Leinster v Scarlets

Leo Cullen’s side open the Ireland v Wales double header of knockout matches at the RDS

John O'Sullivan Fri, May 19
LIVE: Leinster v Scarlets

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  • Hello and welcome to the Irish Times live rugby blog of the Guinness Pro12 semi-final between Leinster and the Scarlets at the RDS (7.45). John O'Sullivan here and I'll be taking through the action, before, during and after tonight's game.  
  • Leinster and the Scarlets are vying for a place in the final against the winners of tomorrow's game between Munster and Ospreys at the Aviva stadium on Saturday week.  
  • The teams are out on the pitch and there is a healthy representation of Scarlets' supporters judging by the noise.  
  • "I'm Scarlets 'til I die...........you know the rest of the words!
  • In other news, Stade Francais have beaten Cardiff and will play the winners of the Northampton Saints and Connacht for a place in next season's Champions Cup. The French side were losing 19-10 at half-time but came back to win.  
  • There's a little over half an hour to kickoff.  
  • The sun is valiantly hanging on here at the RDS although there have been some humongous raindrops too. Supporters in the North and South terraces will be looking to the skies for most of the night as the weather forecast is for thundery showers.  

  • Time for some easily digestible statistics. No don't thank me!
  • Leinster have scored the most tries in a single Pro12 season with 91. The previous record was 68……..I think.  

  • Six of the Lions squad selected to tour New Zealand next month will be in action tonight. Leinster have four Robbie Henshaw, Johnny Sexton, Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong while the Scarlets boast two, Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies.


    Sean O’Brien and Scarlets hooker Ken Owens are missing through injury. O'Brien withdrew from the replacements earlier today with a tight calf. Owens ankle issue is more serious.  

  • Here's the merry band of Scarlets supporters.  


    Played: 28. Leinster: 17 Scarlets: 10. Drawn: 1


    The last seven matches between the teams have been won by the home side.


    The Scarlets only win at the RDS was their first visit in October, 2007.  

    I've so much more to offer, don't worry.  

  • The crowd is slowly taking up their seats. Very slowly. 20-minutes to go.  
  • The final score in that match: Stade Francais 46 Cardiff Blues 21
  • In OTHER, other news, golf to be precise, Rory McIlroy has withdrawn from the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth because of a rib injury that flared up at the PLayers' Championship at Sawgrass.  
  • Right here are tonight's teams, currently being read out by the stadium PA man, Bob Conway, well that might be an alias.  

    Leinster: J Carbery; A Byrne, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, I Nacewa (capt); J Sexton, L McGrath; J McGrath, J Treacy, T Furlong; R Molony, H Triggs; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: R Strauss, C Healy, M Bent, D Toner, D Leavy, S O’Brien, J Gibson-Park, Z Kirchner.


    Scarlets: J McNicholl; L Williams, J Davies, S Williams, S Evans; R Patchell, G Evans; R Evans, R Elias, S Lee; L Rawlins, T Beirne; A Shingler, J Davies, J Barclay (capt). Replacements: E Phillips, W Jones, W Kruger, D Bulbring, W Boyde, J Evans, H Parkes, DTH van der Merwe.

  • Referee: Marius Mitrea, Romanian born, Italian affiliated.  
  • Time for some more statistics. It's no trouble, really.

    Leinster have averaged more points (30.6) than any other team in the league.


    Scarlets have the best lineout in the league at 91% success.


    Leinster have the best scrum in the competition (97%)


    BATTLE OF THE BREAKDOWN: Scarlets average more turnovers (7.9) per game with Leinster (7.1) in second place.  

  • There are some drummers on the pitch and the teams are heading for the derssing room. Kickoff is six minutes.  
  • Some final conversational topics.


  • Scarlets left wing Steff Evans has the most metres made (1197), offloads (18), clean breaks (27), defenders beaten (59) and tries (11) in terms of the players on view. He’s also a league leader in a couple of the categories. It’s fair to say he’ll take a bit of watching.


    Flanker James Davies, younger brother of centre, Jonathan, leads the way with the most tackles (214).  



