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Leinster (10) 26 - 10 (3) Agen,
Lansdowne Road, Dublin,
Att: 18,652,
Referee: Wayne Barnes,
Saturday 9th December 2006, 17:30

Magners League duties took a back seat until after Christmas as the Heineken Cup took centre stage. Leinster took on Agen at Lansdowne Road and after defeat in Edinburgh, a win was vital for the Boys in Blue. A tough game was in store with Agen proving that adage that French teams travel badly didn't apply to them with victory over Gloucester at Kingsholm.

Leinster started the better and Chris Whitaker squeezed through after good work from Stephen Keogh to score his first try in European competition. Girvan Dempsey was the latest Leinster player to deputise for Contepomi in kicking duties, but he was unable to convert for another two points.

Leinster were further in front ten minutes later. The ever alert Brian O'Driscoll latched onto a loose pass from Jérôme Miquel to sprint virtually the length of the pitch and touch down, just avoiding the attention of the closing Rupeni Caucaunibuca. The exertion left O'Driscoll physically sick, having been unwell in the week leading up to this match. Once again Dempsey was unable to convert the try and the score stayed 10-0.

Despite a two score lead, Agen were never out of touch, and had Leinster under considerable pressure in the scrum where Stanley Wright was making his debut, having signed on a short-term deal as cover for injured Fosi Pala'amo and Will Green. The forwards, and in particular O'Kelly, Gleeson and Heaslip were excellent in the loose and time again turned over vital possession, denying Agen many clear scoring opportunities.

Leinster could have added to the tally when a move involving Hickie and Horgan fed O'Driscoll for what looked a certain score. Caucaunibuca did deny him this time however as he managed to bat the ball free from O'Driscoll before he could ground the ball. Just before half time Miquel atoned somewhat for his earlier error by slotting over a penalty to close the gap between the teams to just one score.

The second half saw Reggie Corrigan introduced in place of Wright, and although the scrum steadied a little, there was still cause for concern ahead of next weeks game in the Stade Armandie. Gordon D'Arcy took kicking duties over from Dempsey, who had little luck in the first half, and he extended Leinster's lead to ten again with a penalty on 50 minutes, and added three more after 60 minutes following a trip by the ever-involved Miquel.

O'Driscoll Added another 5 points, going over after several phases of play, but Leinster let Agen straight back in for a try of their own three minutes later Caucaunibuca touching down and Miquel converting. While the victory seemed safe, it seemed that a bonus point would elude Leinster. Owen Finegan was held up when it seemed he would score with just three minutes left on the clock.

Agen were reduced to 14 men going into stoppage time with Kees Meeuws yellow carded for infringing at a ruck, and Leinster made the extra man count, scoring their fourth and O'Driscoll's third deep into injury time. O'Driscoll going over in the corner following a looping pass from Malcolm O'Kelly.

Leinster will be hoping for a clean bill of health for the return game with O'Driscoll and Blaney hopefully fully recovered from the illness they took into this game, and with Hickie and Jowitt taking knocks to the head, the latter an apparent concussion. Leinster will be satisfied with the 5 points, meaning that they have taken maximum points from their home games and sit top of the Group 2 table. Michael Cheika will know that the problems in the scrum and place kicking could make a huge difference in the return fixture next Saturday.

Match Stats
  Leinster SU Agen
Tries Whitaker - 2
O'Driscoll - 12, 66, 80 + 5
Conversions   Miquel (1)
Penalties G. D'Arcy (2) Miquel (1)
Teams Girvan Dempsey, Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll (C), Gordon D'Arcy, Denis Hickie, Christian Warner, Chris Whitaker, Ronan McCormack, Brian Blaney, Stanley Wright, Trevor Hogan, Malcolm O'Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip. Pépito Elhorga, Sylvain Mirande, Conrad Stoltz, Manu Ahotaeiloa, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Jérôme Miquel, Nicolas Morlaes (C), CA Eusebio Guinazu, Ace Tiatia, Kees Meeuws, Wilhem Stolz, Sorin Socol, Matthieu Lièvremont, Lucas Ostiglia, Opeti Fonua.
Replacements Corrigan for Wright (41), Jowitt for Keogh (67), Finegan for Jowitt (75), Fitzgerald for Hickie (75), Easterby for Whitaker (75), Lewis for O'Driscoll (80) Badenhorst for Socol (46), Culine for Ostiglia (49), Lafforgue for C Stoltz (61), Cabarry for E Guinazu (65), Galasso for O Fonua (80)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2006-12-09