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
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)
Former Welsh Ace to Hang Up Boots
One of Wales’ former stars has confirmed that he will retire from rugby come the end of the current season
Former Wales back James Hook has announced that he will be calling time on his professional rugby career come the end of the current season.
Hook is contracted to the Ospreys, but with his deal set to end at the end of the campaign he has decided the time has come to pull the curtain on a professional career spanning 16 years.
“It’s sad but something I’m really looking forward to. It comes to everyone at some point and now it’s time for me. I’ve had lots of highlights, winning Grand Slam titles and Six Nations and going on the Lions tour in 2009. Then signing my first professional contract was a big moment for me. Growing up I always aspired to be a professional rugby player. You never think it’ll actually happen so when it did it really was amazing,” he said in a post on social media.
The 34-year old picked up a total of 81-caps for Wales to go along with his 148 appearances for the Ospreys.
Hook has admitted he hopes to continue his rugby journey off the pitch, but that he is also looking forward to having more time to spend with his family after such a long time on the playing field.
“I want to stay involved in the game, particularly working on the skills, like I do now with the young kickers and the age-grade sides, and I’m hoping to finish my level three coaching qualification. It’ll be nice to spend time with my family, my three young boys and my wife. It’s going to be sad not playing at the end of the season, but you’ve got to be positive and look on the bright side and I’m looking forward to what’s next,” he added.
As well as his rugby career Hook has also written a series of children’s books that are set to be released later this year and that could provide him with something else to venture into if they are successful.
However, for now he will be hoping that he can help the Ospreys turn around their disastrous season to date before he hangs his boots up for good.
Connacht Set to Lose Big Star
Connacht look set to without one of their key men next season according to reports as he appears set for a move
They are reporting that the former Rebels man is the Top 14 side’s preferred replacement for the departing Liam Gill, who will leave at the end of this season.
Connacht were keen to keep their players’ player of the year from last season and had entered contract talks to extend his deal past the original two years, but with talks stalling Lyon have come in with a reported offer of 300,000 euro a season which would be hard to refuse.
The 28-year-old would be a huge loss to the western province having been such a massive influence since his arrival in 2018.
However, more positive news for fans is that the back-rower is set to return from a knee injury this weekend against Toulouse, to help Connacht during a period where injuries have severely hampered them.
It is understood that Connacht would like to replace Fainga’a with another overseas star, but for now they will hope to get the most out of the Aussie between now and the end of the season.
Carbery Confirms Feelings on Latest Set-Back
Joey Carbery was ruled out for the foreseeable future yesterday and the injury prone star has taken to social media to reach out to his fans
Carbery, who had an injury-hit 2019, suffering hamstring injuries that kept him out of large parts of the end of last season, before picking up an ankle injury before Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign, suffered a wrist ligament injury during last weekend’s loss to Ulster and will now likely miss the start of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign.
The fly-half took to social media after the news broke to thank fans for their support during a tough time in his career.
“Devastation doesn’t even describe how I’m feeling. Thanks for all the well wishes. Been a tough couple of months physically and mentally, and thought I was in the clear. But will be back soon, better than ever,” he said on Instagram.
It was announced by Munster that the Ireland star will undergo surgery on the injury and he appears set to miss their last two Champions Cup Pool stage matches along with the games with the national team.
It is a cruel blow for Carbery, who looked to be in line for a starting role for Ireland in the first couple of rounds of the Six Nations with first-choice fly-half Johnny Sexton also currently sidelined with injury.
Leinster’s Ross Byrne now appears set to be handed the reins at No 10 for the men in green and if he takes his chance Carbery could find it even harder to get back into the team.
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