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Leinster (20) 35 - 13 (13) Newport Gwent Dragons,
Donnybrook, Dublin,
Att: 4,790,
Referee: Graeme Hannah,
Saturday 4th November 2006, 19

A superb individual performance from captain Felipe Contepomi inspired Leinster to a 35-13 over the Dragons at Donnybrook. However Michael Chieka was far from happy with the overall team performance, which was mixed to say the least.

The Dragons scored the first try of the match when powerful centre Paul Emerick burst through the Leinster cover and set up veteran full-back Gareth Wyatt to scoot in. The conversion was missed and Leinster slowly worked their way into the game, Contepomi kicking two penalties. Mike Hercus kicked a penalty to make the score 8-6 but then Dragons hooker Kieron Crawford was sin-binned. Leinster took advantage when Contepomi danced through for his first try. He converted and "Dancing Phil" repeated the trick ten minutes later. He converted again to make the score 20-6 to Leinster. He blotted his copybook somewhat by being sinbinned after he handled in the ruck after making a try-saving tackle. In his absence the Dragons scored a try through Richard Fussell to make the half-time score 20-13.

Leinster managed to survive Contepomi's absence without conceding though. They then effectively killed the game with two tries in five minutes. First Contepomi cut through the defence again to link up with Christian Warner, who scored a try to celebrate his fiftieth Leinster cap. Then on 61 minutes a ball popped out of a scrum and Willis fed Gary Brown who showed great pace to score in the corner. This secured the bonus point and the game pretty much fizzled out from there. Contepomi's late penalty completed the scoring.

In the light of a five-point win, some coaches might have chosen to gloss over the performance. However Michael Chieka was not happy with what he saw.

I'm about performance, and we played poorly. I don't want to be too hard, but the players know we've got to perform better in the basics of the game. Making so many breaks, then throwing the ball away. Not building through the phases, being a bit over-eager. Sometimes you've got to hold yourself back a little bit, just play what's in front of you, instead of trying to play the magic ball."

Leinster face Glasgow this Friday at Donnybrook and will then have a three-week sabbatical until the Ulster match on the 2nd of December. Chieka and his coaching staff may well use the break to discuss the two fundamental problems that Leinster face.

First there's the lineout system, which just doesn't work. The players appear to have no confidence in it and the quality of ball it provides is hampering the efforts to release the backs. Despite Chieka's strong faith in the "improvised" system, it's clear that something else is needed. Unless there's a dramatic improvement in this area, we will not be competing for silverware at the end of the season.

Secondly, there's the appalling disciplinary record. Contepomi's sin-binning brought the yellow card tally to ten in nine games. In fact the only game this season Leinster didn't get a yellow card was the game against Llanelli. Averaging more than one yellow card a game is simply unsustainable for a team with any sort of ambition.

These are tough issues for the Leinster management. However it is better to face them now with the crucial period of the season still to come then to look back on what might have been had action been taken. Michael Chieka has shown he is a brave and honest coach and his actions on these matters may well prove pivotal to Leinster's campaign.

Match Stats
  Edinburgh Leinster
Tries F. Contepomi 1, 2
C. Warner
G. Brown
G. Wyatt
R. Fussell
Cons F. Contepomi (3)
Penalties F. Contepomi (3)
Teams Fitzgerald, Brown, Lewis, Warner, Hickie, Contepomi, Willis, McCormack, Blaney, Pala'amo, Finnigan, Toner, Keogh, Gleeson, Heaslip. Wyatt, N. Brew, Emerick, Smith, Fussell, Hercus, Walker, Black, Crawford, Harrison, Hall, Sidoli, Bearman, Ringer, Fitisemanu.
Replacements Berne for Warner (58), McCarron for Hickie (67), Dunne for Willis (76), Vermaas for Blaney (64), Corrigan for Pala'amo (41), Ronan for Heaslip (73). Not Used: Byrnes A. Brew for Emerick (63), Warlow for Hercus (64), Ireland for Walker (60), George for Harrison (76), Griffiths for Sidoli (58), Charvis for Fitisemanu (57).
Sin Bin F. Contepomi (40+4) K. Crawford (26)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2006-11-04