Belfast Telegraph

Leinster left red-faced as Scarlets make history with superb away win

Leinster 15-27 Scarlets

By Cian Tracey

The script was written before a ball was even kicked, but no-one told the Scarlets as their 14 men ripped up the history books and stunned Leinster to advance to next week's Guinness PRO12 final.

The majority expected an all-Ireland decider at the Aviva Stadium, but the Scarlets were rewarded for their consistently fearless approach across the season as they tore the Leinster defence to shreds.

Prior to last night, no away team had ever won a PRO12 semi-final, and despite Steff Evans' red card just before the break for a tip tackle on Garry Ringrose, the Welsh side managed to hold on for a stunning victory.

Three first-half tries from the visitors left the home crowd stunned. This was a disjointed Leinster performance, littered with uncharacteristic errors, as they missed the chance to avenge last season's final defeat.

Johnny Sexton had a rare off night and, with his lack of control, Leinster struggled. The Ireland out-half shipped a knock midway through the first half and never looked right after it.

That said, when you haven't played a game in almost four weeks, it was always going to be tough to get up to speed in a semi-final against a quality Welsh side.

Leinster grew into the game in the second half thanks to their numerical advantage, but by that stage the damage was already done as the Scarlets had built a 21-10 half-time lead.

To add to Leo Cullen's side's woeful first-half display, they lost Jack McGrath and Luke McGrath to injury. Rhys Ruddock would later follow the scrum-half off with a head injury.

All told, it was a night to forget for Leinster who had started the game very brightly.

A Sexton knock-on, however, gave Scarlets an attacking scrum which eventually led to Evans silencing the home crowd after eight minutes.

Adam Byrne shot up off the line and missed the tackle. That allowed Davies to free his hands and release John Barclay, who in turn fed Evans. After that it was all about the speedy winger's pace as he sprinted clear and under the posts to allow Rhys Patchell to slot the easy extras.

Matters got worse for the hosts as McGrath was forced off and replaced by Cian Healy.

Sexton dropped to the deck after a hefty hit and required attention, all the while Lewis Rawlins was pinged for not releasing.

With Sexton still being attended to, Isa Nacewa assumed the kicking responsibilities and put Leinster on the board.

Leinster didn't have to wait long to get over the whitewash as Ringrose finished off a stunning move.

Sexton and Jack Conan linked well before Ringrose took over and turned on the afterburners to score. Nacewa's conversion put Leinster 10-7 in front after 24 minutes.

Jamison Gibson-Park had his box-kick charged down by former Leinster lock Tadhg Beirne who came back to haunt his old club.

Gareth Davies was left with a two-on-one and he duly fed Aaron Shingler, who dotted down under the posts. Patchell's dropped conversion put the Scarlets back in front just two minutes after Leinster had taken the lead for the first time.

Sexton was furious but his restart dropped short, which allowed Scarlets another foothold.

They eventually took full advantage with Davies the latest to score for the Welsh side.

Patchell's conversion pushed the Scarlets into a 21-10 lead and when Sexton got involved with Davies off the ball, it summed up Leinster's frustrations.

It all played into the Scarlets' hands, but their famous win came under serious threat two minutes before half-time when Evans was deservedly shown a red card for his tip tackle on Ringrose, who was lucky to avoid a serious injury.

Conan bulldozed his way over for a try late on, but Nacewa missed the conversion, allowing Liam Williams to send over two late penalties and propel the Welshmen into next week's final in Dublin.

Belfast Telegraph

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