A bonus point home win for the mighty Leinster over a team they have devastated more than a few times in the past was the least expected, and was pretty much all they accomplished. The Dublin-based party took what they came for in a simple way.
Northampton’s tribulations continue, its form so strangely imploded since the virus ended normal service in March. They were competitive, in a way, but they know that this competition is a luxury that they can’t afford to dream of, so avoiding humiliation could register as something of a bonus.
“If we had come here and we had 60 points to zero, that could have had an impact,” said Chris Boyd, Northampton’s director of rugby. “But we have about half a dozen guys to get back on the team next week against Worcester. We learned a bit about some of the players. The performance was as important to us as the result. “
The Saints seemed likely to end the day with 14, after officials studied Tom Wood’s departure from Josh van der Flier in the second half, who was met with the latter’s head. They decided to let it go, a decision that Leinster coach Leo Cullen did not complain about. Another group of officials might have decided otherwise, although Wood was in control and had few other options for linking. By then, in any case, the game was over.
Leinster was also a bit shy of his best team. If Northampton needed more support, Leinster’s doctor provided it, eliminating two of the hosts’ key players that day. Harry Byrne and Caelen Doris, fly-half and number 8, fell through injuries, the former being replaced by their older brother Ross, an Ireland international. In 10 minutes, Leinster had lost his winger, Jimmy O’Brien, also through injury.
Northampton could not take advantage. By the time O’Brien said goodbye, Leinster was a test and then another a few minutes later. They were both soft, a theme repeated throughout. The defensive lapses that have plagued Northampton since the resumption of the lockdown were still in evidence. Most of the day’s attempts came straight from scrums, Leinster’s failures almost as obvious as those from the visitors.
Garry Ringrose made the incision for the game’s first try, straight from a scrum, which paved the way for Josh Murphy, Doris’s replacement, to collapse. Minutes later, Ryan Baird, a padlock, galloped clean like a back. Northampton survived that one, but when they chose to scrum on a free throw on their own 22, they simply gave up a free throw to their hosts, who tapped and charged for Cian Healy to pass.
At the time it looked like an all too familiar loss was coming, but the next two attempts were scored by the Saints, who withdrew three minutes before halftime. They were both from scrums too. The Leinsters were hardly solid on defense.
Fraser Dingwall chose a great line from Tom James’ pass for Northampton’s first, before James himself recovered from a scrum and made his way to the line. An earlier Byrne penalty proved the difference at that point, but after Byrne’s break – from another scrum – a Jamison Gibson-Park long pass put Dave Kearney in the corner at the edge of the break.
Gibson-Park took his turn right after the restart, running clean to the line straight from a scrum to open up a 29-14 lead for Leinster and claim the bonus point, only to undo his good work by conceding a try for just one minute. . later. Nick Isiekwe charged up with his kick and then stepped in to score Northampton’s third.
The frenzy ended, when a biting wind whipped some rain into the mix. Leinster was sober enough to kick twice in the fourth quarter when he was offered penalties. They took what the world of rugby supposed, the maximum of points, although without the usual flourish. The first place in Group A remains his.
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