  • Just to cover all bases before the start.  
  • In the event of a draw, extra time (10-minutes each way) will be played and then a placekicking competition will ensue. A team will nominate three kickers each and they will take six kicks between them. Only players who are on the pitch at the end of extra time qualify to be nominated to take a kick. It goes to sudden death then.  
  • I think this is Scarlets hooker Ken Owens, who misses tonight's game through injury, wishing his teammates well. Welsh not my strong point.  
  • The Scarlets are out.  
  • The Foggy Dew is blaring out, Leinster's arrival imminent.  
  • A rousing reception for Leinster.  
  • Ready to go
  • Robbie Henshaw is on the player mic.  
  • Scarlets flyhalf Rhys Patchell kicks off.  
  • Three rucks going nowhere and Luke McGrath boxkicks on his 22.  
  • Patient from Leinster over a dozen phases taking play into the Scarlets 22.  
  • Isa Nacewa dots down in the corner but Sexton's pass is adjudged forward.  
  • Excellent opening four minutes from Leinster. Accurate physical and looking to offload in the tackle.  
  • Jack McGrath is receiving attention.  
  • Scarlets scrum on their 22 metre line.  
  • Patchell clears, Carbery takes, and Conan makes a break. Leinster once again in the Scarlets half but Sexton slips, the ball goes loose and the Scarlets have it.  
  • Poor chip from Sexton gives away possession and then 60 seconds later he drops the ball under no pressure; both incidents very unlike him.  
  • Scarlets scrum just inside the Leinster half.  
  • leinster get the shove on but Scarlets get the ball away.  
  • 8 mins: TRY, Steff Evans.  
  • Leinster caught napping on the short side, missed tackles and poor communication in alignment. Patchell adds the conversion.  

    8 mins: Leinster 0 Scarlets 7

  • McGrath has gone off and Cian Healy is on.  
  • Josh van der Flier the altest Leinster player with an unforced handling error after a Carbery half break.  
  • McGrath's injury looks like an elbow, which he had strapped during that break in play. Leinster concede free kick at first scrum after McGrath's departure.  
  • Ringrose with a half break and the Scarlets concede a penalty.  
  • Leinster kick to touch, win lineout, Henshaw drops pass from van der Flier; he would have been away in the 22.  
  • Leinster have been sloppy at crucial times in terms of their handling. Much of what they are doing is very good but they're undermining themselves by making basic errors.  
  • Steff Evans try was his 12th of the season.  
  • Leinster are also missing the odd tackle, very evident in the build-up to the Scarlets try. The Welsh side have barely been in the Leinster half but they do have that crucial converted try.  
  • Scarlets defensive line is nice and aggressive and they're enticing Leinster into some questionable decision making in possession.  
  • The home side need to settle and quickly.  
  • There are 16 minutes gone and Leinster have a scrum on the halfway line.  
  • Leinster again building patiently and the Scarlets are penalised. Offside.  
  • Sexton receiving attention. Strong run and carry.  
  • Nacewa will take the penalty.  
  • 19 mins: PENALTY,Nacewa.

    Leinser 3 Scarlets 7

  • High tackle on Healy is missed and Scarlets get the penalty at the ruck.  
  • Scarlets lose the ball, Luke McGrath races clear but is overhauled by Steff Evans and brought down eight metres from the Scarlets line. Johnny McNichol with a superb turnover saves a try.  
  • Luke McGrath is injured in the process and has gone for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA). Jamison Gibson Park is on.  
  • TRY: Ringrose
  • That's Leinster at their best. A wonderful piece of attacking rugby. Henshaw over the gain line, Gibson Park so slick, Sexton and the inside pass from Conan to Ringrose opens the Scarlets defence wide. Nacewa adds the conversion.

    24 mins: Leinster 10 Scarlets 7  

  • TRY: Shingler try.  
  • Leinster implode from the re-start, Gibson Park's clearing kick partially charged down and after the Scarlets make another way too easy line break, the Leinster scrumhalf is fended off by Shingler who canters under the posts. Patchell adds the conversion.  

    26 mins: Leinster 10 Scarlets 14

  • That's really poor from Leinster again. The communication in defence has to be so much better.
  • Referee Marius Mitrea didn't check for a forward pass in the build-up to the Shingler try. It wasn't obviously forward in real time.  
  • TRY: Gareth Davies
  • Leinster over run in defence again. Tackles missed through several phases but drifting early allowed Scott Williams to step inside, offload and Webb profited two passes later. Scarlets have been sharp in attack but Leinster are dreadful in defence.  
  • 31 mins: Leinster 10 Scarlets 21
  • The Scarlets have been impressively aggressive in defence. They're hutning Leinster ball carriers and the line speed is impressive. They're forcing errors. It's the biggest difference between the two teams. Leinster have missed more tackles in 30-minutes than they would in an entire game.  
  • It looks like Luke McGrath's evening is over.  
  • Leinster concede another penalty at the breakdown after a lovely offload from Ringrose to Adam Byrne.  
  • Leinster's defence caught out again, this time by Steff Evans.  
  • Sorry in my distraction I typed Rhys Webb instead of Gareth Davies for the try. And now the Scarlets scrumhalf and Sexton have had a tussle on the sideline.  
  • It leads to some all-in wrestling. The TMO said it's handbags and Leinster get the penalty.  
  • Ringrose the victim of a tip-ish tackle.  
  • Mitrea goes to the TMO.  
  • Steff Evans is the culprit and the feet go beyond the horizontal. That's red, no argument.  
  • There's no argument here if they apply the letter of the law.  
  • Ringrose's feet are lifted beyond the horizontal and he is brought down on his neck.  

