phase after phase of rugby, Leinster were camped on the Cardiff line but impressive Cardiff defence kept them at bay. A score before half time appeared to be crucial and eventually Leinster played their way through. Mick Berne, for most of this season confined to AIL and Leinster A, crossed over for a try with barely 10 minutes of the half remaining.

Cardiff were to have the last word of the half though as Leinster's discipline went awry in the dying moments of the half. Blair struck three points for the Welsh side after missing a similar opportunity only moments earlier. Cardiff went into the half time break with a handy seven point lead.

Although Cardiff had the last word of the first half, it was to be their last word of the night as Leinster dominated the second half proceedings. Felipe Contepomi struck two more penalties either side of Molitika's sin binning. On the hour Contepomi put over his fourth penalty of the evening to give Leinster the lead for the first time in the match.

Cardiff were reduced to long range drop goal efforts that were wide of the mark and Ben Blair spurned an opportunity to retake the lead sticking a penalty wide. Leinster sealed victory in the dying minutes with an excellent try from Luke Fitzgerald who received the ball wide on the left and struck a little grubber through the Cardiff defence. Fitzgerald chased it through into the dead ball area and touched down superbly with centimetres to spare. Felipe Contepomi had a conversion attempt to deny Cardiff the bonus point but despite his good form with the boot throughout the match was wide of the mark.

Cardiff left with a bonus point then when after ten minutes it seemed they would get more, and Leinster showed the grit and determination that will be needed if they are to close out on the Magner's League title that has eluded them in the last few seasons.

Match Statistics
  Leinster Rugby   Cardiff Blues
Tries Berne
Conversions Contepomi   Blair (2)
Penalties Contepomi (4)   Blair
Sin Bin     Molitika
Teams Luke Fitzgerald 15 Ben Blair
Shane Horgan 14 Jamie Roberts
Christian Warner 13 Jamie Robinson
Michael Berne 12 Gareth Thomas
Gary Brown 11 Tom James
Felipe Contepomi 10 Nick Lacleod
Chris Whitaker 9 Jason Spice
Cian Healy 1 John Yapp
Ollie Le Roux 2 Gareth Williams
Stan Wright 3 Tauf'au Filise
Trevor Hogan 4 Scott Morgan
Leo Cullen (C) 5 Paul Tito
Cameron Jowitt 6 Maama Molitika
Keith Gleeson 7 Robin Sowden Taylor
Stephen Keogh 8 Xavier Rush (C)
Replacements Brian Blaney (for Healy, 31)
(Healy for Le Roux, 66)
16 Gary Powell (for Filise 64)
Stephen Knoop 17 T Rhys Thomas (for Williams 72)
Devin Toner 18 Ben White
Kevin McLaughlin (for Cullen 33) 19 Mark Lewis
Chris Keane 20 Richie Rees
Eoin O'Malley 21 Rhys Jones
Felix Jones 22 Tal Selley (for Roberts 78)
Officials Referee: Peter Allen (SRU)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2008-02-18