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Leinster maintain place at top of table with comfortable win over Benetton

By PA
Leinster players, including Ross Molony, second from right, celebrate with Brian Deeny, 19, after he scored their side's sixth try during the United Rugby Championship match between Leinster and Benetton at the RDS Arena in Dublin. (Photo By Ben McShane/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

BKT United Rugby Championship leaders Leinster comfortably maintained their place at the top of the table with a 47-18 bonus-point victory over Benetton at the RDS Arena.

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Benetton started and finished the first half impressively, with Ignacio Mendy touching down in the first minute and Jacob Umaga tagging a monster penalty onto the winger’s late second try.

That cut Leinster’s lead to 21-18 at the break, but Jason Jenkins bagged their bonus point soon after the restart to add to earlier scores from Scott Penny, Luke McGrath, and Liam Turner.

Video Spacer

Sam Warburton on Leinster and Jacques Nienaber

Video Spacer

Sam Warburton on Leinster and Jacques Nienaber

Making it a seven-try triumph in the end, Academy scrum-half Ben Murphy notched his first senior score, and fellow replacement Brian Deeny and captain Penny added the late gloss.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell will have noted Ross Byrne’s encouraging return from injury. He landed his first four conversion attempts and was solid throughout his 69 minutes on the pitch.

The Italians swiftly showed exactly why they are sitting second in the standings. They worked the ball wide for Mendy to score in the right corner, with Umaga also converting.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
3.3
14
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
3.7
4
Entries

Leinster applied pressure through their forwards in response, and Penny, supported by Ross Molony, plunged over beside the posts. Byrne’s conversion made it seven-all.

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The hosts added a quick-fire second converted try in the 13th minute, with scrum-half McGrath the scorer after a slick offload from Jamie Osborne.

Umaga pulled back three points with a 25th-minute penalty, but a smartly-worked try off the training ground released centre Turner to crash over in determined fashion.

Nonetheless, an injection of pace and quick hands put Mendy over to close the gap again, and Umaga’s booming 59-metre penalty made it a three-point game at the turnaround.

Leinster still needed to shake off their rustiness, and lock Jenkins got them back on track with a 42nd-minute try. Tommy O’Brien’s high fielding was a highlight during the build-up.

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Points Flow Chart

Leinster win +29
Time in lead
68
Mins in lead
8
85%
% Of Game In Lead
10%
94%
Possession Last 10 min
6%
14
Points Last 10 min
0

The Treviso-based side were making more errors now, and the 22-year-old Murphy picked from a 64th-minute scrum and neatly nipped over past two defenders.

Sam Prendergast replaced Byrne at fly-half and his soft hands were all over Leinster’s penultimate try. He provided the assist and conversion for Deeny’s close-range effort, and then Penny drove in low to complete his brace.

Malakai Fekitoa was fortunate to avoid yellow late on for a high hit, but while Umaga was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, Leinster misfired with a loose Osborne pass in their last attack.

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Poorfour 5 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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