Nathan Hines and Eoin Reddan made their competitive debuts for Leinster as the European champions recorded a workmanlike 23-14 win over the Dragons in Dublin.
Nathan Hines and Eoin Reddan made their competitive debuts for Leinster as the European champions scored a workmanlike win over the Newport Gwent Dragons in Dublin.
The introduction of the pair midway through the second half – along with Hines’ Lions colleague Gordon D’Arcy – helped Leinster battle to their first victory in this season’s Magners League.
Despite losing Gavin Thomas and Ashley Smith to the sin-bin in the first half, the Dragons were just 9-6 behind until free-running full-back Isa Nacewa burst clear for Leinster’s only try.
His opposite number Martyn Thomas replied with a well-worked try and while a penalty from James Arlidge cut the gap to six points again, Leinster sealed the result with a late drop goal from Shaun Berne.
Boosted by last week’s home defeat of Ulster, the Welshmen showed confidence on the ball early on with Wayne Evans building momentum with his forwards.
Debutant winger David Kearney was sprung for a 40-metre gallop that drew the 15,145-strong crowd’s approval, but Leinster struggled to capitalise on their breaks.
The deadlock was broken on 14 minutes when Jonathan Sexton slotted the first of his four penalty successes – only for Arlidge to response quickly, after Kevin McLaughlin was pulled up for a binding offence.
Thomas’ sin-binning for killing the ball preceded another Sexton penalty. Down to 14 men, the Dragons maintained possession impressively with Smith and Grant Webb heavily involved.
The visitors engineered a drop goal shot, which Arlidge pushed wide, and a chip chase from Richard Fussell did not come off in the left corner.
The nip-and-tuck nature of the game continued. A forceful run through the middle from man of the match Sean O’Brien lifted Leinster and Cian Healy was inches away from nabbing a try.
Smith walked, seven minutes before the break, for spoiling at a ruck. Leinster had to settle for another Sexton kick and the Dragons’ determined drives forward were rewarded on the stroke of half-time with an Arlidge drop goal.
An eye injury prevented Dragons stand-in captain Luke Charteris from returning for the second half and they needed flanker Thomas to produce a crucial steal as Leinster piled forward.
The Dragons’ resistance was finally broken on 54 minutes. The try was worth the admission price alone – a sumptuous wrap-around between Sexton and Berne set D’Arcy free near halfway and his well-placed pass put Nacewa thundering past Fussell and over from 30 metres out.
Berne tagged on a drop goal soon after as Leinster led 17-6. The Dragons maintained their composure and hit back when Tom Riley tied up D’Arcy near the Leinster 22, allowing Fussell the time and space to put full-back Thomas through for an unconverted try.
Sexton steadied the home ship with a close-range penalty but the Leinster outside half saw yellow for a ruck offence and Arlidge kicked the Dragons to a likely bonus point.
However, Leinster pressed on and Berne’s final-minute drop goal confirmed the Irish province’s 10th successive win at the RDS.