Port Elizabeth – A three-try blitz at the start of the second half propelled
Leinster to a 31-10 bonus point win in their historic PRO14 game against the
Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
Rory O’Loughlin, Jack Conan and Joey Carbery touched down
between the 42nd and 51st minutes to secure Leinster’s third successive
try-scoring bonus point, with Dave Kearney’s 71st-minute try – the province’s
fifth of the day – capping off the first leg of their South African tour.
Fullback Carbery was one of four returning Ireland
internationals slotted back into the starting XV by Leo Cullen, who also
welcomed back Kearney, Noel Reid and Jordi Murphy, who was playing for the
first time since his ACL injury against New Zealand last November.
Reid’s eighth-minute converted score, in response to a
Masixole Banda penalty, was the only try of a sloppy first half from Leinster
at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. They led 7-3 at the turnaround with the Southern
Kings impressing in a number of areas, particularly at the breakdown.
James Ryan imposed himself in the lineout and in the
physical exchanges on his first start in Leinster blue, and as the visitors
went up a couple of gears on the resumption, their decisive three-try blast was
followed by Kearney’s effort before replacement Jacques Nel bagged a consolation
try for the gallant Kings.
Beaten heavily on their recent visits to Llanelli and
Galway, the Kings played with pace and precision at the start of their home
debut in the competition. The fruits of their labour was a third minute penalty
from full-back Banda.
Conan and Luke McGrath were both prominent as Leinster broke
up the hosts’ early momentum, the latter’s tackle on his opposite number Rudi
van Rooyen earning his side a lineout in an advanced position.
A slick back-line move, with Carbery to the fore, had Adam
Byrne barging towards the try-line. Just a couple of phases later, and after a
strong carry from Ed Byrne on his first start, centre Reid managed to muscle
his way over to the right of the posts with Ross Byrne converting.
The Kings were able to absorb some further pressure,
including a Ross Molony pass which just evaded McGrath’s grasp, before Leinster
needed an important tackle from O’Loughlin to foil the South Africans’ threat
However, Leinster were being beaten at the breakdown, the
efforts of Victor Sekekete and company winning a series of penalties as the
visitors coughed up possession in both halves. Indeed, Cullen’s charges leaked
eight turnovers by half-time with 18 missed tackles also registered.
Making his seasonal debut, Carbery blundered with a kick
straight into touch and although he redeemed himself with a subsequent break
from deep, Stephan Greeff lined him up with a crunching tackle into touch.
Kings’ scramble defence was also in good nick, Reid’s kick just having too much
on it after an initial Sean Cronin steal and surging run from McGrath.
Leinster’s start to the second half was much improved. The
accuracy and zip was back in their game, the returning Murphy’s well-won
penalty and a brilliant Ross Byrne touch finder launching them forward.
was caught with a high tackle, but playing the advantage, O’Loughlin brushed
off Yaw Penxe’s attempted tackle to touch down out wide on the left. Byrne
missed the conversion on the far side, leaving it 12-3.
Leinster were beginning to hit their stride now, Andrew
Porter driving up close to the posts before good ball retention set up number 8
Conan to power past van Rooyen and cross the whitewash just five minutes after
O’Loughlin’s try. Ross Byrne swept the conversion over from the right wing.
Snappy passing preceded Leinster’s bonus point score, O’Loughlin’s
nice in-and-out run and well-timed pass leading to Carbery crashing over in the
left corner. Out-half Byrne booted a superb conversion from the touchline,
stretching the gap out to 23 points.
Carbery then had a second try ruled out for a knock-on by
Cian Healy, who had come on to win his 175th cap. There was an initial
interception by Reid who broke from deep but was hauled down by the chasing
Banda just as he reached the hosts’ 22.
The Kings reignited their attack entering the final quarter,
their replacement scrumhalf Godlen Masimla looking dangerous from a kick
through which led to a close-in penalty.
Leinster’s solid defence of a maul and
a subsequent scrum penalty saw them keep out Deon Davids’ side, but a brilliant
counter attack – started by Banda near halfway – had the visitors’ line under
However, Leinster’s tackling and organisation in defence
continued to frustrate the Kings. Healy, James Tracy and Michael Bent came on
in the front row and won a penalty in Kings territory, the resulting possession
from touch seeing Marsh and Reid combine in a wraparound, with neat passes from
Marsh, Adam Byrne and Larmour creating an opening for Kearney to mark his
return with a try by the left corner flag.
Marsh’s conversion attempt went the wrong side of the right
hand post, and the small but vocal home crowd were able to celebrate five
minutes from time when Kurt Coleman’s pacy break and pass played in Nel for a
hard-earned converted try by the posts.