Cheika’s wake-up call for Leinster

Leinster 30 Scarlets 22

They trailed by 12 points at the interval, no surprise given their lacklustre performance, but Cheika got the required response from his half-time dressing down in the second half.

Brian O’Driscoll admitted: “We got a fair old rollicking and it was justified. We played very poorly in the first half, even if you have to give credit to Llanelli for the way they played.

“Happily, we turned it all around in the second half, and got the platform to attack.”

Cheika admitted that it was a hard grind: “If we played in all our matches the way we played in the first half, we would probably be at the bottom of the Celtic League instead of at the top. But after assessing the situation, I was delighted the way the guys responded in the second half.”

The Scarlets took the lead when second row Vernon Cooper won a line out and prop Iestyn Thomas rumbled over. Ceiron Thomas converted.

Yet out of the blue Leinster drew level. The try from Cameron Jowitt came after a scrum, but not before Guy Easterby and Contepomi had given Gordon D’Arcy space to scythe through a gap on the narrow side. D’Arcy made the most of this opportunity and then sent Jowitt in for the vital score to get Leinster back into the match. Contepomi converted.

But Llanelli hit back strongly and went back in front with a superb try from full back Lee Byrne. He took an inside pass from Mark Jones and got through the cover, Thomas again converting for a 14-7 lead.

It got worse for Leinster when flanker Gavin Thomas went in at the right hand corner, seconds after Alex Popham was stopped short under the posts after 26 minutes, and it didn’t help when Contepomi missed a penalty in the dying seconds of the half.

Contepomi narrowed the gap five minutes into the second half with a penalty as Leinster lifted the tempo. With a better platform they surged forwards and when Alex Popham was shown the yellow card, the team and crowd responded.

Popham’s action in coming in at the wrong side of a ruck gave Leinster a penalty. Contepomi kicked for the corner, Jowitt won the lineout and Brian Blaney powered his way over for a try, with Contepomi’s conversion attempt coming back off an upright. But Leinster didn’t have to wait long to take the lead for the first time. Jamie Heaslip broke from a scrum close in and scrum-half Easterby had the space to skip past a tackle for a try Contepomi converted to give the home side a 22-19 lead. The teams were level again when Thomas kicked a Llanelli penalty midway through the half.

Then O’Driscoll broke out of defence to set up another Leinster chance. As they surged forward, D’Arcy was stopped, Hickie was stopped, and Popham escaped with a caution for a late tackle on Keith Gleeson. Contepomi recovered from a late tackle himself to kick the resultant penalty and restore the Leinster lead. Girvan Dempsey put the seal on victory with a 78th minute try, after following up on a speculative kick forward from Denis Hickie. The Llanelli defence were AWOL after Daffyd James slipped, and Dempsey raced up the left touchline for a very good opportunist try to secure the win and a bonus point.

LEINSTER: G. Dempsey, R. Kearney, B. O’Driscoll (c), G. D’Arcy, D. Hickie, F. Contepomi, G. Easterby, R. Corrigan, B. Blaney, W. Green, B. Williams, M. O’Kelly, C. Jowitt, J. Heaslip, K. Gleeson.

Replacements: E. Byrne for Green (40), E. Miller for Jowitt (75), D. Blaney for B. Blaney (81), N. Ronan for Gleeson (82), K. Lewis for Hickie (85).

LLANELLI: L. Byrne, D. James (c), M. Watkins, R. King, M. Jones, C. Thomas, C. Stuart-Smith, I. Thomas, M. Rees, C. Dunlea, V. Cooper, C. Wyatt, D. Jones, A. Popham, G. Thomas.

Replacements: A. Gravelle for Rees, F. Louw for Cooper (both 67), B. Davies for Jones (70), G. Quinnell for G. Thomas (76).

Referee: M. Changleng (Scotland).

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