Rugby Union: North's sucker punch

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The Independent Online
Leinster. . . . . . . .8

Northern Division. . .10

WHEN Leinster's team management sit down to analyse this performance against the Northern Division at Donnybrook yesterday evening, they will look at the relationship between pressure and points and realise that there is a mountain of work to be done to correct the balance.

The players, meanwhile, learnt the harshest of lessons. Having done everything but put sufficient points on the board, they conceded the game in the final minute when John Sleightholme scored a try and Gerry Ainscough converted from the touchline. The final whistle went as the ball sailed over the bar.

North realised they had escaped with a remarkable win, given the pounding they had taken for almost the entire game. Nowhere did they suffer more than at the line-out, where Kevin Westgarth and Andy Macfarlane were obliterated.

But, fortunately for North, the Leinster backs opted to drift across when in possession and when the tackles went in the North forwards proved more adept at getting between Leinster and the ball. Leinster turned over far too many rucks and mauls to a wilier North pack.

At half-time a Phil Lawlor try and Paul Hennebry penalty were all Leinster had to show for what John Barnes might call 40 minutes' sheer slog. They slogged away again in the second half but to no avail. Ainscough's 66th minute penalty gave North a whiff of victory and as they raised the pace of the game Leinster were found wanting.

When Sleightholme touched down in the corner he did so off third-phase possession as North suddenly found the vigour to ruck rather than stand and watch. Ainscough completed Leinster's misery with his touchline kick.

Leinster: Try Lawlor; Penalty Hennebry. Northern Division: Try Sleightholme; Conversion Ainscough; Penalty Ainscough.

LEINSTER: C O'Shea (Lansdowne); D O'Brien (Clontarf), M Ridge (Blackrock), V Cunningham (St Mary's), M Costelloe (Terenure); P Hennebry (Terenure), F Aherne (Lansdowne, capt); H Hurley (Old Wesley), J Murphy (Greystones), D Dowling (St Mary's), M O'Neill (Blackrock), J O'Callaghan (Wanderers), C Pim (Old Wesley), P Lawlor (Bective Rangers), R Love (Old Wesley).

NORTHERN DIVISION: M Jackson (Fylde); J Sleightholme (Wakefield), B Barley (Wakefield), K Simms (LSH, capt), S Bromley (Rugby); G Ainscough (Orrell), D Scully (Wakefield); M Whitcombe (Sale), S Mitchell (West Hartlepool), S Peters (Waterloo), D Baldwin (Sale), W Westgarth (West Hartlepool), M Pepper (Nottingham), A Macfarlane (Sale), A Ireland (Fylde).

Referee: G Crothers (Ulster).

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