Leinster slip to third successive Pro14 game without a win
By Daire Walsh
ON a weekend when all four Irish teams confirmed their places in the Guinness PRO14 knockout rounds, Leinster fell to a comprehensive 39-24 home defeat at the hands of Glasgow Warriors.
This means Leo Cullen’s men are on a run of three consecutive league games without a win and while they remain assured of top spot in Conference B, there is cause for concern ahead of their Champions Cup showdown with Toulouse on Sunday.
Their sole win since the conclusion of the Six Nations Championship was a European quarter-final success over Ulster and that was a far from vintage performance by the Blues. While the champions were already looking forward to a home encounter in the last-four of the PRO14, Glasgow arrived in south Dublin seeking a similar prize.
They are neck-and-neck with Munster in Conference A, meaning the Red Army were hoping for an unlikely favour from their arch rivals. For the second week in succession, Kill’s James Tracy was selected to lead the Leinster front-row – this time alongside Ed Byrne and Michael Bent.
Another native of the Kildare village – Adam Byrne – was named on the bench, where Donadea man Will Connors stood out as a notable inclusion. Having suffered a cruciate ligament injury in a pre-season friendly encounter with Newcastle Falcons, the gifted back-row finally returned to full fitness in recent weeks.
He was introduced in place of Jack Dunne just shy of the hour mark for his first-time debut, before making way for Max Deegan 15 minutes later. Despite coming away with a try-bonus in the RDS, Leinster couldn’t halt the charge of their Scottish counterparts.
Former students of Clongowes Wood College in Clane, the Kearney brothers – Rob and Dave – grabbed a try apiece in the opening half. However, the hosts still found themselves six adrift (18-12) at the break.
Although they repeated the trick on the resumption, three tries inside the closing-quarter gave Glasgow maximum points in the end. Whereas Benetton had denied Leinster victory in Ballsbridge six days earlier, they were on the receiving end of a nine-point reversal (37-28) to Munster on home soil last Friday.
Even though the Kildare duo of Tadhg Beirne and Joey Carbery were marked absent, Athy’s Jeremy Loughman was making his ninth start of the current season and his 18th appearance overall.
Given they also have a Champions Cup semi-final to look forward to this weekend (against Saracens in Coventry), it is understandable that Johann van Graan fielded a largely second string outfit. Nevertheless, they managed to get the job done – Rhys Marshall, Dan Goggin, Shane Daly and Alby Mathewson all crossing over in a bonus-point success.
In addition to Ulster sealing second spot in Conference B with a 29-7 triumph over Edinburgh, Connacht’s impressive 29-22 win at the expense of Cardiff Blues ensured they will compete in the PRO14 quarter-finals. Having recently become the province’s all-time leading scorer, Jack Carty contributed 14 points for the victorious westerners.