Gopperth’s lucky 13 ends Dragons run

Newport Gwent Dragons 19 Leinster 23
Jimmy Gopperth kicked 13 points as Leinster hung on against the Dragons at Rodney Parade.

The Welsh side had been unbeaten at home since the Dubliners’ last visit in March, but tries from Noel Reid and Aaron Dundon, paired with Gopperth’s haul proved enough to end the hosts’ winning run.

Matt O’Connor was forced to make 11 changes due to a combination of injuries and international call-ups, with the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Cian Healy and Jamie Heaslip all unavailable.

But the sweeping changes had no ill-affect for O’Connor’s men, who claimed their fourth win on the bounce, with Zane Kirchner starring on his first start for the province.

Leinster made a commanding start and flexed their muscle up front but they failed to capitalise on their early dominance when John Cooney was pinged for a crooked feed. Gopperth was equally wasteful in front goal but he made amends after Lewis Evans was penalised on 12 minutes.

Tom Prydie quickly hit back and the Dragons enjoyed a period of pressure, but the game lacked any semblance of rhythm due to incessant errors.

After weathering the early storm it was the home side who threatened the try line first, but hooker Sam Parry lost the ball with the Dragons finally showing their teeth in attack.

Leinster appeared to have taken the lead after Jason Tovey failed to deal with the high ball.

Luke Fitzgerald moved the ball wide to Kirchner and his chip kick was superbly collected by Reid, who off-loaded to put Gopperth over in the corner.

But TMO Gareth Simmons adjudged that Reid had put a foot in touch in the process of being tackled by Tovey and the try was ruled out.

And Leinster were dealt a colossal blow just four minutes later when the Dragons surged down field to score themselves.

Leinster scrum-half Cooney was penalised for holding on after being put under pressure by opposite number Richie Rees at the scrum. Rees made the initial inroads with a quick-tap and Pat Leach combined with Prydie to release Wardle in the corner.

Tovey made no mistake from wide but Prydie missed the chance to stretch the Dragons lead to 10 points on 36 minutes.

And Gopperth punished Prydie’s miss with a shot of his own to cut the deficit to four points at 10-6 at half-time.

Tovey kick-started the scoreboard with a simple penalty after just two minutes of the restart but Leinster fought back.

The Irish side dominated possession but were unable to turn pressure into points as the Dragons refused to buckle. But they eventually had some reward for their attacking endeavour when Gopperth slotted a penalty on 50 minutes.

And the Dragons were dealt a blow when Adam Jones was sent to the sin-bin for pulling down son of Gwent Rhys Ruddock.

Leinster quickly capitalised on their numerical advantage as they opted to kick to the corner rather than take the simple three points.

They went through several phases and Dundon burrowed over to leave Gopperth with a simple conversion.

With their noses back in front Leinster showed their class with a quick-fire second try four minutes later.

They hammered the Dragons with relentless waves of attacks through the forwards and Kirchner showed his class, handing off Prydie and releasing Reid for a 30m dash to score under the posts.

Gopperth added the extras but failed to kick a penalty and Tovey hit back with a pair either side of Jack O’Connell being shown yellow to set up a tense finale.

A superb counter-attack in the dying moments put Leinster on the ropes. The Dragons piled on the pressure at the scrum but Leinster survived unscathed to the dismay of the partisan Arms Park crowd.

Scorers for Dragons: Try: Wardle; Con: Tovey; Pens: Prydie, Tovey.

Scorers for Leinster: Tries: Dundon, Reid; Cons: Gopperth 2; Pens: Gopperth 3.

DRAGONS: Amos, Prydie, Leach, Wardle, Hughes (D Evans 54), Tovey, Rees (J Evans 54); O Evans (Williams 54), Parry, Way (Chaparro 71), A Jones, Screech, Groves, L Evans (c), Talei.

LEINSTER: Kirchner, Fanning (Macken 71), Fitzgerald, Reid, Tuqiri, Gopperth, Cooney; Bent (O’Connell 63), Dundon (Tracey 73), Moore (Furlong 71), Roux, Denton (Marshall), Ryan (Auva’a 63), Jennings (c), Ruddock.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland).Other result: Edinburgh 25 Zebre 23.


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