Match Report – RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 52-9 Cardiff Blues
2nd December @ The RDS
Leinster cut loose in the second half against a Cardiff team that was seriously weakened by international call-ups for the Wales clash with Australia. Despite trailing by only four points at half-time, Cardiff never looked like taking anything from this game. It was a complete team performance from Leinster as they ran in six unanswered tries. There were accomplished displays from a number of Leinster’s squad players as they showed the strength in depth Joe Schmidt currently has to choose from.
It was the Blues who were first off the mark at the RDS as Ceri Sweeney notched a penalty after Steven Sykes was penalised for side entry at a maul. Fergus McFadden replied almost immediately with a penalty of his own. Leinster scored their opening try inside the first ten minutes after deft hands from Eoin O’Malley and Isa Nacewa released Dave Kearney to make good ground into the Cardiff half. After good carries from the likes of Sykes, Ian Madigan and Leo Cullen, Nacewa was tackled inches short of the line. Isaac Boss was on hand to sneak over from close-range. McFadden added the extras for a 10-3 Leinster lead.
McFadden was on target with another skillfully-struck kick when Cardiff were pinged for not rolling away after the tackle. McFadden dealt well with a strong wind blowing against him by drilling his place-kick with a low trajectory. That was to be Leinster’s last score in the first-half, although they did threaten out wide on occassion.
First, a beautiful, flat skip pass from McFadden allowed Nacewa to break out of the Leinster 22. Then Madigan displayed his passing skills as he floated a gorgeous pass over the Cardiff defence to release Fionn Carr. Neither chance came to anything but they were clear signs of what was to come in the second-half.
Cardiff did reduce the deficit before half-time with two more Sweeney penalties. Cullen was offside for the first and then Cian Healy was guilty of the same offence. Healy was perhaps a little lucky to escape with just conceding a penalty as he scuffled with Paul Tito. Cardiff scarcely deserved to be within four points at half-time after a poor showing in the opening forty minutes and Leinster began to put their superiority on the scoreboard in the opening minutes of the second half.
Madigan’s fantastic restart led to a Leinster lineout from which Cardiff’s Maama Molotika was offside. McFadden was on target with the penalty from out to the left, another confident kick. A superb counter-attacking try then gave Leinster some breathing space. Madigan collected a long Richie Rees box-kick in the centre of the field, on his own 10 metre line. He shifted it to Nacewa who sent Carr bursting onto the ball, beating a tackle and offloading to Madigan. The young outhalf hit Nathan White on his inside shoulder and the prop showed respectable pace to finish the try. McFadden converted from under the uprights to give Leinster a 23-9 advantage.
With Leinster turning the pressure up now, McFadden dropped a goal as referee Andy MacPherson indicated the penalty advantage. Cardiff were then presented with an opportunity to drag themselves back into the game when Leo Cullen was sent to the bin for side entry as the Blues were held up just short of the Leinster tryline. The Leinster support summed up the general feeling that the Blues would fail to take advantage of having an extra man as they chanted “Leo, Leo, Leo” with the captain jogging off.
A knock-on from John Yapp saw the Cardiff effort break down and allowed Madigan to kick clear. Cardiff scrumhalf Rees joined Cullen in the sin-bin when he was offside after Leinster retained the ball through multiple phases tight to the ruck. Madigan kicked to the corner to set up field position for another Leinster score.
Replacement hooker Sean Cronin picked out Rhys Ruddock at the lineout. Madigan carried and then Jennings burst onto the ball coming around the corner. From there, Reddan switched play back to the blindside and Madigan took a short, hard line off his pop pass to surge over for Leinster’s third try. With his last contribution to the game, McFadden kicked the conversion to leave the field with six from six off the tee.
Jonathan Sexton replaced the try-scorer Madigan and had a big hand in the next Leinster try. Dave Kearney started and finished another impressive passage of play from the home side. The wing was impressive under the high ball as Cardiff kicked out from their own line. Ruddock then showed strength to offload out of the tackle before Shane Jennings floated a good pass out to Rob Kearey. Nacewa was tackled on the left-hand touchline and Cronin carried from that ruck. Reddan then hit Sexton who struck a delicate, angled chip for Dave Kearney to gather and dot down on the opposite side of the pitch. Sexton was wide to the right with his conversion effort.
The floodgates were now firmly open and Leinster scored direct from the Cardiff restart. Sexton put Cronin through a hole outside the Leinster 22 and the hooker raced into the Cardiff half before slipping the ball back inside to Sexton. The outhalf popped inside to Nacewa who was hauled down. But Dave Kearney was quickly onto the scene and he picked from the ruck, beating off two flimsy tackles on his way to touching down. Sexton was on target with this conversion.
Leinster finished the match with another try as Cardiff lost all interest. Substitute No.8 Leo Auva’a took a quick tap after a penalty was given Leinster’s way at scrum-time. The New Zealander burst over the line as Cardiff’s back-row watched on. Sexton knocked over the difficult conversion from out to the left to wrap up the 52-9 win. Joe Schmidt will be delighted with what he saw from his squad ahead of next weekend’s crucial Heineken Cup clash with Bath. There are players competing for every position in his squad and things are looking good for Leinster right now.
Photos courtesy: M+MD