Leinster show mettle to outlast willing Glasgow
Glasgow 16 Leinster 23
Monday 16 January 2012
Just the other day, Ieuan Evans was extolling Leinster's virtues as polished purveyors of "total rugby". After less than 30 seconds yesterday, Jonathan Sexton was taking a feed behind his own posts, giving a little shimmy and setting off for the other end of the pitch. He could have been one of those heavily sideburned nominal defenders from the Ajax team who dominated European soccer in the early 1970s and gave rise to "total football".
The Ireland outside-half got his side within 10m of the home line but, come the 80th minute, he was happy to hoof the ball into the main stand from the halfway line to bring a prosaic end to proceedings. This time, there was no champagne stuff from the reigning European champions of the oval ball game – unlike the 52-point, seven-try extravaganza against Bath at the Aviva Stadium a month ago.
Indeed, with four minutes to go, Sean O'Brien, the one-time brickie turned Ireland back-rower, laid himself in front of the ball in the shadow of the Leinster posts to stop Glasgow plundering a try that, if converted, would have squared the contest. As it was, the 14-man Heineken Cup holders clung on for a victory that takes them through to the quarter-finals as Pool 3 winners – on a streak of 11 wins.
"It was every bit as tough as expected," Joe Schmidt, Leinster's head coach, reflected. " We knew today was about rolling our sleeves up and getting an away win. I know there were imperfections in our performance but I don't really care. I'm delighted to get the result."
As well the New Zealander might. It took Schmidt's team 28 minutes to get points on the board. That was due to a supremely impressive first-half effort by the home XV, who were roared on by 6,479 fans – a record for a European tie in Glasgow.
Not for nothing are Sean Lineen's side called the Warriors. They have made a habit of subjecting much-vaunted visitors to a going-over at the home they share with Partick Thistle football club, having turned back Gloucester, Wasps and Bath in recent times. After 32 minutes, they were 6-3 up, thanks to two penalties from their nuggety young fly-half Duncan Weir. Not until the last five minutes of the opening half did O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip and Co manage to batter their way within range of the try-line.
Even then, it took a Fergus McFadden penalty to put them level in first-half injury-time. Having shown such admirable discipline for 40 minutes, the good work was undone three minutes into the second half when teenage centre Stuart Hogg failed to gather a cross-kick out to the right by Sexton, allowing Rob Kearney to collect the bouncing ball and run in Leinster's first try. McFadden slotted the conversion and all of a sudden the visitors had a seven-point cushion. To the credit of the Warriors, they fought their way back.
After an exchange of penalties, replacement scrum-half Colin Gregor jinked over in the left corner and Weir's touchline conversion made it 16-16. With 10 minutes to go, Leinster's substitute scrum-half, Isaac Boss, struggled free and plonked the ball against the right post at the other end, referee Nigel Owens awarding a try after consulting the television official.
McFadden landed the conversion. Again, Glasgow pressed to close the gap, but ultimately to no avail – leaving Lineen, the beaten Warriors' head coach, reflecting: "Leinster are not the European champions for nothing."
Glasgow: Try Gregor. Conversion Weir. Penalties Weir 3.
Leinster: Tries R Kearney, Boss. Conversions McFadden 2. Penalties Sexton, McFadden 2.
Glasgow: R Lamont; T Seymour, S Hogg, G Morrison, C Shaw (T Nathan, 67); D Weir (S Wight, 74), C Cusiter (C Gregor, 59); J Welsh, P MacArthur, E Kalman (G Reid, 70), R Gray (T Ryder, 61), A Kellock (capt) (T Ryder, 32-40), R Harley, C Fusaro, J Barclay (J Beattie, 61).
Leinster: R Kearney; D Kearney (E O'Malley, 63), F McFadden, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan (I Boss, 59); C Healy (H van der Merwe, 63), S Cronin, M Ross (N White, 66), L Cullen (capt), D Toner, S O'Brien, S Jennings (R Ruddock, 59), J Heaslip.
Referee N Owens (Wales).
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