Harry Byrne impresses as Leinster run in eight tries against Dragons
Young outhalf scores a try and lands five conversions as Lowe and Kearney double up
Daire Walsh at the RDS
Leinster 50 Dragons 15
Harry Byrne amassed a personal haul of 15 points at the RDS as Leinster cruised to a convincing bonus-point triumph over Dragons and keep up their unbeaten start in the Guinness Pro 14.
Leo Cullen’s side registered eight tries over the course of the action with wingers Dave Kearney and James Lowe both bagging braces for the rampant champions. This result means Leinster are still the only unbeaten side in the competition and have now opened up a five-point gap at the summit of the Conference A table.
After failing to cross the whitewash in last Saturday’s drab affair in Zebre, there was just nine minutes on the clock when Leinster pounced for the opening try of the night.
Byrne’s conversion drifted past the target and courtesy of some handling errors in possession, they briefly handed the initiative to Dean Ryan’s Dragons. The visitors manufactured a penalty and outhalf Sam Davies made no mistake with his first kick at goal.
Nevertheless, Leinster were gradually rediscovering their attacking groove and their second try inevitably arrived on 22 minutes. Following initial approach work from Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin, the quick hands of Scott Penny released Kearney for a clinical run over the line.
Byrne superbly added the conversion to give the hosts a nine-point cushion, but Dragons once again responded at the opposite end. When the ball broke free into his path, fullback Jordan Williams was left with a simple touchdown in the left corner.
This was only a minor speed bump for the holders, though, who subsequently ended the half in fine style.
Another prolonged attack found its way towards Byrne and he burst through a gap for his second try of the campaign. He supplemented this effort with another conversion to give Leinster a 19-8 buffer at the interval.
Given how impressive Dragons were in dismissing the challenge of Glasgow Warriors last weekend, the Blues had reason to be wary of a potential backlash. However, the exact opposite proved to be the case.
Within four minutes of the resumption, Ronan Kelleher dotted down off the back of another incisive lineout maul, securing the bonus point, and also serving to enhance the growing reputation of the 21-year-old hooker.
He claimed a hat-trick in last month’s facile home victory over the Ospreys. Kearney matched this feat in the opening round success at the expense of Benetton and he jinked through for his second try of the night on 47 minutes.
Though this effectively ended the game as a contest, there was little prospect of Leinster easing off in the closing stages. Dragons managed to hold out for a sustained period, only for their superior opponents to once again thrown off the shackles in spectacular fashion.
Either side of Hugh O’Sullivan’s maiden try at the professional grade, the elusive Lowe crossed over to cap another accomplished display on the left wing. Byrne supplemented all three of these scores with conversions and was later announced as man of the match on a blustery evening in Ballsbridge.
A resolute Dragons bagged a consolation score at the death through winger Owen Jenkins, but it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the Leinster faithful.
LEINSTER: J O’Brien; D Kearney, R O’Loughlin, C O’Brien, J Lowe; H Byrne, J Gibson-Park; P Dooley, R Kelleher, M Bent; D Toner, R Baird; M Deegan, S Penny, C Doris.
Replacements: J Tracy for Kelleher, M Milne for Dooley, J Aungier for Bent (all 53 mins), R Molony for Toner (58), C Frawley for C O’Brien, H O’Sullivan for Gibson-Park (both 60), C Kelleher for O’Loughlin (65), W Connors for Doris (71).
DRAGONS: J Williams; O Jenkins, A Warren, C Edwards, A Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams; B Harris, R Hibbard, L Brown; J Davies, M Screech; H Keddie, T Basham, H Taylor.
Replacements: T Morgan for Edwards (48 mins), J Benjamin for Keddie, L Baldwin for R Williams (both 60), M Williams for Screech (66), E Shipp for Hibbard, L Fairbrother for Brown (both 71), J Reynolds for Harris (74).
Referee: A Piardi (Italy).