Leinster ease past Cheetahs to book home semifinal
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Tries from Conor O’Brien, Adam Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin proved enough as Leinster Rugby beatCheetahs 19-7 to extend their lead at the top of Conference B in PRO14.
The Irish province came into this game on the back of four straight PRO14 wins, while the Cheetahs had lost consecutive fixtures.
And the home side made it five in a row thanks to tries from O’Brien, Byrne and O’Loughlin, complemented by some robust defensive work in the second half.
An early try from Rabz Maxwane threatened to put pressure on the table toppers, but experience and game management secured the points for Leinster and guarantees them a home semi-final.
O’Brien opened the floodgates with a try after just ten minutes when he burst between two Cheetahs players to pierce the back line.
But Cheetahs hit back instantly when they seized on a loose ball to kick high up the field.
Maxwane flexed his athletic ability as he left three Leinster players in his wake to latch onto the ball and cross the line.
After a period of pressure, winger Byrne took advantage of some wonderful passing play from his Leinster side to jink inside his defender and power the ball home.
Leinster started the second half on top, with the wings threatening a fragile Cheetahs defence time after time.
But at the other end, the experienced Leinster defence stopped the visitors from taking advantage of their limited forays into offensive territory.
A foul from a scrum deep in the Leinster half gave Tian Schoeman the chance to reduce the deficit, but he scuffed high and wide in the rainy conditions.
As Cheetahs failed to take advantage after building up some rare pressure, it was Leinster who dominated the territory, only to be repelled by a seemingly dogged Cheetahs defence.
But eventually the breakthrough came as O’Loughlin found space down the left before latching onto his own excellent kick to make the score more comfortable for his side.
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The final quarter saw ferocious tackles flying in from both sides as the two teams cancelled each other out – both in sloppy attacking play and committed defence.
Max Deegan exemplified this as he stole a Cheetahs lineout deep in the Leinster 22 to ward off a sporadic chance for the visitors.
Leinster were happy to go through their phases in an attempt to wear their opponents down, while Cheetahs’ kick-dominant strategy was rendered ineffective by the excellent positioning of the Leinster back line.
Late pressure threatened to secure a bonus point for the Irish team but they settled with the four to maintain their mammoth lead at the top of the conference.
Tries: O’Brien, Byrne, O’Loughlin
Cons: Byrne 2
Yellow card: Ox Nche (Cheetahs, 9)
Leinster: 15 Dave Kearney, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Conor O’Brien, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Max Deegan, 6 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Barry Daly.
Cheetahs: 15 Louis Fouche, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain),8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais R, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Marnus van der Merwe, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Rudy Paige, 23 Shaun Venter.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Colin Stanley (Ireland)