10:03pm Friday 14th February 2014
LEINSTER 31 DRAGONS 19
A PERFORMANCE of real heroism from the Dragons ultimately proved fruitless when they were denied a losing bonus point at the death in Leinster.
Prop Francisco Chaparro was red-carded for a tip tackle allowing the Irishmen to mount one last onslaught which ended in a try – giving them a bonus point and snatching one from the visitors. It was cruel in the extreme.
The game was a confrontation full of drama, the Dragons being reduced to 14 men on three occasions but defending with tremendous guts.
And they managed to score two excellent tries to really worry a powerful Leinster team packed with internationals.
But despite their courage, they were ultimately undone by two penalty tries given against them as their scrum came under intense pressure.
Leinster signalled their intent from the outset when they declined a kick at goal on three minutes to kick to the corner after the Dragons had infringed at the first scrum of the game.
They won the ensuing lineout but knocked on, the Dragons winning their own scrum allowing outside half Jason Tovey to clear.
A Leinster knock on following a lineout gave Tovey the chance to put in an inch-perfect kick to the corner, but the Irishmen won the lineout and cleared.
On twelve minutes the Dragons gave away their fifth penalty of the night and Leinster outside half Ian Madigan slotted over the kick for the first points of the game.
Within minutes the struggling Dragons scrum collapsed and Leinster were on the attack after kicking the penalty to touch.
The Dragons won their first penalty on 16 mintues to relieve the pressure.
The visitors put their best sequence of play together on 19 minutes but it came to an end with a knock on, Leinster comfortably winning the scrum.
From an attacking lineout the Dragons went through 13 phases before Tovey decided enough was enough and put over a drop goal to level the score.
It gave the Dragons confidence but their cause wasn’t helped when prop Nathan Buck was yellow carded for an offence in the loose on 29 minutes.
A few minutes later it got worse for the visitors when experienced Fijian No8 Netani Talei went off injured, replaced by Jevon Groves.
Leinster cranked up the pressure on the 14-man Dragons and inevitably the first try came just before half time, prop Jack McGrath powering through to touchdown. Madigan added the extras to make it 10-3 at half time.
The second half started with a real bang, the visitors scoring two superb tries in as many minutes through Ashley Smith and Richie Rees.
The first came after the Dragons had defended a Leinster onslaught brilliantly before clearing, winning the ball and putting it through the hands for Smith to go over wide out, Tovey missing the conversion.
Then they won the ball following the restart for lively scrum half Rees to touchdown almost in the same place, Tovey unable to add the extras.
Now it was Leinster giving away the penalties, allowing Tovey to put one over on 52 minutes to stretch the Dragons’ lead to six points.
The visitors’ delight was not to last, however, when they were back down to 14-men when Jevon Groves was adjudged to have pulled down a driving maul edging closer to the try line.
The Irishmen opted for a scrum and when the Dragons eight crumbled they were awarded a penalty try which was converted. Leinster were back in the lead 17-16 and turning the screw.
A few minutes later and it was 24-16 from another penalty try, the under-pressure Dragons scrum falling foul of the referee again.
The returning Jevon Groves led a charge that ended with Tovey knocking over another penalty. 24-19.
The Dragons battled on and looked good for a bonus point until Chaparro’s red card took the task just beyond them.
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