    RED CARD: Couldn't be any other decision. Steff Evans, the best player on the pitch in the opening 30-minutes has been sent off.  

  • There are 90 seconds to the interval.  
  • Leinster go to the corner but another mistake gives the Scarlets a scrum.  
  • Leinster get the drive on but Healy is penalised for going in on the angle.  
  • HALF-TIME: Leinster 10 Scarlets 21
  • Right where to start. The Scarlets are full value for their lead. Three tries to one and some lovely attacking rugby but Leinster's defence was shockingly inept.  
  • The Scarlets have been aggressive in their line speed and that has forced some errors but Leinster's handling has been substandard.  
  • Jack McGrath's arm injury appears to be a dead arm. Luke McGrath, the other player that Leinster lost in the first half, took a heavy blow to the shoulder/neck area.  
  • Steff Evans tackle wasn't malicious but it was dangerous. The letter of the law dictated that it had to be a red card. Referee Mitrea asked his TMO to make the call and Alan Falzone obliged.  
  • Scarlets have taken their three chances and to be honest that's all they have really had in that half of rugby. It's too their credit that they have been so effective once inside the initial line of defence but Leinster's tackling has been ridiculously brittle.  
  • The home side have played some enterprising rugby but handling errors at crucial times have crucified them.  
  • The Scarlets backrow has led the way while former Leinster secondrow Tadhg Beirne has enjoyed a super half too.  
  • Second half is about to start.  
  • Leinster to cut out the individual errors. Scarlets to keep playing their rugby.  
  • Albeit that the Welsh side will have to play the second 40-minutes a man down after Steff Evans sending off.  
  • Cian Healy has no number on his jersey.  
  • Leinster go through the phases again and then the ball carrier gets isolated leading to a turnover penalty.  
  • A loose pass but Jonathan Davies nudges a left footed grubber kick through and takes play up to the Leinster 22; the home side promptly lose the lineout.  
  • It'll be interesting to see how patient Leinster head coach Leo Cullen will be in terms of making changes.  
  • Apart from the two enforced alterations that have seen Luke McGrath and Jack McGrath go off injured.  
  • Gibson Park box-kicks the ball out on the full. Leinster need to escape the torpor or this game is going to have only one result.  
  • To compound matters Leinster captain Rhys Ruddock has gone off for a HIA. Dan Leavy is on.  
  • There are seven minutes gone in the second half.  
  • There's a lot of chat between the back five in the Leinster pack ahead of a scrum 30-metres from the home side's line.  
  • Scrum collapses. re-set. Mitrea tells everyone to stay quiet. Scrum. Leinster penalty. A few pleasantires exchanged.  
  • Leinster win a lineout on the Scarlets 22 metre line through Leavy.  
  • Ringrose with another wonderful break; he's giving Jonathan Davies a torrid time.  
  • 50 mins: Hayden Triggs is replaced by Devin Toner and the New Zealander playing his last game at the RDS gets a standing ovation.  
  • Jonathan Evans on for Gareth Davies at scrumhalf for the Scarlets. Davies a pantomine boo boy from the first half gets the bird as he leaves. Not sure he'll care much.  
  • Leinster: eight handling errors, five turnovers conceded.  
  • The latest one has given the Scarlets a scrum. Patchell clears and Carbery runs into referee Mitrea. Cue ironic cheers.  
  • That's harsh. Healy is penalised at the scrum. Mitrea said: 'short bind and going down.' The general malaise continues for the home side.  
  • Scarlets lineout in the Leinster 22.  
  • Toner stops the maul and forces the turnover scrum.  
  • There are 25-minutes left but Leinster are no closer in the second half to find their fluency and rhythm; still very disjointed in general play, some excellent individual efforts notwithstanding.  
  • Leinster win scrum penalty.  
  • Only 70-metres to go to the Scarlets line.  
  • Wyn Jones on for Rob Evans in the Scarlets front row.  
  • Great tackle from Ringrose forces a Davies error but its swiftly followed by one from Gibson Park and Tracy; scrumhalf's pass was high.  
  • There are 23 minutes remaining. I'm struggling to remember such an error ridden Leinster performance.  
  • Leinster need to be a little more direct. They're going wide a little early and this is allowing the Scarlets defence to drift. They need to ask questions of the visitors on the fringes to suck them in and create the space for Ringrose and Adam Byrne who has added value every time they've touched the ball.  
  • The Scarlets are within 20-minutes of inflicting a first defeat on Leinster in six semi-final matches at the RDS. Tadhg Furlong walks off the pitch a little ginergly; not a good night for Ireland's two Lions props. Michael Bent is on.  
  • Another Leinster pass flies over the touchline.  
  • The Scarlets are comfortable. Leinster's error-rate ensuring they're not overly stretched despite being down to 14-players.  
  • Scarlets overthrow lineout. Tracy surges to within a metre of the line.
  • Leavy carries and then Conan barges his way over with a great leg dive. Nacewa then misses the conversion. He hits the post from 15 metres and five to his left.  

