Leinster forced to dig deep against Zebre

Guiness Pro12

Leinster forced to dig deep against Zebre

Healy was making his first provincial appearance since September and was one of 13 Ireland internationals fielded by Leinster who had never lost at home to Italian opposition but took longer than expected to shake loose of their latest guests.

The visitors’ stubbornness wilted eventually. Understandable, really, given they needed to call up five amateurs midweek and ended up using a third-choice out-half and with a number of others press-ganged into duties in unfamiliar places.

The evening began with warm applause for Shane Jennings — who announced his imminent retirement a day earlier — as he led Leinster out and cheers of an ironic nature for Nigel Owens after the referee’s failure to make his flight that same night.

Owens’ grounding was due to his airline’s refusal to accept his driving licence when checking in and an error-ridden Leinster found Zebre similarly unaccommodating in front of a sparse attendance by the province’s standards on a cold night.

It was the visitors who started the scoring.

A relieving kick from their own 22 was returned 22 minutes in and suddenly, inexplicably, the whole right side of Leinster’s defence disappeared. The cavalry arrived eventually, but not in the time or numbers needed to stop full-back Hendrik Daniller going over.

Cue the sound of a pin dropping.

Zebre had already lost out-half Luciano Orquera to injury and his replacement Edoardo Padovani followed shortly before the interval, but by which time centre Mirco Bergamasco had kicked a penalty to give the Italians an 8-3 lead.

Leinster, without so many of their first-choice Ireland players, struggled for fluidity for most of the evening and, though Jack Conan went over 31 minutes in, Owens disallowed the effort for a barely perceptible knock-on by Jennings.

Gopperth provided the only Leinster points in the first 40 with his first successful penalty after 33 minutes, but it took just seven minutes more for Dominic Ryan to provide a try after a scything run off the wing from Luke Fitzgerald.

Jimmy Gopperth kicked the conversion to give Leinster the lead for the first time and the Kiwi ten then stepped inside off an Eoin Reddan pass from the base of a scrum from five metres out to run under the posts and give the scoreline a more comfortable sheen.

Credit to Zebre in that the floodgates never opened. The two late, hard-earned tries from Fitzgerald and Sean Cronin that secured the winning bonus point were hard-earned after a performance coach Matt O’Connor admitted had been “disappointing”.

Leinster scorers: Tries: Ryan, Gopperth, Fitzgerald, Cronin. Cons: Gopperth 3. Pens: Gopperth.

LEINSTER: Z Kirchner; F McFadden, B Te’o, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, E Reddan; M Bent, A Dundon, M Moore, M McCarthy, K Douglas, D Ryan, S Jennings, J Conan.

Replacements: S Cronin for Dundon and C Healy for Bent (both 43); R Moloney for Jennings and D Leavy for Conan (both 60); T Furlong for Moore (65); I Boss for Reddan and D Kearney for Kirchner (both 66).

Scorers for Zebre: Tries: Daniller. Pens: M. Bergamasco.

ZEBRE: H Daniller; D Berryman, Mirco Bergamasco, M Pratichetti, M Visentin; L Orquera, B Leonard; A de Marchi, O Fabiani, L Leibson, V Bernabò, M Sutto, J Sarto, Mauro Bergamasco, S Vunisa.

Replacements: E Padovani for Orquera (3); G Bernini for Sutto (20); A Chillon for Padovani (36); L Redolfini for Leibson (48); L Naka for De Marchi (52); L Guovanchelli for Sarto and R Riccioli for Mauro Bergamasco (both 62); D Odiete for Bernabo (65).

Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales).

Guinness PRO12: Benetton Treviso 40 Cardiff Blues 24

Aviva Premiership Rugby: Newcastle 23 Wasps 23

More in this section

CourtsRugbyLeinsterZebreGuiness Pro12Place: WalesPerson: Cian HealyPerson: Joe SchmidtPerson: HealyPerson: Shane JenningsPerson: Nigel OwensPerson: Owens’Person: ZebrePerson: Hendrik DanillerPerson: Luciano OrqueraPerson: Edoardo PadovaniPerson: Mirco BergamascoPerson: ItaliansPerson: Jack ConanPerson: OwensPerson: JenningsPerson: GopperthPerson: Dominic RyanPerson: Luke FitzgeraldPerson: Jimmy GopperthPerson: Eoin ReddanPerson: FitzgeraldPerson: Sean CroninPerson: Matt O’ConnorPerson: RyanPerson: CroninPerson: Z KirchnerPerson: F McFaddenPerson: B Te’oPerson: G D’ArcyPerson: L FitzgeraldPerson: J GopperthPerson: E ReddanPerson: M BentPerson: A DundonPerson: M MoorePerson: M McCarthyPerson: K DouglasPerson: D RyanPerson: S JenningsPerson: J ConanPerson: S CroninPerson: DundonPerson: C HealyPerson: BentPerson: R MoloneyPerson: D LeavyPerson: ConanPerson: T FurlongPerson: MoorePerson: I BossPerson: ReddanPerson: D KearneyPerson: KirchnerPerson: DanillerPerson: M. BergamascoPerson: H DanillerPerson: D BerrymanPerson: M PratichettiPerson: M VisentinPerson: L OrqueraPerson: B LeonardPerson: A De MarchiPerson: O FabianiPerson: L LeibsonPerson: V BernaboPerson: M SuttoPerson: J SartoPerson: Mauro BergamascoPerson: S VunisaPerson: G BerniniPerson: SuttoPerson: A ChillonPerson: L RedolfiniPerson: LeibsonPerson: L NakaPerson: De MarchiPerson: L GuovanchelliPerson: SartoPerson: R RiccioliPerson: D OdietePerson: BernaboEvent: PRO12Event: Guinness PRO12Organisation: LeinsterOrganisation: ZebreOrganisation: IrelandOrganisation: KiwiOrganisation: GopperthOrganisation: Benetton TrevisoOrganisation: Cardiff BluesOrganisation: AvivaOrganisation: NewcastleOrganisation: Wasps
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