Leinster moved off the bottom of the Pro12 League with a resounding first win built on tenacity and tempo at the RDS last night.
The speed of Leinster’s movement and handling allied to ruthless work at the breakdown was too much for The Dragons as the expected backlash from their opening night defeat materialised in a performance that must have satisfied coach Joe Schmidt.
Isa Nacewa posted a penalty in the sixth minute and missed another in the eighth before Jason Tovey levelled it up from The Dragons’ first attack.
From a sharp Leinster surge, sparked by Fionn Carr, The Dragons full-back Martyn Thomas prevented what seemed like a certain try when getting in under David Kearney. Nacewa was brought back for an earlier infringement and nailed his second penalty on the half hour.
Nacewa’s swift counter put right wing Carr into space and he found Brendan Macken with a sweet pass for the inside centre to sweep to the corner from 25 metres out.
Then, fly-half Ian Madigan rounded two defenders and beat the cover from distance in a flat out sprint to the whitewash. Nacewa’s conversion made it 18-3 in the 47th minute. He soon followed that with a third penalty.
The Welsh club was not content to take this lying down. A smart tap penalty was worked left for Tovey to finish for the try and the subsequent conversion.
Full-back Nacewa snapped back with another penalty from 40 metres just ahead of the visitors’ captain Tom Willis being binned for loitering on the wrong side of a ruck.
Coach Schmidt had to contend with the worrying sight of New Zealand signing Mat Berquist being carried off before Carr sealed the win, sprinting over from a strong run and perfectly-timed pass by replacement Leo Auva’a.
Scorers for Leinster: B Macken, I Madigan, F Carr try each; I Nacewa 4 pens, 2 cons.
Scorers for the Dragons: J Tovey try, pen, con.
LEINSTER: I Nacewa; F Carr, E O’Malley, B Macken, D Kearney; I Madigan, C Willis; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, J Hagan, D Browne, D Toner, K McLaughlin, D Ryan, R Ruddock (capt).
Replacements: M Berquist for Madigan, J Cooney for Willis, both 56 mins; M Flanagan for Browne, L Auva’a for Ruddock, both 63 mins; A Dundon for Strauss 67 mins; D Hudson for Kearney, J McGrath for Hagan, both 71 mins; J O’Connell for Berquist 75 mins.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: M Thomas; A Hughes, T Riley, P Leach, M Poole; J Tovey, J Bedford; P Price, T Willis (capt), B Castle, A Jones, R Sidoli, A Coombs, G Thomas, H Ellis.
Replacements: D Way for Castle 33 mins; S Jones for Hughes ht; W Evans for Bedford, L Evans for Ellis both 53 mins; R Buckley for Willis 66 mins; N Williams for Price 76 mins; J Groves for Coombs 78 mins.
Referee: A McPherso (Scotland).