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Newport Gwent Dragons 18 (12) - (6) 9 Leinster Rugby
Rodney Parade, Newport
Friday 16 May 2009, 17:30

For the second consecutive season Leinster finished their league campaign in Newport and for the second consecutive season it was a dead rubber. This time around, sadly for Leinster it was that the league was already lost rather than already won.

In truth there wasn't much of anything to play for with Newport knowing they faced a play off for the Heineken Cup next season irrespective of their result here. For Leinster it was an opportunity for the likes of Rob Kearney, Girvan Dempsey, Simon Keogh and Fergus McFadden to push for the Heineken Cup final 22.

Leinster opened the scoring through the boot of McFadden whose kicking ability makes him a genuine contender for the bench in Edinburgh next week. Leinster couldn't maintain their bright start however and soon fell foul of the referee.

First Sean O'Brien found himself in the bin for an infringement at the ruck. Dragon's missed the ensuing penalty through Tovey. However just after O'Brien's ten minute spell on the sidelines McFadden found himself at the receiving end of a referee's card for denying a try scoring opportunity. McFadden had been deemed to have hauled back Tovey and although there was contact it was debatable whether it was sufficient to halt the progress of the Dragon's out half. Nevertheless a penalty try was awarded and the conversion inevitably followed.

Within five minutes Dragon were over again through Martyn Thomas. The Leinster lineout had malfunctioned in a good position and Dragon's made the most of the opportunity to score. The conversion was missed however leaving the gap at 9.

McFadden returned to the fray and almost instantly was called on to kick after a Dragon's infringement at the ruck. The 40 yard kick was not a straightforward one but the young man handled it with aplomb and Leinster cut the gap to six, this was the way it remained into the break.

The second half saw Michael Cheika freshen up the team with some very fresh faces. David Kearney, Jamie Hagan and Ian Madigan were all sprung from the bench to make senior debuts. The unusual sight of brothers lining out for Leinster was realised with the Kearney brothers on the pitch. With so many young players on the park it is perhaps no surprise that Leinster were slightly ragged and Dragons were more composed.

Nonetheless McFadden struck a penalty to cut the gap to three and an unlikely win seemed possible for Leinster. Another penalty from McFadden missed the target and it was Dragons who scored next to leave Leinster needing a converted try for victory.

Try as they might Leinster couldn't breach the Newport defence and in fact it was Dragons who struck the final blow with Arlidge sending over a penalty to deny Leinster a losing bonus point.

Perhaps this match provided a sage reminder of the current lack of depth in the Leinster squad but it did provide much needed experience for some emerging players. The kicking of McFadden in particular will give him a good shot at benching for next weeks game when all the big guns are back to try and finish Leinster's season in style and with silverware.

by Sarah Lennon, © 2009-05-19