Leinster’s young guns raise their hands for selection next week against Bath with a confident and professional performance that will have the first team looking over their shoulders.
Leinster’s back row stood out, especially Caelan Doris, who carried well, scoring a nice try on the night. Scott Penny also scored, his second in his two starts for the senior team.
The backs were also in fine form. Conor and Jimmy O’Brien both tore through the Dragon’s defence with ball in hand and were solid in defence. Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson Park had a comfortable night behind a dominant pack.
The highlight for me, however, was the two cross field kicks from Ross Byrne, both fielded expertly by Dave Kearney and both resulting in tries.
I underestimated this team. They were outstanding. The Dragons defence was porous but you can only play what’s in front of you. They were arguably a tougher opponent than last weekends opposition, the Ospreys, but were dispatched with a similar ruthlessness.
There will be a few players on the first team, maybe ones carrying or nursing injuries, that will be looking at the new crop of players and worrying that they will soon be under pressure.
When the Dragons got the ball they looked exciting, but they simply made too many mistakes. Their one try was well taken; quick thinking at a ruck with no defending pillar caused the break and good hands (hint of a forward pass that was not examined) led to a try.
In the act of scoring, Rhodri Williams was tackled high by Gibson-Park. The TMO called the referee’s attention to it and a penalty was given after the conversion to the Dragons.
I for one am glad that the act was punished. Far too often referees ignore late or dangerous or both sort of tackle, and the player that scored the try goes off injured. We have to protect players when they are scoring, their bodies often stretched out and vulnerable and defenceless.
Back to the game. The Dragons got worse as time went on. Leinster’s bench provided additional pace. Max Deegan and Brian Byrne looked hungry for the ball. Ciarán Frawley scored two excellent sideline conversions.
Paddy Patterson made his debut at scrum half, and with his first touch made a good clearing kick. He kept the pace of the game up, but was not really tested. A decent start to his senior Leinster career.
Scott Fardy proved once again what a great leader he is with a brilliant captain’s performance. He scored the third try, but also got over the line twice more, unfortunately earlier infringements calling him back.
He carried well, tackled well, called a great line out and had the whole team working hard and together all through the game.
A tougher trip is in store next Saturday. Bath is a lovely town to visit and the Rec ground, sitting as it does in the centre by the weir, is a perfect place to watch rugby. At least when it’s dry. It can get pretty sticky there with any rain.
Leinster will send a completely different side across. With the returning internationals returning, there will be no space for many of tonights team, no reward for two great results over this weekend and last.
The younger players will have to bide their time, wait for openings, whether by injury or Six Nations windows.
Next year the World Cup will take most of Leinster’s first team for a long stretch. Including pre-season games, that could be up to eight weeks. Leo is right to give some decent exposure and game time to these lads. They are the ones who will be making sure that Leinster are not too far behind when the World Cup team return home.
An exciting weekend is in store, the rest of the season is looking good, and this next twelve months is going to be interesting.