O’Connor has high praise for Madigan

Zebre 3 Leinster 20

O’Connor has high praise for Madigan

And coach Matt O’Connor, who gave Madigan his first start at out-half on Saturday, was quick to acknowledge the contribution of a guy who has had to play second fiddle to Jimmy Gopperth for the No.10 shirt for the past year.

“He is an unbelievable talented footballer and he will beat defenders for fun. They were starting to get tired and it was a timely result for us,” said O’Connor.

The Leinster coach was pleased with the way they dealt with the fired-up challenge of a Zebre side who were lucky to escape with just a yellow card for veteran lock Marco Bortolami.

But Leinster kept their nerve and, after turning round deadlocked at 3-3, Madigan struck. He spotted a gap, stepped inside Bortolami and sprinted home from about 30 metres. He slotted the conversion and then a penalty and it was game over at 13-3 after 49 minutes.

Madigan grew in confidence after that cameo and Zebre were constantly penned back as he got his backline moving but Zebre, in fairness, are an improving side and defended stoutly.

“I think we certainly had enough opportunities down there and if we were good enough we probably would have got another couple of tries there and that would have been a fitting result for us off the back of a tough week,” added O’Connor.

Leinster, boosted by the return from injury of Richardt Strauss and Noel Reid, lost tighthead prop Marty Moore to a heavy knock after 15 minutes.

They dominated the second-half after an opening 40 minutes which was played for long periods between the ten-metre lines before Leinster got on top.

Luciano Orquera edged Zebre in front with a penalty before Madigan cancelled from the 22 after one from distance moments earlier had hit the post but the Italians failed to clear their line.

Madigan was the victim of an unpunished dangerous tackle from Mauro Bergamasco in the build-up to Leinster’s second try 12 minutes from time when replacement scrum-half Luke McGrath spotted a gap after they went wide and stretched the home cover.

They never looked like getting the bonus point but will head into the Champions Cup on a winning note after an indifferent opening segment of league games.

“We let ourselves down with a couple of results that were pretty tight games to be fair. I think it could have gone either way, it was a good wake-up call for us last week. To build into Europe off the back of this win after the Munster defeat will, hopefully, be good for us,” added O’Connor.

ZEBRE: D Odiete; G Toniolatti, T Iannone, G Garcia, L Sarto; L Orquera, G Palazzani; M Aguero, A Manici, D Chistolini; Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami; M Bergamasco, F Cristiano, S Vunisa.

Replacements: V Bernabo for Cristiano (40), K Haimona for Iannone (50), G Biagi for Bortolami (50), L Leibson for Chistolini (50), O Fabiani for Manici (53), A Lovotti for Aguero (62), A Ferreira for Geldenhuys (70).

LEINSTER: R Kearney; Z Kirchner, G D’Arcy, N Reid, D Fanning; I Madigan, I Boss; J McGrath, R Strauss, M Moore; M McCarthy, K Douglas; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan.

Replacements: M Bent for Moore (15), D Toner for Douglas (56), B Byrne for Straudd (60), J Heaslip for Ruddock (62), L McGrath for Boss (64), J Gopperth for D’Arcy (65), M McGrath for Kirchner (72).

Referee: N Paterson (SRU).

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