Leinster started their season away to last year’s runners-up and took a draw home. Cardiff were better over the entire game but Leinster finished more strongly and will be irritated at the indiscipline that cost them a penalty on halfway that allowed Cardiff to draw level 7 minutes from time. They should also reflect on their lack of composure 5 minutes later that saw them go for a specualtive drop-goal having only just breached the home 22 after just about their only period of sustained attacking continuity in the game. Building some pressure through the phases was the correct call as far as I’m concerned.
That skittishness in attack might have been ironed out earlier had the backline got their hands on more attacking ball but retention at the breakdown and disruption of opposition ball were both quite poor. Leinster’s loose forwards will need to show a big improvement if Leinster are to entertain real ambition. Jowitt was anonymous at best, Jennings was well below his best and Heaslip seemingly reduced to clearing up grotty ball at the base of a creaking scrum. The addition of Elsom at blindside flanker and Van der Linde at tighthead would address these concerns and their debuts are eagerly anticipated.
One other concern was the unthreatening drift of Leinster’s defence. Over the whole of last season and this match I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the opposition look outside and see the long pass cut off by a rapidly advancing outside-in defensive line. Cardiff made easy yards with simple width and our line at times was both narrow and steeply angled backwards away from the breakdown, as opposed to flat along the offside line. That passivity gave the Welsh a free hand to recycle and build pressure. Their lack of return on the scoreboard and the visitor’s stronger finish will be the key positives for Leinster to take from this game.