THE FIRST GAME of Brian O’Driscoll’s last, last ever season of rugby.
Cardiff Blues came to Dublin with three Lions in their starting XV but Matt O’Connor had four successful summer tourists to call on. The league champions needed a win to get their season motoring again.
Leinster 34 — 20 Cardiff Blues
18.18 – Here’s the Leinster team that has been picked to start tonight.
Leinster (v Cardiff Blues): Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney, Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore; Devin Toner, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip (Capt.)
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Tom Denton, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Jimmy Gopperth, Brendan Macken.
18.20 – The main Leinster team news concerns Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip, who are included in the side for the first time this season, with Heaslip named as captain.
Ian Madigan returns to outhalf having started the loss to Glasgow at fullback. Fergus McFadden and Quinn Roux have recovered from injury to be included on the wing and at lock respectively.
While in the back row, Heaslip is joined by Rhys Ruddock at blindside, in for Kevin McLauglin, and Dominic Ryan at openside, who replaces the injured Shane Jennings.
Noel Reid comes in for Gordon D’Arcy in the centre, while Martin Moore starts at tight head prop in place of Mike Ross.
The only players to retain their places in the starting team from last weekend are Isaac Boss and Dave Kearney.
18.47 – Greetings from the RDS and thank you to Fintan O’Toole for setting the tone. The sun is out but will have dipped once the game kicks off.
Here’s what happened last time out at the RDS when these sides met:
18.48 – Which Irish Lion are you looking forward to seeing return to home action tonight?
18.51 – Shane Byrne, columnist with TheScore.ie, is in the house! He’s talking about his role in the Mrs Brown’s Boys film and getting his Valleys accent perfected for a stint on Welsh TV.
Good luck to the enthusiastic Ashbourne Rugby Club boys and girls who are this evening’s flagbearers.
19.16 – We will also keep you posted on Ulster’s Pro12 clash with Treviso up at Ravenhill.
19.23 – Sam Warburton with a crew cut, looking lean, mean and ready for action. There’s my buddy, Leigh Halfpenny too. My tips on goalkicking [doled out at Carton House in May] worked a treat down in Oz. “Gerrit ‘tween them sticks Leigh boy,” I told him.
19.27 – Paddy Jackson puts Ulster 3 — 0 up at Ravenhill with a 10th minute penalty.
It will be interesting to see Noel Reid — bulked up over the summer — at inside centre beside the returning Brian O’Driscoll. The Kearney brothers reunited in the backline again.
Ulster’s Michael Allen tackled to touch just before scoring by Manoa Vosawai and Edoardo Gori of Benetton Treviso. INPHO/Dan Sheridan
19.33 – Mat Berquist levels it up for Treviso. They are level at 3 — 3 with Ulster after 20 minutes.
19.36 – Here come Leinster, Heaslip leading them out. Lovely night for rugby. I’m predicting Leinster +15. How about you?
19.39 – KICK-OFF
Big Dev gets the flick back but the ball squirms out for an early Cardiff lineout after a bitty ruck. Up and under and Dave Kearney gets some hang-time before missing the ball by a yard and clattering into Warburton. Toner claims the Leinster lineout. Early penalty conceded as Heaslip fails to release. Halfpenny wants a 47-metre effort.
19.40 – Miss! Too many rotations on the ball and a touch to the right too.
Up at Ravenhill, Luke Marshall has scored a try. Jackson’s conversion makes it 10 — 3.
19.44 – PEN: Leinster 0 — 3 Cardiff Blues (Halfpenny ’5)
No mistake that time as the fullback clatters one over from just outside the 22 and to the right of the posts. Cuthbert then bears four blue shirts but Dave Kearney hauls him down.
19.47 – Martin Moore with a huge tackle in midfield gets the crowd going and a perfectly weighted clearance kick from Rob Kearney raises the roof. More indiscipline at the breakdown as McFadden is pinged for not releasing. Patchell hits the line and Cardiff are up to the 22.
19.49 – Owen Williams butchers a try-scoring chance as he opts to pass into a congested midfield rather than go right to the unmarked Cuthbert. Quinn Roux then wins Leinster a penalty with good nuisance work at the breakdown.
19.50 – It’s Ulster 15 — 3 against Treviso now as Michael Allen gets on the scoresheet. Jackson misses the conversion.
19.52 – TRY: Leinster 7 — 3 Cardiff Blues (Cronin ’13)
Leinster attack up the left and D Kearney is hauled down three metres short. Play feeds out to the right and O’Driscoll times a perfect pop pass to the charging Cronin. No-one home for the Blues. Madigan converts from straight in front.
19.54 – Superb break up the middle as O’Driscoll makes 40 yards before finding R Kearney on his shoulder. Rhys Ruddock then beats two tackles on the right wing but is felled by the third.
Jamie Heaslip LOVES a quick-tap penalty. Early engagement at the scrum earns a free kick. Heaslip takes a tap, finds Isaac Boss, who cuts inside two men but is spun in the tackle and spills forward. We had a TMO there but it never looked like a try.
20.00 – PEN: Leinster 10 — 3 Cardiff Blues (Madigan ’21)
Another O’Driscoll break, and a fine offload, has Cardiff reeling. They are outnumbered at the breakdown and concede a penalty that Madigan slots over from 25 metres out.
20.03 – PEN: Leinster 13 — 3 Cardiff Blues (Madigan ’24)
This may look good on the highlight reels but O’Driscoll needed Roux to be sharp as his flick pass evaded Madigan. The lock held on and Cardiff concede another penalty. 30 metres out, to the left, but it is never in doubt.
