Leinster 38 - 14 Cardiff Rugby
HT 19-0
Sat 28 January 17:05 RDS Arena United Rugby Championship

Leinster 38 Cardiff 14

Sat 28 Jan 2023 18:30 Leinster 38 Cardiff 14

Cardiff left Dublin empty-handed as Leinster demonstrated their quality with a ruthless performance in the BKT United Rugby Championship. 

The Blue and Blacks have not triumphed away from home against Leinster since 2004, but travelled across the Irish Sea with fond memories of victory the last time the two sides met. 

There was to be no fairytale ending on this occasion however as Leinster dominated throughout and ruthlessly punished Cardiff’s mistakes.

They led 17-0 at half-time thanks to tries from Jack Deegan and a Luke McGrath brace. Any hope of a Cardiff comeback was then quickly extinguished with two more early in the second-half through Brian Deeny and Max O’Reilly

Cardiff rallied in the final quarter and hit-back with a tries from Rory Thornton and Kristian Dacey but it was a case of too little, too late. 

Cardiff traveled to the RDS without as many as 20 players due to a combination of injury and international duties. Leinster were also without the 20 players they have in the Irish squad for the Six Nations and it was the Dubliners, who claimed the first try. 

The opportunity came from a wayward line out and from the ensuing scrum, Leinster went on the attack. Cardiff held up well initially but Leinster were soon given another penalty and fro a tap-kick they created a miss-match with Jack Deegan powering through Jarrod Evans.

Leinster failed to add the extras and Cardiff settled into the game well and a clever Evans grubber to the corner almost putting Owen Lane. The bounce defied the wing and moments later another promising attack came to an end when he was penalised for entering a ruck from the side.

The hosts claimed a second try on 20 minutes and again it came from a set-play tap penalty. This time they opted for speed of foot and hand, rather than power, as a succession of quick offloads around the corner saw McGrath dart over. 

Harry Byrne converted to give his side a 12-0 lead and matters were made worse as Rhys Priestland limped off before the restart. 

Ten minutes later McGrath sniped over for a second try, darting around the grind of a ruck for a try under the sticks that came far too easy. Byrne added the extras for a 17-0 lead. 

Leinster went into the break with their 17-point lead intact and they added to it within eight minutes of the restart after Jason Harries was sent to sin-bin. 

The wing knocked on while in the process of making a tackle and while Jaco Peyper was initially disinterested, the TMO intervened. Harries was duly sent to the bin and from the resulting penalty Leinster went to the corner and they eventually crashed over with Brian Deeny claiming the bonus-point try. 

Peyper came back for a potential knock-on in the build-up but the try was awarded and Byrne slotted the conversion to make it 26-0. Max O’Reilly soon made it five as he finished a sweeping move on Harries’ wing.

Cardiff battled hard for a try shortly after the hour mark but after going through a succession of phases, the ball was eventually knocked on. 

The Blue and Blacks soon came back downfield and Thornton - on his 100th league appearance - drove over from close range on 67 minutes, with Evans converting to make it 31-7.

They pressed for a second try as full time approached but they were not rewarded at the scrum and following a succession of resets lost possession as Leinster survived. 

A Domachowski break almost resulted in a try but after he fed Ellis Bevan the scrum-half’s offload went wayward. Cardiff came back for a penalty and were rewarded for a quick tap as hooker Dacey powered over for his fifth try of the season.

With the clock turning red, Cardiff knew any further score would prove to be a mere consolation in Dublin. Playing from deep, the visitors looked to finish on a high, but centre Liam Turner took advantage of a loose Bevan pass to give the hosts the final word.

With the Six Nations kicking off next week, Cardiff head into a two-week break before returning to action at the Arms Park on February 18, with Benetton Rugby set to visit the capital.