Just like Ireland the weekend before Leinster gave their opponents a generous head start before turning up to play against Cardiff at the RDS on Saturday. Unlike Ireland, Leinster carried the comeback all the way to a win.
There were impressive cameos around the park from players used to playing second fiddle to their team-mates away on national duty but what was particularly impressive was the cohesion of the squad that let them take 14-0 after 11 minutes on the chin and take the ball down to Cardiff’s line and plug away through phase after phase until Horgan’s deft, flat pass put Michael Berne one-on-one against the visitors’ scrum-half, whose challenge he rode to touch down.
A penalty apiece made it 17-10 at the interval. In the second half Leinster ground rather than swept into a 19-17 lead through a steady trickle of Contepomi place kicks.
Cardiff enjoyed a period of dominance and missed a penalty and a drop-goal attempt, which would have given them back the lead. Instead it was Leinster who scored, Fitzgerald taking the ball in a couple of yards of space on the wing, striking a touchline hugging grubber and rounding a defender’s attempted bodycheck to slap down on the ball a foot from the dead-ball line.
Imperfect but very exciting. Leinster will look for improvements in their next outing but will reflect with satisfaction on cementing their position atop the table against their nearest rivals who were at more or less full strength as opposed to the host’s slightly denuded line-up.
Elsewhere, Munster toughed out a tight victory away to Edinburgh that they will be well pleased with and Ulster hockeyed the Dragons six tries to one at home and restored some much-needed pride in the first game of the Williams era.