Leinster extend lead at top of table
March 18, 2010
Ireland A centre Fergus McFadden notched a try, two penalties and two conversions for Leinster in Dublin © PA Photos
Leinster cemented their place at the top of the Magners League table with a 20-14 victory over title rivals Glasgow Warriors at the RDS.
Centre Fergus McFadden collected 15 points with a try, two conversions and two penalties, while full-back Girvan Dempsey chipped in with the other try as Michael Cheika's side secured their eighth straight win in all competitions. A try from Hefin O'Hare briefly nudged Glasgow ahead and while Leinster hit back to claim a 20-7 half-time lead, replacement Colin Gregor salvaged a losing bonus point for the visitors with a second-half try and conversion.
Having gone 3-0 down to a McFadden penalty, Glasgow responded well and although Ruaridh Jackson failed to convert a penalty chance, they took the lead by the quarter-hour mark. Winger O'Hare caught a clearance from Paul O'Donoghue and launched a superb counter attack, side-stepping the Leinster cover on the way to the line. Jackson tagged on the conversion but Leinster seized control for the remainder of the opening half.
The unerring McFadden landed his second penalty to cut the deficit and then powered over for a 23rd-minute try following a neat offload from man of the match Isa Nacewa. McFadden converted and a second try followed for the hosts on the stroke of half-time, with replacement Eoin Sheriff stealing a Warriors' lineout to launch a swift attack which ended with Dempsey crossing in the corner.
McFadden brilliantly converted to push the European champions 13 points ahead, and it turned out to be a crucial kick as the home side failed to score in the second period. Missing a host of internationals, Leinster struggled to maintain their high standards and Glasgow, equally shorn of their frontline players, came more and more into the game.
They missed a couple of try-scoring chances before Gregor crashed over in the corner in the 67th minute and converted his try to make it a six-point game. Leinster almost provided an immediate response when O'Donoghue fed Michael Keating but he was hauled down just metres short of the line.
Elsewhere on Thursday night, Munster kept their title hopes alive with a narrow 23-17 victory over the Scarlets in Cork. Jean de Villiers and James Coughlan scored a try apiece as the hosts moved 17-8 ahead for half-time, and outside-half Paul Warwick maintained his 100% kicking return with two second-half penalties.
They were made to fight all the way for the points, though, as the spirited Scarlets, with number 10 Rhys Priestland scoring a try and four penalties, fought back to claim a losing bonus point and they threatened even more. A late surge from winger Andy Fenby saw Munster forced to scramble back towards their 22 and the Scarlets deserved more as the attack petered out without what they felt was a certain penalty.
The Welshmen got off to a whirlwind start when Priestland charged down a kick from his opposite number Warwick and showed a very good turn of pace to make it over in the right corner. Munster recovered well and made yards through their forwards, with team captain Mick O'Driscoll to the fore in a lineout drive, before South African centre De Villiers edged past Jonathan Davies to score from close range.
Warwick's successful conversion put Munster 7-5 up, but with number eight Coughlan failing to gather the restart, the Scarlets were straight back on the attack with Richie Pugh stopped just metres out. Nigel Davies' men held the edge in terms of possession and territory in an error-strewn first half, with some strong carries from inspirational skipper David Lyons and individual play from Davies and Josh Turnbull.
Priestland slotted his second penalty, six minutes before the break, to nose the visitors back in front - however, their lead was a short-lived one. Their tight-head prop Deacon Manu was sin-binned for pulling Nick Williams back as Munster threatened near the Scarlets' 22. Tony McGahan's side used the extra man to string together their best attacking phase and Billy Holland and Doug Howlett kept them on the front foot, before Coughlan plunged over for a seven-pointer.
The second half ebbed and flowed as the place-kickers traded blows - two Priestland successes, sandwiching a Warwick kick, reduced the arrears for the Scarlets to 20-14. With defences on top, the place-kicks were becoming increasingly vital and Warwick, from a tough angle on the right, landed what proved to be the match-winning kick in the 65th minute.
Munster went through the phases as they went in search of a try to seal it, but their accuracy was not at the required level, despite the best efforts of O'Driscoll, Ian Dowling and Niall Ronan. The Scarlets mustered a final rally, helped by Tommy O'Donnell's sin-binning for slowing up ruck ball. Priestland completed his 17-point tally but there was no further reward for Lyons and company as Munster got back to winning ways.
Connacht's Ian Keatley won the fly-half battle as the basement side picked up a much-needed 16-3 win over the Newport Gwent Dragons in Galway on Wednesday night. Keatley kicked three penalties and converted Fionn Carr's first-half try to extend Connacht's impressive unbeaten home run, which stretches back to September, and dent the Dragons' play-off hopes.
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