After disappointing in their win against Exeter, Leinster needed to make a statement against Scarlets in Llanelli this afternoon — and we had minute-by-minute coverage of the afternoon’s events.
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Scarlets 13-20 Leinster
13.30 – You can’t beat a bit of Heineken Cup rugby on a Saturday afternoon, can you?
After differing fortunes on opening weekend, the Scarlets host defending champions Leinster in a pool match which has all of the aura of a winner-takes-all knockout.
Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby will know the importance of putting the 49-16 hammering in Clermont to bed this afternoon. Another defeat and the Welsh side can wave goodbye to any chances of progressing.
For Leinster, the talk this week has centred on the underwhelming nature of their win against Exeter last week. Can they find their form and show some of the swashbuckling rugby that has brought the province three European titles in four seasons?
Kick-off in Parc y Scarlets is at 13:35.
13.32 – Here’s how the hosts line out. Morgan Stoddart, sent off in France last week, drops to the bench.
Scarlets: Williams; North, Maule, Williams, Fenby; Priestland, Knoyle; John, Rees, Lee; Earle, Snyman; Shingler, Turnbull, McCusker (c).
13.35 – Here’s the Leinster XV. Gordon D’Arcy returns to his usual spot in midfield where he will partner Brian O’Driscoll.
Leinster: Madigan; McFadden, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Nacewa; Sexton, Reddan; Healy, Cronin, Ross; Cullen, Browne; McLaughlin, Jennings, Heaslip.
13.37 – KICK OFF: Jonny Sexton gets us underway and within 15 seconds, Leinster have a penalty as the Scarlets go in off their feet. Sexton will kick this one.
13.38 – PENALTY! Scarlets 0-3 Leinster (Sexton, 2′) Sexton takes his time over the kick, much to the annoyance of the home support who boo his preparation. The end result is no different though as Sexton slots the kick to get Leinster off to a flying start.
13.42 – Tremendous work by Leinster at the breakdown. They force Williams to hold on at the breakdown and Sexton is able to kick the penalty into the Scarlets 22.
13.43 – Ooh, that could have — and perhaps should have — been the game’s opening try. Sexton skips a lovely pass out to Nacewa who makes a dash for the corner. He’s held up a few yards short but the cavalry arrive quickly to support him and hammer the ball through the phases. McLaughlin tries to take a flat line but knocks it on and Scarlets take the put-in to the scrum.
13.47 – TRY! Scarlets 0-8 Leinster (Nacewa, 10′) Brilliant stuff by Sexton and Nacewa as they combine for the first try of the afternoon. Sexton spots that the referee is playing a penalty advantage and fires an inch-perfect kick across the field where Nacewa jumps off against George North. It’s the Leinster man who wins the battle, wrestling the ball to the ground to touch it down in the corner. Superb.
Sexton misses a difficult conversion.
13.51 – MISSED PENALTY! Priestland has a chance to get Scarlets on the board with a long penalty but it hangs just to the right and wide.
13.56 – PENALTY! Scarlets 0-11 Leinster (Sexton, 20′) Leinster are putting Scarlets under a huge amount of pressure at the breakdown and it has the hosts rattled. They concede another very kickable penalty and Sexton sticks it inside the right post.
14.00 – D’arcy is pinged for coming in from the side and it’s penalty Scarlets. Priestland thinks long and hard before deciding to kick to touch. Excellent opportunity for Scarlets here now…
14.03 – Wonderful last-ditch tackle by Eoin Reddan to save a certain Scarlets try. As Scarlets try to find a gap in the Leinster defence, Maule spots an opportunity for a grubber into the corner. The ball bounces up nicely for North but, as he prepares to scoop it up and bundle it over the line, Reddan clatters him with a tackle.
The TMO is consulted but it’s not a try. Five-metre scrum to Scarlets instead.
14.06 – Scarlets have started to come to life a bit in the last five or six minutes. Priestland’s kick takes play back down to within a yard or two of the Leinster line but all momentum is lost when Turnbull gives away a silly penalty for offside. The flanker is too eager, and though he claims that Reddan played the ball before he made his move, referee Greg Garner is having none of it.
14.13 – Leinster work the ball through the phases in Scarlets territory but McLaughlin is pinged for coming in from the side. Eight minutes to the break.
14.17 – Scarlets could really do with points of some description before the break. Knoyle tries a chip over the top and Madigan has no other option but to scramble it into touch five yards from the line.
14.19 – A little bit naive from George North who runs straight at Shane Jennings and Mike Ross who stand firm and hold him up. Leinster force the turnover, win the put-in to the scrum, and with three minutes to play, that may be Scarlets last chance in this half.
14.22 – HALF TIME: Scarlets 0-11 Leinster
Priestland kicks to touch, Greg Garner whistles for the break and that’s our lot.
Joe Schmidt will be pleased with how Leinster have played, forcing a lot of turnovers and penalties from Scarlets at the breakdown. The try aside, they haven’t created a huge amount of chances but they’ve kept the scoreboard ticking over nonetheless.
