Leinster put a 35-point win over Zebre this afternoon at the RDS, with the side’s younger players coming out to help first-time captain Devin Toner lead the squad to another Pro 14 victory. This victory means that Leinster is still 4 points clear of Scarlets at the top of Conference B. The match started with the sun shining, however around 30 minutes in the rain was pelting down, making conditions incredibly hard even after the rain had stopped.
After an uneventful first 10 minutes, Leinster opened the scoring at 12 minutes when James Lowe crossed the line for a try. Ross Byrne converted successfully to make it 7-0. After a lot of kick-tennis back and forth between the teams, there was a period of sustained pressure on Zebre’s part and they finally got a score on the board at 33 minutes after Leinster conceded a penalty for offside in the Leinster 22. Carlo Canna kicked the penalty to put three points on the board.
From the restart, Leinster returned the pressure: Barry Daly made the initial line break and after some pressure, the ball went out to Rory O’Loughlin who crossed for his first try, and the score was 12-3 to Leinster. After the restart, Leinster was in possession but after a call to check a tackle from the TMO, Zebre were awarded a scrum near Leinster’s 22 for a forward pass and Zebre simply ran the clock down into half-time.
The scoring started early on in the second half on the rain-soaked pitch, when Max Deegan committed daylight robbery on Zebre, stealing a ball when it came out of a ruck and steamrollered over the Italian line to get the third try for Leinster, bringing the score to 17-3 in the 41st minute. Zebre finally got three more points on the board in the 51st minute, when they opted to have Canna kick a penalty: unfortunately, it would prove to be the end of their scoring.
Leinster started to empty their bench on the 54th minute, binging on a new front row and in the 59th minute, O’Loughlin made a break and Deegan went over the line in the corner for his second try of the match. Byrne successfully kicked the conversion, bringing the score to 24-6 to Leinster.
The rain meant that the ball was now very slippery and there were mistakes and knock-ons on both sides while they adjusted to the rain. Leinster continued to empty their bench, knowing that the hard work was now done and brought on some youth to give them some game time: Gavin Mullin came on in the 66th minute to make his Leinster debut and became the 53rd player used by Leinster this season, showing the depth of their squad and academy.
Lowe crossed in the 68th minute for his second try of the match, and Vakh Abdaladze crossed three minutes later for his first Leinster try, which Byrne kicked successfully, leaving the score at 36-6. Brian Byrne crossed on the 76th minute, making the inevitable even more inevitable and leaving the scoreboard at 41-6.
Max Deegan was named Man of the Match, after putting in a fantastic performance on a day when the ball and the pitch were unforgiving in the pouring rain. The outcome of this match was never in doubt, but it makes for a great first run out at captain for Devin Toner.