    65 mins: Leinser 15 Scarlets 21

  • Leinster, as they have done all match then follow up with a couple of errors. The first in boxkicking too far and then conceding a penalty at the ruck. Scarlets lineout just outside the Leinster 22.  
  • Hadleigh Parkes has been on for Patchell for about six minutes at this stage.  
  • Great tackle by Ringrose forces handling error from Liam Williams. Scarlets cleverly looking to slow the game down.  
  • Re-set scrum. Mitrea's officiating has been weak at times tonight.  
  • Penalty against Cian Healy at the scrum. It's 30 metres from the Leinster line. Liam Williams os going to take it because Patchell is in the stand.  
  • There are 10-minutes left and if Liam Williams gets this, Scarlets will have a nine point lead.  
  • 70 mins: Leinster 15 Scarlets 24
  • Penalty creeps inside the right hand upright.  
  • Penalty to Leinster and Sexton nudges it down to about 30-metres from the Scarlets line.  
  • Great burst from van der Flier
  • Leinster 12 metres out.  
  • Leinster concede penalty at the breakdown; take a bow Tadhg Beirne.  
  • There are seven minutes left. Clearout too slow from the home side and Beirne was brilliant over the ball.  
  • Zane Kirchner on for Ringrose. The young Irish centre has been brilliant. If the Lions team was being picked tomorrow, he'd be going instead of Jonathan Davies if judged on the 70 plus minutes tonight.  
  • Sexton with a forward pass. Scrum Scarlets. Game almost up for Leinster. Two scores behind, four minutes left.  
  • The Scarlets have shown plenty of character in the second half to supplement the tries in the first 40-minutes. They have ridden their luck at times but they've earned that with their effort. Another Leinster error. Scrum Scarlets.  
  • The Scarlets are going to the Aviva stadium for next week's Pro12 final.  
  • The Welsh side have become the first side to win an away semi-final since the tournament went to the playoffs.  
  • Leinster can have no complaints. The performance was miles below in accuracy terms the standards they set for themselves.  
  • Right on cue. Scarlets penalty for a high tackle which Liam Williams ryokes over the crossbar.  

    Leinster 15 Scarlets 27

  • James Davies leaves the pitch, rightly accliamed as the man of the match. He was a scourge at the breakdown. The re-start doesn't go 10-metres.  
  • Scarlets have been the form team in the latter part of the season and they have continued that form at the RDS tonight.  
  • They have now beaten both Munster and Leinster on their home patches this season.  
  • FULL-TIME: Leinster 15 Scarlets 27
  • When Leinster look back at the two semi-finals this season, against Clermont in Lyon and the Scarlets in the RDS, it'll hurt.  
  • Credit to the Scarlets and their supporters, both of whom were in fine fettle tonight.  
  • There couldn't be a greater contrast at the two ends of the pitch with Leinster players shoulders slumped going to thanks their supporters while the Scarlets fans are bouncing as their red-shirted heroes make their way to the South stand.  
  • Leinster will do a little soul searching to see why they misfired for a second time in a big match.  
  • Nacewa was very honest in his post match assessment, 'we made error, upon error, upon error.  
  • Nacewa: "We didn't do the basics right. There were a number of dropped balls and eror, upon error, upon error. We can't do it in most games and you certainly can't do it in a semi-final. They did it with 14 guys and at the end of the day we have to give them credit to come to the RDS and do that. It's going to be a long summer.

    "We want to be better than that, if key guys fall down we back ourselves to push on through. It just didn't happen tonight and it's going to be an ugly Monday review."

  • Gavin Cummiskey's match report is on the way. Not sure many Leinster supporters will have a stomach for the post mortem.  
  • Thank you for your company and comments.