Celtic Warriors, the regional side born from Bridgend and Pontypridd, made most of the running and produced a huge second-half performance, sparked by brilliant kicking and distribution from Neil Jenkins, who totally outshone his Leinster rival, Argentinean Felipe Contepomi, who had to spend most of the game playing on the back foot.
Leinster were outplayed up front and if Welsh endeavour in the backs can be repeated at Lansdowne Road, then Ireland could find themselves in trouble.
There were times when John McWeeney on the wing and full-back James Norton looked capable of splitting the visiting defence, but chances were few and far between. Celtic Warriors, fifth in the table before last night’s game, were determined not to be trifled with and played by far the better rugby on a dry but bitterly cold evening. As the seconds ticked away, they scored a fourth try and that secured a bonus point that could yet prove crucial.
The first-half, and particularly the first quarter, was full of action. Contepomi missed an early penalty, but Richard Mustoe made no mistake when he touched down for a try after eight minutes and Jenkins, the former Welsh fly half, kicked his 38th successive successful goal in competitive rugby this season. His last miss was against Munster on October 3. Contepomi put Leinster back into the hunt with a 12th minute penalty and then into the lead with an intercept try that he converted himself. But Leinster, after establishing a three points’ lead after 16 minutes promptly lost it when Silolo Martens fooled everyone in the home defence and sniped through for a try that Jenkins converted. Order was restored quickly when Contepomi kicked penalties after 23 and 27 minutes, but the battle was far from over with Leinster just two points ahead at 16-14. That proved to be the case when Jenkins knocked over a penalty from short range to restore the Warrior’s lead in the 40th minute and the home side lived dangerously as he half came to a close. It got worse after the break when the Warriors came out fighting. They stormed all over Leinster and Shaun James went in for a fine try after eight minutes to give Jenkins an easy add-on to the points.
The out-half tacked on two penalties after that and Leinster were lucky to stay in the match despite one counter-attack that almost yielded a try.
But it all ended badly for the home side when captain Jonathon Bryant, who had a superb match, drove over for the fourth try and Jenkins added the extra points to secure a well-deserved 37-16 win.
LEINSTER: J. Norton, J. McWeeney, G. Brown, C. Warner, B. Burke, F. Contepomi, B. O’Riordan, S. Brophy, G. Hickie, P. Coyle, a. Kearney, B. Gissing, N. Breslin, D. Dillon, S. Jennings (captain). Replacements: E. Bohan for Brophy, D. Blaney for Hickie, S. Crawford for Keaney, C. Potts for Jennings, B. O’Meara for O’Riordan, M. Leek for McWeeney, J. Downey for Burke.
CELTIC WARRIORS: G. Wyatt, D. James, S. James, J. Bryant (captain), R. Mustoe, N. Jenkins, S. Martens, C. Loader, M. Rees, C. Horsman, N. Kelly, D. Jones, R. Jones, R. Bryan, C. Harris. Replacements: R. Parks for Bryan, M. Molitika for Jones.
Referee: R. Dixon (Scotland).