Ruthless champions Leinster take win
Ruthless champions Leinster maintained their unbeaten start to the new Guinness PRO14 season as they defeated Dragons at a wet and blustery RDS Arena in Dublin.
Dean Ryan had urged his side to ‘chance their arm’ in Ireland and they impressed in the opening half, with full back Jordan Williams diving over.
But the Irish powerhouse province, who had only lost once on home soil in 18 months, still took a lead into the break before cutting loose in the second half.
Leinster, who had already swept Ospreys and Edinburgh aside in bonus point fashion on home soil this term, wrapped up the extra point before the hour mark and finished with eight tries.
Dragons, to their credit, kept going in horrendous conditions and were rewarded with a late score from wing Owen Jenkins.
However, this was a night when a five-try second half show from the hosts underlined their title ambitions and once again showed the huge strength in depth at the club.
Boss Ryan had made two changes to his starting line-up, with Academy graduate centre Connor Edwards and fit-again back row Harri Keddie back in the team.
And there was a further change after the warm-ups with Ollie Griffiths forced out through injury and replaced by Huw Taylor, with James Benjamin coming onto the bench.
The home side made a lively start, as the rain abated for a short spell, as they kept the phases going and subjected the visiting defence to a torrid opening period.
A powerful driving maul was halted just stopped short, but the forwards quickly swarmed again, picked up around the fringes and sent tighthead prop Michael Bent over for the lead.
A first visiting attack saw Adam Warren, Jordan Williams and Edwards carry strongly into contact, but retaining possession was proving difficult in wet conditions.
James Lowe saw a powerful dart halted by lock Joe Davies while Ashton Hewitt had to be alert to run the ball back after the Leinster wing again caused concern with a devilish chip ahead.
The impressive Taine Basham broke clear to spark frantic home defence and when play was pulled back for an earlier penalty, the kick was nudged over by Sam Davies.
An emphatic home rresponse saw brutal ball carrying down the middle from the home pack before deft handling sent wide man Dave Kearney over and Byrne converted.
Dragons hit back just before the half hour as, after a double ricochet, the loose ball was hacked wide by Jenkins to Jordan Williams who showed all his natural skills to pick up and slide over.
Leinster, though, scored a hotly debated third try just before half-time when more strong carrying opened up space and fly half Harry Byrne exploited the space – despite protests for obstruction - to go over before converting his own score for a 19-8 lead.
Heavy rain set in at the start of the second period and Leinster immediately went to the driving maul and pushed over for the try bonus courtesy of hooker Ronan Kelleher.
Moments later another clinical home score, and the pick of the night’s tries, saw Kearney take an inch perfect cross field kick at full pace and exchange passes before darting in for a 29-8 lead.
Dragons continued to battle away in testing conditions, but they could no nothing to stop Lowe as he broke out wide and raced for the corner.
The tries were beginning to flow as a ball was hacked ahead and spun cruelly loose for Hugh O’Sullivan to dot down before Lowe broke away for an eighth home try.
The final word went to Dragons who repelled late pressure and then broke up field with Jenkins scoring deep into injury time, with Davies converting.
09m Bent t 5-0
20m Davies p 5-3
22m Kearney t Byrne c 12-3
29m J. Williams t 12-8
33m Byrne t Byrne c 19-8
44m R. Kelleher t 24-8
47m Kearney t 29-8
59m Lowe t Byrne c 36-8
62m O’Sullivan t Byrne c 43-8
64m Lowe t Byrne c 50-8
80m Jenkins t Davies c 50-15
Leinster: Jimmy O’Brien, Dave Kearney, Rory O’Loughlin, Conor O’Brien, James Lowe, Harry Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Peter Dooley, Ronan Kelleher, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Ryan Baird, Max Deegan, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris
Replacements from: James Tracy, Michael Milne, Jack Aungier, Ross Moloney, Will Connors, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciaran Frawley, Cian Kelleher
Dragons: Jordan Williams, Owen Jenkins, Adam Warren, Connor Edwards (Morgan 48), Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Baldwin 62); Brok Harris (Reynolds 74), Richard Hibbard (Shipp 71), Leon Brown (Fairbrother 71), Joe Davies, Matthew Screech (M.Williams 66), Harri Keddie (Benjamin 62), Taine Basham, Huw Taylor
Replacements: Ellis Shipp, Josh Reynolds, Lloyd Fairbrother, Max Williams, James Benjamin, Luke Baldwin, Arwel Robson, Tyler Morgan
Referee: Andrea Piardi (ITA)