Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Scarlets denied top spot

Rhys Priestland

Leinster launched a remarkable second-half comeback to grab a 17-17 draw and prevent the Scarlets taking top spot in the Magners League at a rain-drenched Parc y Scarlets.

The Scarlets looked certain to seal victory after opening up a 17-5 lead but in the last nine minutes tries from Fergus McFadden and Shane Horgan earned the Irishmen a share of the spoils.

Rhys Priestland won the battle of the kickers putting over four out of five penalties with Jonathan Sexton missing 10 points-worth of kicks before slotting over the final conversion which levelled the match. Right at the end it looked as if Sexton would have a chance at a drop-goal to win the match, but he knocked the ball on.

The Scarlets welcomed back Matthew Rees, Stephen Jones and Deacon Manu from the autumn internationals and the trio were used as second-half replacements. Fellow internationals George North (bruised shoulder) and Sean Lamont (bruised hip) were rested. Leinster included Ireland trio Sexton, Gordon D'Arcy and Eoin Reddan.

The Scarlets thought they had scored a try after only 65 seconds when Morgan Stoddart had followed up a kick ahead, but on the intervention of the TV match official the score was disallowed due to Horgan getting to the ball before the home wing.

But the Scarlets did go into a fourth minute lead when Priestland put over his first penalty from a line-out infringement.

Leinster did not have much territorial advantage but they made the most of a Sexton cross kick which Horgan passed back for centre Eoin O'Malley to race over for the only try of the half.

Either side of a flare-up following a high tackle on Dan Newton by Sean O'Brien, which saw referee Nigel Owens give both teams a serious talking to, Priestland put two penalties over on 26 and 35 minutes to give the Scarlets a 9-5 half-time lead.

The Scarlets looked in control at the start of the second half with Sexton missing two penalties and Rhys Ruddock, son of former Wales coach Mike, getting sin-binned for dangerous play at a ruck.

With the extra man centre Gareth Maule went over in the left corner for his side' only try which looked to have wrapped the match up for the Scarlets. But after Priestland missed a penalty from halfway Leinster launched a concerted comeback with McFadden squeezing over in the right corner and Horgan following him over only five minutes later.

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