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Leinster Rugby (12) 25 - 11 (3) Bath Rugby
European Champions Cup Pool 5
RDS Showground, Dublin
Saturday, 16th January 2016, 17:30

Leinster faced Bath at the RDS already out of the Champions Cup and with the English side needing a win to keep their hopes alive. Since the European defeats of earlier in the season, Leinster's form has improved in the league and most Leinsterfans will have been excited to see the young team given their chance. With the result immaterial to Leinster it was a chance for the younger players to gain valuable experience at this level and to show Leinsterfans that the future is bright.

It was a task they took to with gusto. They took on the English side from the off and were rewarded with a penalty in the 8th minute which Madigan successfully converted. One passage of play showed some of the best of the man of the match performance from Ross Molony including a line-out steal and some great play in the tight. This led to the first scrum of the game and the first test for the front row with an average age of 23. The penalty conceded by a push on Luke McGrath while the ball was still in the scrum was missed by Madigan.

A line-out for Bath in the 28th minute led to a strong driving maul from the visitors which earned them a penalty and a chance to level the game which was taken by George Ford. Within 5 minutes however the lead had been regained by Leinster following a Bath lineout infringement. A lazy retreat from Bath's Dominic Day at ruck time allowed Madigan to increase this lead and reduced the Bath team to 14 for the last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second. Bath came close to scoring the first try of the game in that period however when an offload from Ben Te'o found Jonathon Joseph. His kick ahead left it to the TMO to decide if the touchdown was attributed to Dave Kearney or Leroy Houston, with the official deciding in the Louth man's favour. Another penalty on half time for an acrobatic high tackle meant that Leinster went in 12 3 ahead.

Both teams started the second half with intent. A Bath maul broke up in the Leinster 22 and the ball was stripped by Luke McGrath. This passage of play led to another Ringrose break and a Leinster penalty in the Bath 22 which they elected to kick to the corner. Bath managed to prevent the formation of a Leinster maul from the line-out but conceded a penalty several phases later in a more kickable position, which Madigan converted.

Having acquitted themselves admirably the young front row was replaced by the more familiar faces of Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Marty Moore on 47 minutes, with Tom Denton also replacing the excellent Mike McCarthy. The replacements took up where the starters had left off and after a period of play involving impressive carries from McGrath, Cronin and Denton, Bath were penalised for not rolling away. The line-out from the resulting penalty was the only one Leinster lost on their own throw. This led to a period of Bath resurgence with a series of penalties leading to a try for the Bath forwards. Leinster struck back immediately. Cronin took advantage of Bath confusion at the restart to take possession. It was also Cronin who crossed the line bringing the score to 22 8 following the conversion. Bath did close the gap following a tip tackle by Ben Te'o but the highlight of the final period was Ringrose chasing his own kick and not only tackling the receiving Bath player but managing, along with the Leinster cavalry, to hold him up and earn the put in to the resulting scrum to a resounding rendition of Molly Malone from the supporters. Both teams threatened in this closing period but there was to be only one more score from the boot of Madigan giving a final score of 25 11.

The performance comes too late to save Leinster's European season but it will have certainly lifted the spirits of the fans. There were so many positives; both the tight and loose play of all 5 tight forwards including four getting their first European starts, James Tracy's consistent line-out throwing, Luke McGrath's distribution and Garry Ringrose's intelligent defence matching his exciting attack. Europe may be gone for this year but this is a team that are showing signs of successful rebuilding.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby 25 - 11
Bath Rugby
Tries Cronin

Conversions Madigan

Penalties Madigan (6)

Ford (2)
Yellow Cards

Day (35-45)
Teams Zane Kirchner
15 Anthony Watson
Isa Nacewa (C)
14 Semesa Rokoduguni
Garry Ringrose 13 Jonathan Joseph
Ben Te'o 12 Kyle Eastmond
Dave Kearney 11 Matt Banahan
Ian Madigan
10 George Ford
Luke McGrath 9 Chris Cook

Peter Dooley 1 Max Lahiff
James Tracy 2 Rob Webber
Tadhg Furlong
3 David Wilson
Ross Molony
4 Stuart Hooper (C)
Mike McCarthy
5 Dominic Day
Rhys Ruddock
6 Matt Garvey
Josh van der Flier
7 Francois Louw
Jordi Murphy 8 Leroy Houston

Replacements Sean Cronin
16 Ross Batty
Jack McGrath
17 Nick Auterac
Marty Moore
18 Henry Thomas
Tom Denton
19 Charlie Ewels
Sean O'Brien 20
David Denton
Eoin Reddan 21 Jonathan Evans
Johnny Sexton
22 Rhys Priestland
Noel Reid
23 Tom Homer

Not Considered
due to Injury
Jack Conan,
Edward Byrne,
Mick Kearney,
Hayden Triggs,
Jamie Heaslip,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Cian Healy

Dave Attwood,
Niko Matawalu
Officials Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France),
Assistant Referees: Maxime Chalon, Jean-Luc Rebollal (both France),
Citing Commissioner: Alberto Recaldini (Italy),
TMO: Eric Gonthier (France)

by Yvonne Kelly, © 2016-01-17