Leinster 22 - Cardiff 21: With four minutes left on the RDS gameclock, and Leinster just one point ahead, Cardiff Blues full back Matthew Morgan found himself in space, with two team-mates out wide, and the Leinster tryline within reach.
But inexplicably, Morgan turned into Tom Brady, throwing a forward pass that was more NFL than PRO12.
With the comically bad throw, the Blues threw away the chance of a first PRO12 win in Dublin and a fourth try bonus point to boot.
For Leinster, it was enough to claim a narrow victory, but there wasn’t much chest thumping at full time.
Cardiff might play like Wasps, the Aviva Premiership leaders who come to Dublin for Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final with Leinster, but Wasps won’t waste chances like Cardiff.
Leinster know what’s coming next weekend, and they know not only what they must do to win, but after Saturday – what they must not do.
“To gift opportunities like that to have a crack from their own half, to get players behind the ball and play off unstructured ball is probably not what we want to be doing,” said Leo Cullen.
“Certainly, it wasn’t what we wanted to do against Cardiff. It is just about how we manage the game, how we play on our terms. We weren’t trying to be loose today. It may have looked that way.
“We will have to look at how we could have taken more control and put more pressure on them, instead of gifting them those opportunities.
“It wasn’t the way we were trying to play or the way we will try to play next week. We need to be tidier, certainly not turning over the ball.” Leinster had an easy start, with Dan Leavy pirouetting like Simon Zebo to cross the Cardiff line after just five minutes, perhaps giving the players and fans drenched in sunlight a false sense of optimism.
But things were clumsy from there on, with Leinster turning over ball far too generously, 15 times in all, and they were punished by Cardiff with all three tries coming from counter attacks.
“They hit us a couple of times with sucker punches, just when we’re starting to look like we’re getting into the ascendancy and they’re a good team with a lot of experience,” Cullen added.
Although the cliche claims more is learned in defeat than victory, Saturday may prove to be an exception for Cullen.
Last season, there were enough defeats from which to learn lessons, none more obvious than the home and away defeats to Wasps.
Both games resulted in record European defeats for Leinster, with the 51-10 loss in the Ricoh Arena a particular low in a dismal season.
Rhys Ruddock, man of the match against Cardiff in the relatively unfamiliar No8 shirt – one he hopes he can wear next weekend in the absence of Jamie Heaslip – believes the defeat in England could be tapped into this week in advance of the return visit of James Haskell and company. “We feel like we’re a different team this year, but I’m sure having a look back and reminding ourselves of it will be no harm,” he said.
“Learning from those defeats and those tough moments is often what drives you. I’m sure, as a group, we’ll have a look back and re-open those wounds to drive us on.”
J Carbery; A Byrne, R O’Loughlin, N Reid (T Daly 59), I Nacewa (capt); R Byrne (F McFadden 68), L McGrath (J Gibson-Park 59); C Healy (P Dooley 51), R Strauss (J Tracy 51), M Bent (M Ross 51); R Molony, H Triggs (M Kearney 62); D Leavy, J van der Flier, R Ruddock.
CARDIFF BLUES -
M Morgan; A Cuthbert, R Lee-lo, S Shingler, B Scully (capt) (T James 65); G Anscombe (W Halaholo 65), T Williams (L Williams 71); C Domachowski (G Jenkins 58), K Dacey (M Rees 56), A Peikrishvili (S Andrew 33); G Earle, J Hoeata (E Jenkins 74); M Cook, J Navidi, N Williams (S Bennett 56).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved