Berquist pulls strings as Leinster sneak win

THE problem with dress rehearsals is that people continually fluff their lines. That’s one reason why pre-season friendlies have to be treated with a certain amount of scepticism, especially when coaches make so many changes that at one stage last night, substituted players were coming back onto the field to replace substitutes.

Yet amid all this, there were two performances of note to concentrate on. The first was Jamie Hagan’s. Big, strong and athletic, he should be on the plane to New Zealand as Mike Ross’ back-up. Instead, he was here, dominating a scrum and giving Leinster a foothold in a game they looked like losing heavily.

That they didn’t comes down to Hagan’s role in the scrum and Matt Berquist’s at out-half.

“I have known Berky since he was 15,” said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt. “He brings a certain calmness to the game and I knew his Crusaders background would help us.”

Leinster trailed 8-0 after 24 minutes, Stirling Mortlock kicking an eighth minute penalty before Richard Kingi finished off a move started by Richardt Strauss overcooking his throw at the line-out.

Mortlock missed his conversion — a mistake he would repeat — whereas Berquist landed both of his kicks after Leinster scored two fine tries.

The first came just before the half time break, when Hagan dominated the scrum, leaving the space for scrum-half, John Cooney, to run into and set up Rhys Ruddock to score.

Back in the game, Leinster then shot themselves in the foot. From the restart, Leinster won possession through Devin Toner and then lost it. Mortlock added width to the play and Hugh Pyle, strong enough to hold off two challenges, touched down in the corner for 13-7 at half-time.

But Leinster won it when Fionn Carr’s blistering burst created the overlap for Berquist to release Darren Hudson. His finish in the corner was excellent as was Berquist’s from the touchline to convert the winning points.

LEINSTER: I Madigan (A Conway 56); D Hudson, B Macken, E Sheridan, F Carr; M Berquist (I Madigan 71), J Cooney (C Willis 60); H van der Merwe, R Strauss (A Dundon 61), J Hagan (J McGrath 70); M Flanagan (S Sykes h/t), D Toner (D Gannon 56); R Ruddock, D Ryan (C Ruddock 70), L Auva’a (B Marhsall 60)

MELBOURNE REBELS: R Kingi; M Inman (P Betham h/t), S Mortlock (M Inman 58), L Johansson (L Mitchell h/t), C Vuna (L Johansson 71); J Hilgendorf (D Cipriani 55), S Cordingley (P Fou 62); N Henderson (E Aholelei 15, sub: E Blake 50), H Tessman , G Somerville (L Weekes 60); H Pyle, L Jones; J Saffy (C Neville 58), M Lipman (J Saffy 60), T Davidson (N Ah Wong 73)

Referee: D Wilkinson (IRFU)

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