20.08 – PEN: Leinster 13 — 6 Cardiff Blues (Halfpenny ’29)
O’Driscoll is charged up. He’s arguing with the touch judge now and it gets picked up by the on-pitch microphones. No curses so we’re in safe territory. Great work from Isaac Boss as he snares Pretorious off the back of a scrum [Heaslip touched down a grubber in behind]. Cardiff hold onto possession and commit men to the attack. The ref gives Halfpenny another crack at the posts. 7 penalties given so far, after 29 minutes, for breakdown no-no’s. Halfpenny’s conversion is good.
Leinster’s Dominic Ryan and Martin Moore with Leigh Halfpenny of Cardiff Blues. INPHO/James Crombie
20.12 – Ulster lead 15 — 3 at the break. Worryingly, Mat Berquist off after only 30 minutes. At the RDS, we had a brief stoppage as Cronin needed treatment after taken a hefty blow.
20.15 – Toner penalised at an attacking Leinster ruck on the Cardiff 22. Halfpenny clears the Welsh lines. Cuthbert has been well marshalled to date but that man only needs a sniff to do some scoring damage. Four minutes left on the clock until the break. Heaslip and O’Driscoll looking sharp on their returns so far.
20.18 – Brian O’Driscoll is at it again. Super, streaking run from inside his own half. Outpaces two Blues then finds Kearney in support with a lovely, spinning pass. Patchell hauls Kearney down and O’Driscoll is there to play scrumhalf. The touch judges poops the party by declaring the fullback to be in touch.
20.29 – Some numbers for you from @Pro12Stato
1st half tackle count: Leinster 58 made 8 missed; Blues 36 made 7 missed
1st half line breaks: Leinster 5 Blues 3
20.31 – Tommy Bowe scores for Ulster and another missed Jackso conversion makes it 20 — 6.
20.33 – KICK-OFF
20.35 – Kicking wars start off the half and Kearney [the elder] wins style and bravery points as he leaps over Boss. Halfpenny eventually loses the boring battle of the boot by over-cooking one punt. Play goes deep into the Cardiff half and Boss gets the scrum put-in.
20.38 – Leinster camped on the Cardiff line as Heaslip and Madigan go close. Ruddock takes too long to process the next phase and the momentum is lost. Leinster pile into the ruck and the attacking scrum is eventually rewarded.
20.40 – Yellow card for Filo as he refuses to remove himself from the wrong side of the ruck. Scrum called for and Leinster will fancy bouncing over from here.
20.43 – TRY: Leinster 20 — 6 Cardiff Blues (Penalty try ’48)
Sean Cronin fails to ‘hook’ at the scrum and the feed is stolen. Luckily for the front-row, Harry Robinson is snared in-goal so we get another scrum. It gets spun and, crumpling, they concede a penalty try.
20.48 – TRY: Leinster 20 — 13 Cardiff Blues (Cuthbert ’53)
Rob Kearney with a stupendous kick on his team’s try-line. Somehow, with a yard to spare, he gets it 35 metres upfield. Cardiff win their lineout and go wide right. Cuthbert does Kearney outside, on the right, and races clear to dive over. Halfpenny converts. Game on, for now.
20.49 – TMO but it looks promising for McFadden…
20.51 – No, no. It isn’t given. There were three Welsh bodies in there but McFadden looked to have gotten it over. We come back to the left flank for an attacking scrum. Good shove and we were close to another penalty try there.
20.53 – It is Ulster 25 — 13 Treviso near the end at Ravenhill. Best with a try for Ulster and Barbieri with a return score for the Italians.
Into the final 20 here in Dublin and Dave Kearney makes the airborne catch of the night. Play spills to the right but goes out for a home throw. All of Leinster’s Lions remain on the pitch. Healy blowing a touch but this is a good shift for the prop after his ankle injury in the summer.
20.56 – Cuthbert nearly opens Leinster up again but, under pressure from Cronin, his pass to Robinson is forward.
20.58 – Home scrum on top now and the arrival of Mike Ross adds to that dominance. 16 minutes left. Can Leinster get the try-scoring bonus?
21.00 – Big Dev with a block down of a box-kick moments after Mike Ross popped up on O’Driscoll’s shoulder on the right wing. I guess these wingers really are getting bigger and bigger…
21.02 – TRY: Leinster 27 — 13 Cardiff Blues (Ryan ’67)
A huge, rumbling Leinster maul heaves 10 metres up to the Cardiff line and Ryan finishes off the good work. He’s openside today in the absence of Jennings and O’Brien. Madigan converts.
21.07 – Here’s Tommy Bowe’s try for Ulster, who won 32 — 13. Mike Allen with a double on the left wing. Call that man up for Ireland. In fact, call them both up!
YouTube credit: RaboDirect PRO12
21.09 – Eight minutes left and my Leinster +15 prediction is so close to being correct. Leinster get a penalty from 22 out but Madigan wisely opts to hit the line.
Standing ovation from most of the RDS crowd as O’Driscoll is replaced by Macken.
21.12 – TRY: Leinster 34 — 13 Cardiff Blues (Madigan ’74)
How d’ya like that Jimmy Gopperth! Leinster dominating another maul from that lineout. They fly-paper in a few Blues and the ball is spun out to Madigan. He backs himself and takes Halfpenny with him over the line. He gets up to convert the score. BONUS POINT secured.
21.14 – TRY: Leinster 34 — 20 Cardiff Blues (Allen ’77)
Jack McGrath throws a sloppy pass that Cory Allen gobbles up. He goes over unopposed to give the scoreboard a respectable sheen.
21.17 – The game is into its dregs but Leinster want to finish with a score.
21.18 – 80 minutes plus from that supreme athlete Heaslip. He snatches Patchell to the turf. The ball goes to the right but skitters out and it is…
21.19 – That’s it from the liveblog but stay with us for post-match reaction and comments from the home wins for Leinster and Ulster.