An under whelming performance by Leinster left Matt O’Connor missing the Irish troupe of players on a night where his Welsh opponents, Newport Gwent Dragons, nearly inflicted misery on his Leinster team but ultimatly the province won out 23 – 19 in Rodney Parade.
Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor opted to start summer signing Zane Kirchner – after a brief cameo last weekend against Irish rivals Connacht – at full back alongside fellow summer signing Lote Tuqiri who started on the wing.
The gamble didn’t pay off in the opening 40 minutes as Leinster struggled to break down a Dragons side who looked far more together then a Leinster team who had many new faces trying to replicate the same Leinster style.
An early bout of Leinster pressure when a move that began and ended with out half Jimmy Gopperth going over came to nothing as the the video referee judged – correctly – that on the previous off load Noel Reid was in touch.
Dragons to their credit weren’t afraid of the challenge that lay before them. Centre pairing Ross Wardle and Patrick Leach were at the heart of everything that went right and culminated on the 31st minute when Dragons winger Tom Prydie got the end of a quick break to leave a well timed pop pass for inside Wardle to captailize on.
The move came from quick thinking from impressive scrum half Richie Rees who impressed right throughout leaving Leinster under pressure all night.
The second half had some respite but not a lot for Leinster as they pushed on – under the stewardship of outhalf Jimmy Gopperth. Gopperth – who finished the night with 13 points – will have been happy with his contribution on a night where Ian Madigan was unavailable. Gopperth was a shining light in an otherwise uninspiring performance from Leinster.
The home support however much they will be proud of the heroic performance from their players will scratch their heads at some decisions by referee John Lacey.
The referee came under fire when at the death – with four points separating the sides - and with a 5 metre scrum on the Leinster line for the Dragons – controversially called back a Dragons attack after he deemed the touch and go to be in the wrong place.
That was enough for Leinster to capitalize on as the deflated Dragons coughed up possession.
As the boos for the referee rang out around Rodney Parade all Matt O’Connor would be exhaling is a sigh of relief.
Dragons: H Amos, T Prydie, P Leach, R Wardle, A Hughes, J Tovey, R Rees; O Evans, S Parry, D Way, A Jones, M Screech, J Groves, L Evans (c), N Talei.
Replacements: D. Evans for Hughes (55), J. Evans for Rees (55), Williams for O. Evans (55), Gustafson for Parry (77), Chaparro for Way (71), Sidoli for Groves (59). Not Used: I. Jones, Burton.
Sin Bin: A. Jones (57).
Leinster : Z Kirchner, D Fanning, L Fitzgerald, N Reid, L Tuqiri, J Gopperth, J Cooney; M Bent, A Dundon, M Moore, Q Roux, T Denton, D Ryan, S Jennings, R Ruddock.
Replacements: Macken for Fanning (71), Marshall for Bent (63), Furlong for Moore (71), J. O’Connell for Denton (63), Auva’a for Ryan (63). Not Used: Tracy, L. McGrath, Marsh.
Sin Bin: J. O’Connell (72).
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)