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Pro14

Leinster Edge Past 14-Man Benetton

Leinster have opened their PRO14 campaign with on a perfect note in Italy

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster defeated a spirited Benetton side 32-27 on Saturday evening to kick start their bid for three PRO14 titles in a row with a win.

A Dave Kearney hat-trick along with a try from fellow winger Adam Byrne saw the away team over the line in what was a tough game against a Benetton side that played with only 14-men for the last 30 minutes of the clash. 

The reigning champions started well with fly-half Ross Byrne knocking over a three minute penalty.

However, things were only to get better for the visitors ten minutes later as the men in blue spread the ball out wide, where Rory O’Loughlin brilliantly dragged in a couple of defenders before passing to Adam Byrne to touch down. Bryne slotted over the extras and it was 10-0. 

The hosts hit back straight away and were in for a try of their own on 20 minutes as Derrick Appiah got over. Former Munster man Ian Keatley kicked the conversion to make it 10-7 tp Leinster. 

Five minutes later and the Italian side were in front as hooker Tomas Baravalle barrelled over from a driving maul following a line-out. Again, Keatley was perfect off the tee and suddenly the hosts were 14-0 ahead. 

Leinster had the last laugh of the half though despite being under pressure from Benetton for most of the last 15 minutes. 

Some great play in the middle of the pitch led to Adam Byrne sending a long pass out to Kearney, who kicked over the top and regathered the ball before driving over the line. After some discussion with the TMO the try was awarded. Byrne converted from the right with the last kick of the half as the Leinster went in with their noses 17-14 in front. 

In the second-half it was the hosts that opened the scoring as Keatley took full advantage of a penalty three minutes in. 

Benetton were dealt a huge blow in the 49th minute however when winger Ratuva Tavuyara was sent off after colliding with Kearney in the air. 

Leinster took little time to make their man advantage count as two minutes later they were in the opposition 22, where Jamison Gibson-Park sent a looping pass over to Kearney on the left-wing. The winger dived over in the corner for his second try of the game, Byrne failed to add the extras leaving the game at 22-17. 

Despite being down to 14-men it was Benetton who looked the better side after the try and within two minutes of the hour mark they went ahead courtesy of another Keatley penalty, followed by a try from substitute Luco Sperandio which Keatley converted putting them 27-22 up heading into the final quarter. 

With fourteen minutes remaining Leinster were back in front as Kearney got in for his hat-trick in the left-corner after some nice work from the away side in the opposition 22 and securing a bonus-point in the process. Byrne’s fine conversion from the touchline was what nudged Leinster 29-27 ahead. 

As the clock ticked towards the final five minutes Leinster got a vital score as Ross Byrne’s younger brother Harry kicked a penalty over to push them five clear of their hosts.

That turned out to be the last score of the game as the reigning back to back champions kick started their campaign with a 32-27 win. 

Leinster will look to continue their winning ways when they host the Ospreys on Friday night, while Benetton will hope to get their opening win of the season when they travel to Connacht the following day. 

Leinster Player Ratings

Starting XV: 

Jimmy O’Brien (6), Adam Byrne (7), Rory O’Loughlin (8), Joe Tomane (7), Dave Kearney (9), Ross Byrne (8), Jamison Gibson-Park (7); Peter Dooley (6), Rónan Kelleher (6), Michael Bent (7), Ross Molony (7), Devin Toner (7), Max Deegan (7), Will Connors (6), Caelan Doris (8)

Replacements (6)

6 Nations

Double Injury Blow for Leinster

Leinster have been handed two big injuries to two of their key men as they head into the Christmas period

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(Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster have confirmed that star fly-half Johnny Sexton has suffered a medial tear in his right knee, while Ronan Kelleher has also had an injury set-back.

Sexton, who went off injured during Leinster’s 43-16 victory over Northampton Saints last Saturday, underwent scans on his knee yesterday and saw a specialist who revealed that he will miss between 6 and 8 weeks of action. 

The 34-year-old is set to miss the opening weekend’s of the 2020 Six Nations as a result, with the first fixture at home to Scotland on February 1st, with Wales coming to town a week later. 

It will remain to be seen how quickly he recovers, but the likelihood is that he will aim to be fit for Ireland’s third game away to England on the 23rd. 

However, his injury causes a slight selection headache for new head coach Andy Farrell, who at this moment is without Sexton and Joey Carbery, but the latter is expected to return from injury later this month. 

Although Sexton’s injury is a big blow, it could open the door once again for Connacht’s Jack Carty to get a run in the Irish line-up, while Leinster teammate Ross Byrne will take the reigns at club-level and with the form he is currently in, will fancy his chances of getting a call up to the national team having missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad. 

The injury also means that Sexton will miss all three of Leinster’s remaining Champions Cup pool fixtures as well as their three inter-provincial derbies over the coming month, with Byrne expected to be backed up by younger brother Harry and Ciaran Frawley. 

Although the bad news for both Leinster and Ireland doesn’t stop there with upcoming star hooker Ronan Kelleher expected to be side-lined for a period with a possible fractured hand, which he is thought to have suffered during last weekend’s game. 

It is thought that Kelleher was in poll position to earn his first call-up to the Irish side for the Six Nations after a blistering start to the season, but this may now dampen his hopes. 

Sean Cronin is believed to be nearing full-fitness once more, which would be a boost for both club and country as he could slot in seamlessly. 

The injuries are piling-up for Leinster, who will also miss centre Joe Tomane for the same period as Sexton through a hamstring injury, while Rory O’Loughlin will miss this weekend’s game with injury. 

James Ryan is also making his way through the back to play protocols after taking a knock to the head against the Saints, but could feature this Saturday. 

Leinster will hope that their squad can cope with the set-backs as they head into this weekend’s home fixture against Northampton, with younger stars now having the chance to lay a marker as the province look to make it 11 wins from 11 at the start of the season.

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6 Nations

Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Leinster have confirmed that out-half Johnny Sexton will not feature in this weekend’s return fixture against the Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.

The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury. 

The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year. 

As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side. 

The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend. 

However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem. 

In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win. 

Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.

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Pro14

Zebre Star Receives Small Ban for Biting

Zebre might have claimed a famous away win in the PRO14 last weekend, but it’s not all rosy for the Italian team after one of their players has been handed a ban for biting, although it’s shorter than most would expect

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Zebre No 8 has received a six-week ban after being found guilty of biting an opposition player during last Saturday’s PRO14 clash with the Ospreys.

The 24-year-old was expected to be handed a lengthy ban for an act of foul play that is seriously frowned upon in the sport, but after initially being given a 12-week ban it was cut in half due to his previous disciplinary record, his admission of guilt and his conduct throughout the process. 

All of which means that he will be free to play for the Italian minnows, who enjoyed a memorable away win in Wales, come the 12th of January. 

The four-time capped Italian’s ban comes only a week after the exact same ban that was handed down to La Rochelle’s Pierre Bourgarit, who was caught eye-gouging Sale’s Tom Curry in a Champions Cup fixture. 

Another one of the worst offences in the game and it was reduced from 12 to six weeks, much for the same reasons as Giammarioli. 

Some fans and ex-players will criticise the decision, as it appears a much softer result than in days gone by for offences that could have caused serious harm to opponents.

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