Strangely subdued when losing heavily to Scarlets, Leinster provided some flashes of genuine class at a sun-kissed RDS on Saturday evening. There were a couple of missed tackles which led to preventable Dragons tries just to keep the locals grounded, but Leinster did most of the damage either side of half time.
Ultimately it was another pleasant couple of hours in Dublin 4 for a typically enthusiastic and healthy 15,724 home crowd and Joe Schmidt gave a fair post-match assessment.
“I thought bits of the first half were really productive, we were maybe unlucky not to score another couple of times,” said the coach.
“There’s a bit of frustration in the dressing room about how the Dragons managed to score their three tries. It was great to get our five tries, that allowed us the bonus point and means we keep in touch. We needed to win to stay in touch so we didn’t get too far off the leaders.”
Ian Madigan’s competent fly-half display, which included seven successful kicks from eight, earned praise from highly respected forwards coach Jono Gibbes, who likes the way the 23-year-old is prepared to get down and dirty.
“He doesn’t get everything right but he cops the feedback on the chin,” Gibbes said. “Then he puts his head down and he works bloody hard off the pitch and during the week.
“That is a high pressure position that comes with a lot of responsibility. He has worked and continues to work very hard. I think he is reasonably brave, he will give it a go. I think forwards definitely respect a 10 that puts his head down in dark places.”
Madigan did that, but it was the bright way he controlled the back line moves which impressed as the opening period was sprinkled with splendid running rugby.
Scrum-half John Cooney was busy too, constantly probing, while Noel Reid enjoyed a couple of cameos inside the first seven minutes. A shuddering early hit delighted those seeking physicality, while a glorious break crafted a seventh-minute try. By then Tom Prydie and Madigan had traded penalties, but Reid’s dash following a Steffan Jones restart was electric.
Reid though, had a 12th-minute pass intercepted as Jones ran through for a Dragons try, which Prydie converted.
From then until the interval the match buzzed along at a nice pace with Leinster going in 26-13 ahead.
Nine minutes into the second period that cushion had been extended significantly as Shane Jennings and Fionn Carr touched down as a bonus point was already pocketed.
Leinster’s concentration levels dipped for a spell as Dragons trimmed the deficit but late on Brendan Macken decorated Leinster’s triumph by going over under the posts. Isa Nacewa struck the routine conversion.
Gibbes, who also revealed that the majority of Leinster’s marquee names will be available for next week’s trip to Treviso, insists the Italian tussle will be worth monitoring.
“I think who we are playing next week will definitely bring an edge,” he said.
LEINSTER: I Nacewa; A Conway, B Macken, N Reid, F Carr; I Madigan, J Cooney; J McGrath, S Cronin, J Hagan, L Cullen, Q Roux, B Marshall, S Jennings, L Auva’a.
Replacements: D Hudson for Conway (51-60), H Van Der Merwe for McGrath (51), T Sexton for Cronin (60), D Toner for Roux (60), J Murphy for Jennings (60), M Moore for Hagan (66), J Coughlan for Auva’a (71), L McGrath for Cooney (71), D Hudson for Madigan (75).
DRAGONS: D Evans; W Harries, P Leach, A Tuilagi, T Prydie; S Jones, J Evans; N Williams, S Parry, N Buck, I Nimmo, A Jones, H Stoddart, J Groves, T Faletau.
Replacements: H Gustafson for Samuel (51), L Evans for Stoddart (54), A Coundley for Stoddart (39-49), H Amos for Jones (65), T Brown for Jones (66), T Ryan for Buck (71), L Davies for J Evans (71), A Smith for Tuilagi (74).
Referee: M Mitrea (FIR).