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Leinster (30) 37 - 20 (17) Gloucester,
Lansdowne Road, Dublin,
Att: 22,530,
Referee: Christophe Berdos (France),
Saturday 21st October 2006

Leinster got off to a great start to their Heineken Cup campaign with a 37-20 win over Gloucester.

The match was less than two minutes old when Gordon D'Arcy cut through the Gloucester midfield and scampered home. However any thoughts of an easy romp were quickly put aside as Gloucester twice opened up the Leinster defence. First Anthony Allen cut through and a certain try was saved by Brian O'Driscoll's timely interception. They had the consolation of a penalty converted by Ryan Lamb. The second time they cut through Leinster weren't so lucky as Mark Foster fended off O'Driscoll's tackle to score after taking a brilliant line off Peter Richards' loop-around. That made it 10-7 and Leinster knew they were in a match.

In fairness they responded superbly and racked up 23 unanswered points. First Contepomi scored a try after his chip luckily rebounded off the post. As Leinster assumed control of the match he then added three penalties. Leinster scored their third try when Gordon D'Arcy intercepted Lamb's wayward pass and fed Denis Hickie. Hickie knew James Bailey had the pace to haul him back so he angled his run superbly before flipping the ball back to Stephen Keogh to score. That made it 30-10 and twenty points was a great lead to take into the second half playing into the wind. The mood was spoiled somewhat as Gloucester scored a try just before half-time. Jack Adams superbly took a pass one-handed and then cut back through the Leinster cover. Lamb converted to make it 30-17 at half-time. In the second half Gloucester came into the game more and made it a ten-point deficit with another Lamb penalty. Then with twenty minutes to go, Malcolm O'Kelly was harshly sin-binned for an offence at the lineout. It looked like Leinster were in trouble but the 14 men responded magnificently by scoring a fourth, match-winning try. Shane Horgan used his power to score off Hickie's clever inside pass to secure the bonus point and effectively kill the game off. That was the last of the scoring and Leinster smartly killed the game off to secure a 17 point victory.

Overall it was an excellent team performance but some individuals deserve a mention. Brian Blaney threw very well and Malcolm O'Kelly dominated in the lineout. The backrow was excellent individually and as a unit, obliterating the much-vaunted Gloucester back-row. Stephen Keogh had his best game for Leinster and capped it with a fine try. He put down a marker and the battle for the number six shirt with Cameron Jowitt has officially hotted up! Keith Gleeson was ubiquitous in the rucks and Jamie Heaslip gave a powerful, authoritive display.

The main concern before the match was how young Cillian Willis would cope on his competitive debut. We needn't have worried though as Willis put in an excellent display. His pass was snappy and accurate, he kicked well and was always confident enough to back himself for a break. He made some mistakes but never dropped the head and he took no nonsense off the aggressive Richards. Whitaker will quite rightly return when fit but Willis has made a major case to be his regular understudy even when Guy Easterby returns from injury. Felipe Contepomi's place-kicking was exemplary in the miserable conditions and he's started this season as he finished last season, on top of the Heineken Cup scorers list. The back five was uniformly excellent, but a special mention must go to Gordon D'Arcy who broke through the Gloucester defence all night. Keith Gleeson was hugely influential but D'Arcy probably should have been named man of the match.

Gloucester are a talented team but the inexperience of their backline was ruthlessly exposed and they really missed the injured Mike Tindall. In fairness to them they still scored two superb tries and will doubtlessly learn from the experience. They weren't too pleased with the refereeing of Christoph Berdos and they probably had a case in some instances. However there was no doubt that the better team still won and suggestions in the media that Gloucester had the game stolen from them by the ref are simply absurd. One thing you have to say about Monsieur Berdos is that he can take a smack to the head. When he lost balance and took an accidental head-butt from Owen Finegan, he somehow managed to stay on his feet. Bigger men than him would have went down.

So a good start by Leinster but Michael Chieka will be ensuring that the squad doesn't get carried away. They're still playing within themselves and he'll emphasize the need to improve to win a tricky match away to Edinburgh next week. But you have to be satisfied with a bonus point win against your most fancied rivals in the group. Hopefully they can follow it up with a win next weekend in Embra!

Match Stats
  Leinster Gloucester
Tries D'Arcy,
Cons Contepomi (4) Lamb (2)
Penalties Contepomi (3) Lamb (2)
Drop Goals Jones  
Teams Dempsey, Horgan, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, D Hickie, Contepomi, Willis, McCormack, Blaney, Green, Hogan, O'Kelly, Keogh, Gleeson, Heaslip. Balshaw; Bailey, Adams, Allen, Foster; Lamb, Richards; Califano, M Davies, Nieto; Bortolami (capt), Eustace; Buxton, Hazell, Forrester.
Replacements Dunne for Willis (80), Vermaas for Blaney (74), Corrigan for Green (71), Byrnes for Hogan (74), Finnigan for Keogh (75). Not Used: Lewis, Fitzgerald. Mercier for Forster (58), Lawson for Richards (54), Wood for Califano (64), Azam for M. Davies (71), Pendlebury for Eustace (72), Boer for Hazell (44). Not Used: Keil.
Sin Bin O'Kelly (55)  

by Jim O'Connor, © 2011-09-11