Scarlets have found themselves in promising positions but have yet to make them count. You can be sure Simon Easterby is reminding them that the next 40 minutes are win-or-bust for their Heineken Cup chances.
Back in five.
14.37 – SECOND HALF: We’re back. One change for Scarlets at the break — Vallejos comes on to replace Earle in the second row.
14.41 – MISSED PENALTY! Priestland tries his luck with another long, long penalty but it drops just short.
14.42 – DROP GOAL! Scarlets 0-14 Leinster (Sexton, 43′) My word, that is an absolutely brilliant drop goal by Jonny Sexton. He gathers the ball at the half-way line, and with Scarlets not making much of an effort to close him down, he takes a step or two into their half and booms a kick towards the posts. It looks good and after going upstairs to the TMO to confirm, Greg Garner raises his hand.
That’s how it’s done, Rhys.
14.46 – PENALTY! Scarlets 3-14 Leinster (Priestland, 48′) It’s almost an identical penalty to the one he missed at the start of the half but this time, Priestland makes no mistakes. It has both legs and distance and Scarlets are finally on the board.
14.49 – MISSED PENALTY! Sloppy stuff from Scarlets skipper Rob McCusker who concedes a very kickable penalty for a silly offside at the breakdown. Everybody in Parc y Scarlets expects Sexton to stick it over but it starts right and never comes back in for him. A big let-off for Scarlets; Priestland’s penalty could have been wiped out immediately.
14.53 – TRY! Scarlets 10-14 Leinster (Maule, 54′) Hang on a second. Scarlets are back into this thanks to a brilliant finish from Gareth Maule. Off the lineout, Priestland fires a pass out wide to Maule. The centre runs at Brian O’Driscoll, evading the tackle with a neat side-step into the space between BOD and Nacewa before running it in in the corner. Priestland adds the extras from the touchline.
Game on. Game well and truly on.
14.55 – PENALTY! Scarlets 10-17 Leinster (Sexton, 57′) Excellent response by Leinster — if I was a man who enjoyed a cliche, I might even term it the response of champions. Mike Ross brutalises the Scarlets front row at the scrum and Sexton kicks the penalty to open up a seven-point lead.
15.00 – Substitutions: Strauss, Toner, and van der Merwe on for Leinster; Cronin, Browne and Healy all off.
For Scarlets, Owens and Manu on in the front row for Rees and and Lee.
15.04 – Leinster pinged for going in off their feet and Rhys Priestland has a pressure kick here to cut the margin to four and set up a barnstorming finish…
15.05 – MISSED PENALTY! Priestland misses. That’s the easiest of his third missed penalties today — about 30 yards out and slightly to the left — and Leinster breathe again.
15.06 – And now it’s Jonny Sexton’s turn to make a mistake. He tries to get too much out of his 22 drop-out and kicks it out on the full. Scarlets in a good position but they can’t make it count and Leinster clear.
15.12 – Ten minutes to play and Leinster are drawing on on their experience here to try to close this one out. Jamie Heaslip holds on to the ball at the back of the scrum, Mike Ross steamrollers Phil John and it’s penalty Leinster.
15.13 – PENALTY! Scarlets 10-20 Leinster (Sexton, 72′) Sexton nails it. Will that be enough to see Leinster home with an important away win?
15.15 – PENALTY! Scarlets 13-20 Leinster (Priestland, 74′) It’s not over yet. Leinster will finish this one with 14 men after Madigan is sin-binned for taking Liam Williams out under a high ball. Priestland kicks the penalty. Six minutes for Scarlets to snatch something.
15.17 – MISSED PENALTY! Leinster’s front five have been sensational at the set pieces in this final quarter and they’ve forced another penalty. Sexton has a chance to put the game to bed and deny Scarlets a bonus point but he misses it. Not done yet.
15.18 – One last chance for Scarlets. Priestland has a penalty and the referee signals that they will have enough time to take the line-out. He tries to leave it deep in Leinster territory but misjudges, kicking it too long and dead.
That should be that.
15.20 – FULL TIME: Scarlets 13-20 Leinster
15.24 – So it’s job done for Leinster. They come away from a tricky away fixture with four points but there is still plenty to work on for Joe Schmidt and his men.
Mike Ross is named Sky Sports man of the match — if you needed any evidence of how important Leinster’s scrum was in this second half, that should be it.
For Simon Easterby and Scarlets, it looks like game over in the Heineken Cup this season. They will wonder what might have been had Rhys Priestland brought his kicking boots with him this afternoon.
15.28 – Speaking on Sky Sports, Shane Horgan says that Schmidt and Leinster will be concerned by the fact that they haven’t put in one 80-minute performance yet this season.
It was more of the same in that regard today as they took their foot off the gas and let Scarlets back into the game without ever playing particularly well.
15.31 – That’s our lot from Parc y Scarlets. Thanks for reading and for your comments. Hwyl!