For the second straight week, Leinster did a tough job that was a little harder, turning two men over to the dustbin, and for the second straight week they deposited huge deposits into the experience bank. The bonus – literally – was that they were good enough to earn a lost bonus point. Keeping Stormers out of a win bonus guarantees Leinster first place with Munster to go through to the finals. Next stop Europe.
o For Leo Cullen, this turnaround has been successful, with a number of players doing well in difficult circumstances. Yesterday it was Alex Soroka’s turn to lead the young brigade’s charge alongside scrumhalf Cormac Foley.
The tone was set in the first half, at the end of which a 6:3 lead may not sound like after work, but was ideal under the given circumstances. But for a penalty Tom Clarkson would have conceded under pressure from Stormers captain Stephen Kitshoff – World Cup winner Springbok against a young man and third/fourth pick in his third season – it would have been more.
Likewise, they might have conceded more if the TMO hadn’t recalled a 35-second try for Ruhan Nel for interfering with Rory O’Loughlin under construction. Had Soroka not stolen two Stormers lineouts in prime attacking positions, Leo Cullen’s side would have been left behind.
Leinster’s main concerns were staying literally on his feet on a greasy, soft surface, sticking to tackles rather than falling off, and getting firmer in scrums. It began to look like the image of stability, but gradually changed shape. Their six points came from Ciarán Frawley’s boot after Mannie Libbok put the home side ahead in the 16th minute.
The second half was less than three minutes old with Leinster reduced to 14 men when John McKee – moments after Evans warned Rhys Ruddock about an extension to the crime list – saw a yellow card and he had hardly sat down in the bin when Warwick Gelant – courtesy of the handicap – came over in the corner.
It was a difficult time for the away team. They survived close shaves with Seabelo Senatla and then Hacjiva Dayimani in quick succession – Jamie Osborne held Dayimani very well after failing to make contact with a clearing kick – but the Stormers managed a second try just before McKee was sacked with Senatla Vaulting his way into the corner.
Ed Byrne closed the gap but with a penalty try for Stormers – costing Foley his freedom – this put Leinster in trouble but they held on to the lost bonus.
Lester: M O’Reilly (L Barron 44-54); A. Byrne (H. Byrne 55), J. Osborne, R. O’Loughlin, R. Russell; C Frawley, C Foley (Yc 66-76); E Byrne (M Milne 69), J McKee (yc 44-54; L Barron 69)), T Clarkson (V Abdeladze 52), B Deeny (J Dunne 50), J Murphy; A Soroka, R Ruddock (Captain) (S O’Brien 62), S Penny (M Moloney 77)
Striker: W Gelling agent; S. Senatla, R. Nel, D. Willemse, L. Zas; M. Libbok, H. Jantjies (J. Masimla 77); S Kitshoff (Captain) (B Harris 71), JJ Kotze (W Arnoldi 62), F Malherbe (N Fouche 62); A Smith (S Moerat 36), M Orie; D Fourie (J Pokomela 72), E Roos, H Dayimani
Referee: C Evans (Wales)
Striker 20: (try pen; W Gelant, S Senatla try respectively; M Libbok pen)
Leinster 13: (E Byrne try; C Frawley 2 pins; H Byrne con)
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/pro14/leinster-beaten-but-guaranteed-top-spot-with-losing-bonus-point-at-stormers-41603742.html Leinster beaten but guaranteed top spot with loss of bonus points at Stormers