Match report: Leinster surge to top of the table
January 26, 2007
Leinster went top of the Magners League table after producing a superb comeback to defeat Llanelli Scarlets 44-34 in a 10-try thriller at Donnybrook.
Without the bulk of their Irish internationals, Michael Cheika's side still had enough class to run in five tries, four of which were scored during a devastating 10-minute spell in the second half.
Phil Davies' Scarlets looked on course to end a run of three league defeats when scrum-half Clive Stuart-Smith dived over for their third try just after the interval.
But Leinster, in notching their 17th straight home win, brilliantly bounced back from a 20-10 deficit thanks to tries from Gary Brown, Kieran Lewis, Stephen Keogh and Jamie Heaslip.
The Scarlets hit the front in the third minute when Ceiron Thomas slotted over an easy penalty, and making use of an error-strewn start from the hosts, Davies' men scored a sublime team try in the 14th minute.
Prop Iestyn Thomas displayed his deceptive pace in midfield and seven passes later, full-back Morgan Stoddart managed to slalom over in the left corner.
Thomas nudged his conversion attempt just to the left and Leinster slowly mounted their comeback - an offside from Scott Macleod gave them the perfect chance to strike back.
Felipe Contepomi kicked to touch, Bernard Jackman's lineout throw was recycled through the forwards and then shipped out to the left for lurking number eight Heaslip to touch down.
Contepomi's conversion made it 8-7 and although the Argentinian added a penalty, close to half-time, the Scarlets took a 15-10 lead into the break thanks to a converted Regan King try.
The New Zealander, who effortlessly pulled the strings in the first half, slipped through a tackle from Luke Fitzgerald to dance over on 32 minutes.
Thomas watched a 28-metre penalty bounce back off the post, minutes before the interval, and he almost squirmed over for a try four minutes into the second half.
However, his half-back partner Stuart-Smith succeeded in dotting down off the next phase to push the visitors 20-10 ahead.
But with Owen Finegan and Christian Warner, whose introduction forced man of the match Contepomi to inside centre, impressing off the bench, Leinster turned the game on its head.
A Contepomi penalty was followed up by a 58th-minute try from pacy winger Brown, which brought the sides level.
Then Lewis shrugged off a Barry Davies tackle to romp over on a 40-metre run.
Keogh ended a great spell of pressure to dive over from close range and Heaslip followed suit, on 68 minutes, for his fifth try of the league season.
Contepomi, who burst through the league's 500-point barrier, managed to convert all four tries for an incredible score line of 44-20.
There was still time for another Contepomi penalty and for King to spark the stunned Scarlets to a late bonus point as Dafydd James and Barry Davies both crossed the whitewash.
Leinster: R McCarron; G Brown, K Lewis, M Berne, L Fitzgerald; F Contepomi, G Easterby; S Wright, B Jackman, W Green; T Hogan, C Jowitt; S Keogh, K Gleeson, J Heaslip.
Replacements: R Corrigan, B Blaney, O Finegan, D Toner/K McLaughlin, C Whitaker, C Warner/J Sexton, N Ronan.
Scarlets: Morgan Stoddart; Dafydd James, Regan King, Matthew Watkins, Darren Daniel; Ceiron Thomas, Clive Stuart-Smith; Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Craig Dunlea, Vernon Cooper, Scott MacLeod, Dafydd Jones, James Bater (capt), Nathan Thomas.
Replacements: Deacon Manu, Aled Gravelle, Adam Jones, Inoke Afeaki, Liam Davies, Barry Davies, Garan Evans.
Referee: Malcolm Changleng (Scotland).
Leinster: (10) 44
Scarlets: (15) 34