Leinster 23 Glasgow 18
Fergus McFadden’s last-minute penalty clinched a hard-earned 23-18 victory for Leinster as they battled past defending Guinness PRO12 champions Glasgow Warriors at the RDS.
The Warriors impressed in defence and attack as they built a 13-6 half-time lead, young prop Zander Fagerson going over for a converted try with Duncan Weir and McFadden kicking two penalties apiece.
Luke McGrath and Taqele Naiyaravoro swapped tries in the third quarter, but a double whammy – a yellow card for winger Naiyaravoro and a penalty try – saw Leinster edge ahead and McFadden made certain of the win in the dying seconds.
The visitors, boosted by six returning Scotland internationals, set the early pace and Leinster needed a Ben Te’o-led choke tackle and a couple of scrum penalties, with Fagerson singled out twice, to claw back some territory.
But the Warriors broke the deadlock in the 13th minute, Rob Harley and Rory Hughes having key involvements in a multi-phase attack that eventually finished with the 19-year-old Fagerson muscling over from close range.
Weir’s conversion was quickly cancelled out by McFadden’s first successful penalty. A second right-sided kick from the winger closed the gap to one by the 21st minute, rewarding Aaron Dundon for a well-won ruck penalty and accurate lineout throw in the build-up.
Weir then punished Leinster for collapsing an advancing maul, punching over a fine 43-metre strike. He repeated the trick from the opposite left wing as Mike McCarthy infringed at a maul six minutes before the interval.
Leinster missed a chance to close out the first half with a third penalty goal, McFadden wobbling an injury-time effort wide after Pat MacArthur saw yellow for a ’reckless’ forearm-led tackle that ended Dundon’s involvement in the game.
The home side made their numerical advantage count on the resumption. Two-and-a-half minutes in, scrum-half McGrath’s blindside switch led to Garry Ringrose racing up the right touchline and following a bout of forward pressure, McGrath stretched over for McFadden to convert.
Leinster were only level for six minutes, the Scots hitting back with a terrific spell of attacking and a power-packed finish to the right of the posts by big Fijian Naiyaravoro. Weir was unable to convert at 18-13.
Noel Reid fumbled a low-slung pass from Ringrose following the latter’s impressive burst on the right, but Leinster’s attacked clicked in the lead-up to their penalty try.
Replacement Isaac Boss exploited a gap and Isa Nacewa’s well-weighted kick set up a foot race between McFadden and Naiyaravoro – the latter was deemed to have deliberately slapped the ball over the end-line as the pair lunged for the ball.
After consulting with the TMO, referee Ian Davies awarded the penalty try and sin-binned the Fijian, with McFadden’s conversion splitting the sides on the scoreboard.
Weir missed a long range penalty in the swirling wind and aided by some excellent carrying from man-of-the-match Ringrose and replacements James Tracy and Tadhg Furlong, Leo Cullen’s men saw out the result with McFadden nailing his final kick of the night.