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Llanelli Scarlets (3) 10 - 24 (17) Leinster Rugby
Stradey Park, Llanelli
Saturday, 29 March 2008, 17.30
Att: 7,407

A tough task awaited Leinster as the League's top two clashed in South Wales. The Welsh region had inflicted Leinster's last league defeat at the RDS, and on that day Leinster had defended poorly. On this visit Leinster knew that they couldn't afford to repeat that performance or else their lead at the top would be eroded. The weatherman predicted a wet and windy evening, not suited to either teams expansive style and the weather lived up to its billing.

Leinster had kept the bulk of the team from the previous match with Jonathan Sexton coming in at outhalf and Contepomi in the centre. Leinster also boasted an immensely experienced second row where Malcolm O'Kelly was making his 140th appearance for the Province, a new record, and Leo Cullen was pulling on the navy for the 100th time.

If the weather was cats and dogs, the opening exchanges were cat and mouse and it was clear it wasn't going to be a pretty match. However Leinster were doing the better in terms of grunt and were dominating the scrum. The wind was also favouring the province and with Contepomi and Sexton on the pitch they were able to send some excellent kicks deep into Llanelli territory and keep the region on the back foot.

It was one of those grunt merchants who opened the days scoring. Ollie le Roux was unstoppable as he crashed over after twelve minutes taking three tacklers with him. Contepomi struck the conversion to give Leinster a seven point lead.

Contepomi and Stephen Jones exchanged penalties to leave the score 10-3 and it appeared to be heading that way at half time until Le Roux struck again. As with the first try, Leinster ground their way forward towards the try line, and again it was Le Roux who bundled over and having consulted the television match official the referee awarded a try, which Contepomi converted again. Leinster went in for the half time oranges with a fourteen point lead.

Scarlets emerged for the second half and with the wind at their back looked to claw their way back into the game. Scarlets were spending more time in the Leinster half and were awarded a series of penalties. With the wind causing havoc at the lineout and tries needed the Scarlets opted to take scrums. And with close on a quarter of an hour of the second half gone the tactic paid off with Daffyd Jones crossing over. Stephen Jones made heavy work of the conversion via the woodwork, but it went over and suddenly Leinster's lead was halved.

To the massive credit of the team, the response was instantaneous. Again Leinster rucked and drove their way to the Llanelli try line, and again it was a forward for crashed over. This time however it was Malcolm O'Kelly, and on the day he replaced Reggie Corrogan as Leinster's most capped player the try was received with elation by his team mates. Again Contepomi struck the conversion, and the lead was again two scores.

A combination of immense defence, both legal and illegal saw Leinster reduced to thirteen men as Whitaker and Blaney were binned. But not only were Llanelli unable to put together a platform from which to try to win the game, Leinster were in the mood to deny them a bonus point as well.

The win leaves Leinster with a healthy lead at the top, but with four difficult games remaining they will know that the winning streak will need to continue for the rest of the season.

Match Statistics
  Llanelli Scarlets   Leinster Rugby
Teams Morgan Stoddart 15 Rob Kearney
Dafydd James 14 Shane Horgan
Regan King 13 Michael Berne
Gavin Evans 12 Felipe Contepomi
Mark Jones 11 Luke Fitzgerald
Stephen Jones 10 Jonathan Sexton
Dwayne Peel 9 Chris Whitaker
Phil John 1 Ollie Le Roux
Mahronri Schwalger 2 Bernard Jackman
Bruce Douglas 3 Stan Wright
Scott Macleod 4 Leo Cullen
Lou Reed 5 Malcolm O'Kelly
Dafydd Jones 6 Stephen Keogh
Gavin Thomas 7 Shane Jennings
Alix Popham 8 Jamie Heaslip
Replacements Ben Broster (for Douglas, 70) 16 Brian Blaney (for Jackman, 42)
Matthew Rees (for Schwalger, 40) 17 Cian Healy (for Le Roux, 74)
Adam Eustace (for Reed, 54) 18 Trevor Hogan (for O'Kelly, 77)
Nathan Thomas (for Stoddart, 64) 19 Cameron Jowitt (for Jennings, 79)
Gavin Cattle 20 Keith Gleeson (for Keogh, 40)
Cieron Thomas 21 Chris Keane
Matthew Watkins (for Evans, 54) 22 Girvan Dempsey (for Berne, 68)
Not Considered
due to Injury
    Brian O'Driscoll
Gordon D'Arcy
Fergus McFadden
Officials Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)
Sub Referee: Hugh Watkins (WRU)
Touch Judge: Simon Harris (WRU)
TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2008-03-31