United Rugby Championship

Off-colour Leinster manage to hold off gutsy yet wasteful Lions in intriguing URC battle

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Lions wing Edwill van der Merwe. (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile/Gallo Images)
Lions wing Edwill van der Merwe. (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile/Gallo Images)

The Lions were once again reminded of the harsh reality that guts mean little if you can't back it up with points on the board, succumbing to a 21-13 defeat by Leinster in the United Rugby Championship on Friday night.

The final scoreline at the RDS Arena in Dublin was flattering to the Irish heavyweights and defending champions, who generally relied on some incisive counter-attacking play compensate for an off-colour performance where they, at times, truly struggled to get outside of their own half.

As it happened | United Rugby Championship - Leinster v Lions

Yet that really shouldn't be considered a consolation for the enthusiastic but error-prone visitors as they really need to start showcasing some basic application to turns good opportunities into points.

Using a dominant scrum as well as the momentum from a stream of penalties awarded against Leinster by referee Craig Evans, the Lions had two gilt-edged chances to take an unexpected 6-0 lead, but the returning Jordan Hendrikse - who otherwise made a decent return at flyhalf - fluffed those kicks at goals.

His half-back partner, Morne van den Berg, should've been rewarded after he conjured up a cracking break from a line-out, only to see his forwards loiter from close range and eventually be pinged for holding on.

That wastefulness would continue in the second half, notably when replacement lock Lunga Ncube's powerful surge into half a gap was undone by a knock-on from his off-load and fellow subsitute, loosehead Morgan Naude, conceded a penalty from a 5m attacking scrum immediately after Evans had warned him about his engagement technique.

Wing Stean Pienaar was tackled into touch inches from scoring in the right corner, while positional partner Edwill van der Merwe had the home defence under pressure from a loose line-out, only to throw his off-load into opposition hands.

In contrast, Leinster were far more ruthless when they got into their opponents' half.

Powerful winger Dave Kearney scored from the hosts' first meaningful incursion after fellow wing Tommy O'Brien threw a superb pass from a set move and they ultimately made the game safe in a three-minute period just after half-time, when tighthead Michael Ala'alatoa and flanker Josh Murphy rounded off patient, silky build-ups.

But those scores seemed to let some complacency creep in against a Lions combination that tackled well when they had to scramble and never gave up.

They were rewarded when skipper Jaco Kriel scored from a scrum, but that ultimately proved a source of frustration.

Things really could've turned out a lot differently.

Point scorers:

Leinster - (7) 21

Tries: Dave Kearney, Michael Ala'alatoa, Josh Murphy

Conversions: Ross Byrne (2)

Lions - (6) 13

Try: Jaco Kriel

Conversion: Tiaan Swanepoel

Penalties: Jordan Hendrikse (2)

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