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Scarlets (9) 17 - 17 (5) Leinster Rugby
Parc y Scarlet, Llanelli,
Friday, 3rd December 2010, 19:05

I started last week's match report by acknowledging the effort made by Leinster fans to get to the match in Wales. This week it was another trip to Wales and with the deterioration in the weather there were more tales of travel woes from the dedicated Leinster support. Stories of people nine hours in the airport still not getting there and UK based fans turning back when their window wipers gave up on the M4 have appeared on the forum. Fair play to both those who tried and those who succeeded - and there were definitely some who succeeded. Apart from the glimpses of blue in the crowd there were definite strains of 'The Boys in Blue' coming through my television set in the comfort of my living room at various stages. Conditions looked miserable at Parc Y Scarlets. I'm sure this support lifts the players - I know it gave me a lift when I heard it and I shouted at the TV all the louder.

Scarlets were almost over the Leinster line in the second minute. A garryowen from Rhys Priestland was collected by Gareth Maule and a grubber kick through in slippery conditions created problems for the Leinster defence. The ball crossed the try line and Shane Horgan and Morgan Stoddart dived to touch down. Horgan was there first and play restarted with a 22 drop-out. The restart was messy and the ball went into touch. Devin Toner was penalised for interfering with the Llanelli player in the air at the line-out. Priestland put Scarlets on the board with the opening score.

Scarlets kept up the pressure and there was little possession for Leinster. However, a wayward pass from Regan King was hacked forward by Jonathan Sexton. Priestland was first to the ball but carried it over his own try line and was pushed over the dead ball line by a chasing Sexton. Leinster had their first attacking platform of the game. In the scrum, Leinster appeared to have the shove on but Mike Ross lost his footing and Nigel Jones adjudged the scrum to have gone 90, giving Scarlets' the scrum and a chance to clear their lines. Leinster kept possession from the line out with a ball to Dominic Ryan at the back and play continued through nine phases. Eventually the slippery ball got the better of Eoin Reddan and possession was handed back with a scrum to Scarlets. It was another good scrum from Leinster but Scarlets managed to get the ball away and again it was cleared to touch. The throw at the line out was inarguably crooked and a Scarlets' scrum allowed Dan Newton to clear. He kicked directly to touch though giving Leinster possession back in the Scarlets' half. This time the throw was straight. Scarlets put the ball into touch again in the act of tackling Mike Ross giving Leinster another line-out. The throw was short to Rhys Ruddock. After carries by Leo Cullen and Sean O'Brien the ball was passed to Sexton who executed a clever cross field kick to Shane Horgan. He passed back inside to Eoin O'Malley who crossed for his first Leinster try.

As expected in the conditions, much of the play was kept in the forwards. When the ball did get to the backs it was kicked in an effort take advantage of the slippy ball and have their opponents make a mistake. The ball was kicked loose from Leinster possession at a ruck by David Lyons and picked up by Scarlets' Scrum half Tavis Knoyle. He was tackled 5 metres short of the Leinster line by Horgan. Sexton picked the ball up when it popped out of the ruck but it was knocked from his hands and into touch in a tackle. Scarlets had a line-out in the Leinster 22. A knock-on gave Leinster a scrum and a scrum penalty gave them a chance to clear their lines. The ball was kept in by the Scarlets winger but a knock-on by them in the subsequent play gave Leinster a scrum in the Scarlets' half. A crooked feed gave possession back to Llanelli. Leo Cullen was penalised at a ruck just inside the Leinster half. Tavis Knoyle took a quick tap and made a good run. He was tackled just short of the Leinster 5 metre line. The slippy ball popped out the Leinster side of a ruck giving Eoin Reddan a chance to clear to touch. The Scarlets' line-out misfired and Leinster had possession. A penalty against the Scarlets' openside was kicked to touch by Sexton. Pressure continued from Leinster but Scarlets regained possession at a line-out after a Nacewa kick to touch. After an exchange of kicks Jonathan Sexton was penalised for obstructing a chasing Llanelli player and Priestland put Scarlets ahead for the second time in the match.

After the restart the Leinster forwards again took up the challenge with some great carries including a couple from Sean O'Brien. Sexton again tried the cross field kick but play was sloppy from both sides and a scrum to Scarlets was the outcome. A step from Regan King and some deft handling from the Scarlets brought them to the Leinster 22, but Rhys Ruddock earned a penalty for Leinster when Lyons held on in the tackle and Sexton sent play almost back to the half-way line. Scarlets stole the line-out but Leinster stole possession back with a Sean O'Brien interception. An off-side Ajuwa kicked Leinster ball from a ruck which was then hacked on by Gareth Maule. Justice was done however when Ajuwa was penalised for failing to let the covering Sexton back to his feet. Sexton cleared but Leinster were penalised from a maul formed after the resulting line-out. Before the penalty could be taken play was stopped as the bulk of both teams became involved in a brawl. As neither touch judge had seen what seemed to be a flying arm from O'Brien or any of the subsequent offences, including what looked like a punch on Dominic Ryan, Owens had to content himself with calling all 30 players in for a severe telling off. He went back for the original Scarlets' penalty and Priestland increased his sides lead to four. Leinster threatened with a break from McFadden but another crooked throw gave possession back to Llanelli. It was their last opportunity before half-time and they went in four points behind.

