Sexton's injury scare overshadows Leinster win
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Ireland may have suffered a major injury blow during Leinster’s 35-5 win over Dragons.
Just twenty days before the Irish resume their delayed 2020 campaign with the visit of Italy to Dublin, talisman and skipper Johnny Sexton lasted less than 23 minutes of Leinster’s league season opener.
The Ireland captain traded places with replacement Ross Byrne at the RDS before there was even a sweat broken in the largely one-sided encounter.
James Lowe scored two tries during the comfortable 35-5 victory against Dragons.
Lowe scored either side of half-time as the hosts flexed their muscles at the RDS Arena, running in five tries against their Welsh opponents to secure a bonus point.
Garry Ringrose, Jordan Larmour and Ryan Baird also crossed for Leinster, who have won their last 18 PRO14 matches.
Leinster were boosted by a strong international contingent in their XV, including captain Johnny Sexton and James Ryan.
However, Dragons enjoyed plenty of possession and territory in the opening 20 minutes.
Leinster turned them over three times though and made them pay when Ringrose found a gap five metres out on the right-hand side and scampered across for the first score of the season.
It got worse for Dragons when centre Jamie Roberts was penalised for a high tackle in the build-up and was sent to the sin-bin.
Leinster took advantage and scored a second try following a clever passage of play when they pulled the Dragons defence back and forth across the field, before Sexton fizzed a flat pass to the left corner where Larmour collected and powered over.
That was Sexton’s last involvement, with the fly-half forced off through injury, leaving Ringrose to show off his kicker skills and land the conversion.
Lowe walked over in the corner for his first of the night ten minutes before the break and the hosts kept their foot on the gas in the second half, with the winger holding off two tackles to brilliantly finish in the corner for his second.
Dragons got on the scoreboard spectacularly on the hour-mark when Ashton Hewitt somehow managed to plant the ball down acrobatically in the corner, despite being under pressure from two Leinster defenders.
However, Leinster got a fifth shortly after when Baird bounced off several tackles on a rampaging run to the line.
Tries: Ringrose, Lamour, Lowe 2, Baird
Cons: Sexton, Ringrose, Byrne 3
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 James Ryan, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Ed Byrne.
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Tommy O’Brien.
Dragons: 15 Will Talbot-Davies, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Harrison Keddie, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Conor Maguire, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Adam Warren.
Referee: Andrea Piardi
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Chris Busby
TMO: Simon McDowell