Leinster snuff out Dragons' fire

Leinster 55 - Newport-Gwent Dragons 3
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The Independent Online

Leinster's international brigade warmed up for this weekend's start to the Six Nations with an emphatic victory over Newport-Gwent Dragons in Dublin.

Leinster's international brigade warmed up for this weekend's start to the Six Nations with an emphatic victory over Newport-Gwent Dragons in Dublin.

Shane Horgan and Dennis Hickie both scored twice as a near full-strength Leinster side brushed aside a second-string Dragons outfit at Lansdowne Road. But while the scoreline hardly reflected the two points separating the teams who lie third and fourth in the Celtic League, the game clearly illustrated the difference between their respective countries ahead of the Championship.

As a clear sign of the confidence within Irish ranks, Eddie O'Sullivan bucked the trend of recent years in allowing the Test players to turn out for their provinces the week before the Championship. Captain Brian O'Driscoll was the only player rested as a precaution. Wales, in contrast, remain several lengths behind Ireland on the road to recovery and having already lost Colin Charvis, Duncan Jones and Martyn Williams to injury, they can ill-afford to be weakened further before facing England.

Hence an increasingly nervous Mike Ruddock urged the regions to rest their Test players. They obliged but unlike Llanelli who beat Munster on Saturday, the Dragons were overwhelmed without eight of their key players. They held out for almost half-an-hour against relentless pressure until the dam finally burst with two tries in two minutes for Leinster.

Malcolm O'Kelly gathered a lineout within sight of the line, Reggie Corrigan instigated the drive and Ben Gissing was shoved over. No sooner had David Holwell slotted the conversion than Felipe Contepomi cut through the Dragons to send Horgan over for the second.

Holwell and Contempomi combined in the second half to send Horgan in for his second try before Gordon D'Arcy gave a timely indication of his intentions in this season's Six Nations by bustling through several tackles for Hickie to score.

Hickie grabbed a second to boost his confidence before heading to Rome. As if Ireland needed any more of that.

Leinster Tries: Horgan 2, Hickie 2, Gissing, Contempomi, Ronan; Conversions Holwell 7; Penalties Holwell 2. Newport-Gwent Dragons Penalty: Montgomery.

Leinster: G Dempsey; S Horgan, F Contepomi, G D'Arcy, D Hickie; D Holwell, G Easterby (B O'Riordan, 71); R Corrigan (capt), S Byrne (D Blaney, 58), E Byrne (R Nebbett, 61), L Cullen, M O'Kelly, C Potts, E Miller, N Ronan.

Newport-Gwent Dragons: S Tuipulotu; G Wyatt, P Montgomery, S Winn, B Breeze; C Warlow, G Baber; R Snow (A Black, 64), J Richards (K Crawford, 64), C Anthony (R Thomas, 60), N Edwards (M Veater, 70), P Sidoli, J Ringer, R Oakley, J Forster (capt).

Referee: D Changleng.

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