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Cardiff Blues (10) 16 - 16 (3) Leinster
Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff

Att: 8,619
Saturday, 6th September 2008, 18:30

At last the waiting was over and the new rugby season began as the previous seasons top two went head to head at the Arms Park. There was a settled look to the Cardiff team with the major change being the assumption of the captaincy by the ginger Kiwi Paul Tito. Leinster had a new look to them however with new signing Isa Nacewa in at full back, Cameron Jowitt benefiting from a good pre-season by being selected in the back row, and Ronnie McCormack appearing in the front row after a bad time with injuries.

Leinster struck first with Felipe Contepomi striking a penalty after ten minutes, but that was as good as it got for the champions in the first half. Cardiff dominated possession for the rest of the first half as Leinster struggled to get the big hits in and it was only some wayward place kicking that kept Cardiff from getting on the board.

The breakthrough for the Blues came when Ben Blair crossed over out wide through the flimsy Leinster cover, the kiwi converting his own score. The scoreline hardly flattered the Blues and the half time scoreboard was given a more realistic complexion with a late drop goal by Nicky Robinson giving Cardiff a seven point advantage into the break.

Leinster emerged from the half time break slightly the stronger and received a couple of penalties for breakdown infringements. Contepomi struck both either side of another Nicky Robinson drop goal, to leave the teams a mere four points apart.

Leinster introduced Girvan Dempsey and Luke Fitzgerald with Nacewa showing his versatility by switching to outhalf. Almost instantly Leinster were in better flowing form and it was Nacewa who sent a key passage of play in motion. A garryowen deep into Blues territory was gamely chased by Rob Kearney. Richard Mustoe failed to field the ball and it broke to Malcolm O'Kelly whose pop inside was collected and finished well by Nacewa to score on his debut. Contepomi converted to give Leinster what had seemed an unlikely three point advantage.

Leinster were looking to hold on but inexplicably gave away the softest of penalties failing to move back to an onside position from another kick, despite the referee's warnings. Cardiff were awarded the penalty just inside the Leinster half, and despite having missed two kickable efforts in the first half, Blair struck an excellent kick to level the scores. Leinster had a chance to win it at the death when they, rather unusually for them, attempted a drop goal. But Rob Kearney's boot although powerful, on this occasion was inaccurate and the kick sailed wide of the mark heralding as it did a drawn game and a share of the spoils.

leinsterfans.com Man of the Match: Malcolm O'Kelly

Team Lineups
  Cardiff Blues
  Leinster Rugby
Tries Blair   Naweca
Conversions Blair (1)   Contepomi (1)
Penalties Blair (1)   Contepomi (3)
Drop-Goals Robinson (2)    
Teams Ben Blair
15 Isa Nacewa
Richard Mustoe
14 Shane Horgan
Tom Shanklin
13 Brian O'Driscoll
Jamie Roberts
12 Felipe Contepomi
Chris Czekaj
11 Robert Kearney
Nicky Robinson
10 Jonathan Sexton
Jason Spice
9 Chris Whitaker (C)
Gethin Jenkins
1 Cian Healy
Gareth Williams
2 Bernard Jackman
Taufa'ao Filise
3 Ronan McCormack
Bradley Davies
4 Devin Toner
Paul Tito (C)
5 Malcolm O'Kelly
Mamma Molitika
6 Cameron Jowitt
Andy Powell
7 Shane Jennings
Martyn Williams
8 Jamie Heaslip
Replacements Gary Powell (for Filise, 58)
16 John Fogarty (for Jackman, 79)
T. Rhys Thomas (for Gareth Williams, 58)
17 Stephen Knoop (for McCormack, 51)
Scott Morgan (for Tito, 74)
18 Trevor Hogan
Ben White
19 Sean O'Brien (for Healy, 79)
Darren Allinson (for Spice, 62)
20 Chris Keane
Ceri Sweeney
21 Luke Fitzgerald (for Horgan, 62)
Jamie Robinson (for Blair, 39)
22 Girvan Dempsey (for Sexton, 46)
Not Considered
due to Injury

  Stan Wright
Gordon D'Arcy
Leo Cullen
Officials Referee: Andy Macpherson (SRU)
Assistant Referees: David Bodilly (WRU), Jon Mason (WRU)
TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2008-09-08