The second half began with Scarlets' possession as they went from touchline to touchline in the Leinster 22 looking for a gap in the Leinster line. The Leinster defence held firm for over 20 phases before the Scarlet scrum-half attempted a drop goal in the knowledge there was a scrum to follow for a Leinster knock-on. The defensive effort was appreciated by the travelling support and 'C'mon you boys in blue' could be heard ringing out. The scrum went against the head and play returned to the Scarlets' half. With the Leinster support gaining in volume 'Molly Malone' could be heard as a Leinster scrum held firm but a loose pass from D'Arcy gave possession back to the Scarlets. The sing off on the terraces continued with a rendition of Hymns and Arias from the Scarlets' faithful. D'Arcy atoned for his error almost immediately with a shooter man and ball on Regan King giving Leinster possession again. A charge from Rhys Ruddock brought Leinster into the Scartlets' 22 where Scarlets' were penalised for offside in front of the posts. Sexton missed a relatively easy kick and the gap remained at four.

Leinster rang the changes in the 53rd minute with Hines and Jennings replacing Cullen and Ryan. In a critical and controversial decision Owens penalised and sin-binned Rhys Ruddock for what he and touch judge deemed illegal clearing out at a ruck. Followers on Twitter were left in no doubt what Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip thought of it in any case! Leinster paid a further price when Priestland slotted the kick to bring the gap to seven.

Leinster earned another penalty in the 59th minute after a break from O'Malley but again Sexton was wide of the posts. A block down from the boot of Sexton was kicked ahead by Knoyle 2 minutes later. Nacewa chased back and was able to get the ball away to McFadden who cleared it, but cleared straight to Priestland who ran it back. This led to a period of pressure from Scarlets which culminated in a try for Gareth Maule in the corner. Priestland missed the conversion and Leinster went into the last 15 minutes 12 points down.

Clint Newland replaced Mike Ross for a Scarlets' line-out in their own half. Scarlets retained possession at the line-out and continued to pressurise. Leinster robbed the ball from a Scarlets' attacking line-out in the 22 and Sean O'Brien and Richardt Strauss made ground before the ball went out to the backs. Leinster moved the ball around and advanced up the pitch. The ball went back to the forwards in the Scarlets' 22 but it was Fergus McFadden who eventually made the break and scored the try. Leinster were back within a losing bonus point.

With a spring in their step, Leinster took the restart and a break from Nacewa brought play up to the halfway line. Crossing from Strauss gave Priestland a long range shot which fell short. Fergus McFadden collected and Leinster decided to run the ball from their 22. Another storming run from Sean O Brien brought play to the 10 metre line in the Scarlets' half. A wrap around from Sexton led to the familiar sight of Shane Horgan at full pace down the wing and over the try line. Leinster had their third try. It was a crucial kick for Sexton to level the game and he chose a great time to open his account.

10 minutes earlier and at 12 points down, it was unbelievable to think that Leinster now looked like they could win this game. They continued to put pressure on Scarlets and worked their way into drop goal position just inside the Scarlets' 22. A knock-on in a ruck however, handed possession back to the Scarlets. Ben Morgan fumbled at the back of the scrum and Leinster had another chance to set-up the drop goal and clinch the game. The Leinster scrum was solid and after only one phase the ball came back to Sexton. Unfortunately he had taken his eye off it and spilled it forward. Owens blew it up honours even.

There must be mixed feeling on the result. I'm sure at 17-5 down with 10 minutes to go we'd have settled for a losing bonus never mind a draw but with the missed drop goal and a try tally of one to three you have to wonder how the game would've gone if Jonny had a better return than 1 from 5. With an eye to the next two weeks and the back to back matches against Clermont - Leinster will have to step up a level and build on the guts and resilience shown in the last 10 minutes or not even the insider knowledge of Joe Schmidt can help us. Hopefully the travelling support will have an easier time of it - they certainly deserve it. And hopefully it won't just be an easy journey we'll be raving about this time next week!

Match Statistics
17 - 17
Leinster Rugby
Tries Maule (64)

Eoin O'Malley (14)
Fergus McFadden (71)
Shane Horgan (76)

Sexton (77)
Priestland (4, 27, 35, 55)

Sin Bin

Ruddock (54-64)

Teams Dan Newton
15 Isa Nacewa
Morgan Stoddart
14 Shane Horgan
Gareth Maule
13 Eoin O'Malley
Regan King 12 Gordon D'Arcy
Joe Ajuwa
11 Fergus McFadden
Rhys Priestland
10 Jonathan Sexton
Tavis Knoyle
9 Eoin Reddan

Phil John
1 Heinke van der Merwe
Ken Owens
2 Richardt Strauss
Peter Edwards
3 Mike Ross
Dominic Day
4 Leo Cullen (C)
Damien Welsh
5 Devin Toner
Josh Turnbull
6 Rhys Ruddock
Jonathan Edwards
7 Dominic Ryan
David Lyons (C)
8 Sean O'Brien

Replacements Matthew Rees
16 Tom Sexton
Rhodri Jones
17 Jack McGrath
Deacon Manu (for P. Edwards, 30)
18 Clint Newland (for Ross, 66)
Rod McCusker (for J. Edwards, 53)
19 Nathan Hines (for Cullen, 51)
Ben Morgan (for Lyons, 66)
20 Shane Jennings (for D. Ryan, 51)
Martin Roberts (for Noyle, 66)
21 Paul O'Donohoe
Stephen Jones (for Newton, 56)
22 Sean Berne
Scott Williams (for Maule, 78)
23 Dave Kearney
Not Considered
due to Injury
Jonathan Davies,
Daffyd Jones,
Lou Reed,
Sean Lamont,
Andy Fenby

Stan Wright,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Rob Kearney,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Andrew Conway,
Brendan Macken,
Paul Ryan
Officials Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Colin Kirkhouse, Martyn Lewis (both WRU),
TMO: Hugh Watkins (WRU)

by William Wilson, © 2010-12-06