Leinster 24-39 Glasgow Warriors
A record-breaking defensive shift from Glasgow Warriors secured a first victory at the RDS since 2011, with Dave Rennie’s men running in five tries to claim a 39-24 victory over Leinster.
A man-of-the-match performance from Jonny Gray – including a world-record tally of 43 tackles – and the boot of Adam Hastings provided the catalyst for a memorable performance, handing Leinster a first home defeat of the 2018/19 season.
With both sides chasing a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series, the intensity of the match was at fever-pitch from the first whistle. An errant Ross Byrne pass in midfield saw Seymour hack the ball downfield, with the Glasgow winger only denied a try by a cynical off-the-ball tackle from Byrne himself. The Leinster fly-half was duly dispatched to the sin-bin, as Hastings knocked over the penalty for a 3-0 lead after just four minutes.
Yet despite being down a man, it would be the men in blue that struck for the first try of the afternoon. After phase upon phase of possession in the Glasgow 22, a looping pass from Jamison Gibson-Park allowed Dave Kearney to step inside Stuart Hogg and touch down to give the hosts a 5-3 lead with 10 minutes played.
A second successful penalty from Hasting restored the visitors’ lead as Byrne returned to the pitch, before a moment of classic Glasgow rugby. Spotting a gap at the edge of a ruck on his own 22, Ali Price’s speed of thought and acceleration saw him race through untouched and up to halfway. Chased by a brace of covering defenders, the scrum-half slipped a sublime offload out of the back door to send the supporting Sam Johnson en route to the line. A piston of a handoff to the chest of Byrne from the centre took him over the whitewash, Hastings converting to add the extras to a wonderful score.
With the RDS crowd urging their side forward at every opportunity, the men in blue made sure to make the most of possession when it came their way. After five minutes of relentless pressure on the Glasgow line, it was eventually Rob Kearney that found the way through for the try that – combined with Byrne’s conversion – narrowed the gap to a single point as the half entered the closing stages.
The Warriors response was immediate. Scott Cummings’ retrieval of Hastings’ kick-off gave Dave Rennie’s men perfect field position from which to launch an attack, before making inroads into the Leinster 22. With just seconds left on the clock before the interval, Hastings had the vision to find Seymour’s arcing run with a 20-metre pass to leave Dave Kearney in no-man’s land and send his winger in for the score. Whilst the conversion drifted wide, it was Glasgow who headed into the changing rooms with an 18-12 advantage.
Neither side was about to let up in their pursuit of victory, with the second half beginning at identical intensity to the first. It was Leinster who once again were first to cross the whitewash; after 30 phases of possession in the Glasgow 22, a short line from Rob Kearney saw the full-back ride out the tackle of Price to touch down for his second try of the afternoon. Byrne’s conversion was on target from out wide, edging Leinster in front by a single point.
That lead was extended as the game hit the hour mark, with the Kearney brothers again playing prominent roles. Byrne’s pass wide allowed Jordan Larmour to step around Hogg, before offloading to Rob Kearney. The full-back in turn slipped the ball to brother Dave, who managed to spin out of the tackle from Niko Matawalu and over the line. Whilst the conversion attempt sailed wide, the RDS scoreboard read 24-18 in the home side’s favour.
Once more, though, Glasgow answered the questions being asked by their hosts. A penalty kicked to the corner saw Jonny Gray rise highest to claim the lineout, with the resulting maul proving unstoppable from close range to the delight of the travelling Warrior Nation. Matt Fagerson eventually emerged with the ball to claim the plaudits as try-scorer, Hastings adding the extras to restore Glasgow’s lead.
With the match in the balance entering the final ten minutes, it was the Warriors who seized control. Another surging lineout drive was held up just short by the Leinster defence on this occasion, but there was nothing the home side’s defence could do to deny Zander Fagerson from following his brother onto the scoresheet. The tight-head powered over from a matter of inches to emphatically plant the ball over the try-line, Hastings adding the extras for good measure.
A victory laid on the foundations of resolute defence was even to have a final flourish with the clock in the red. With Leinster chasing a losing bonus-point from inside their own 22 George Horne plucked opposite number Hugh O’Sullivan’s pass out of the air to sprint over untouched and apply the coup de grace, a final conversion from Hastings sealing a 39-24 triumph for Rennie’s men.