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Match-winners go awry as Leinster draw with Stormers

By PA
Manie Libbok and Ciarán Frawley fight for a loose ball. Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster were guaranteed top spot in the BKT United Rugby Championship despite seeing their 15-match winning run in the competition come to an end in a pulsating 22-22 draw with the Stormers.

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Manie Libbok and Harry Byrne both squandered potential match-winning kicks at the RDS late on.

Byrne went closest to deciding this top-of-the-table contest, hitting the post with a 76th-minute penalty after Libbok had failed to convert Clayton Blommetjies’ levelling try.

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Minus their Ireland Grand Slam winners, leaders Leinster were content to settle for a draw having trailed by 17 points at one stage. It was their 19-match winning run in all competitions come to an end.

Libbok had contributed a dozen of the wind-backed Stormers’ first-half points, building a 17-5 at half-time and he also supplied the assist for Suleiman Hartzenberg’s 33rd-minute breakaway try.

Scott Penny, Rob Russell and Max Deegan all crossed during a terrific third quarter from the hosts, adding to Michael Milne’s earlier score. Yet, the second-placed South Africans claimed a share of the spoils.

Libbok’s seventh-minute penalty rewarded the Stormers’ business-like start. They had captain Steven Kitshoff among their returning Springboks.

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Having missed a drop-goal, Libbok showed his attacking class with a slick 25th-minute try, sidestepping inside both Liam Turner and Penny to go in under the posts and convert.

Just as Leinster were building phases, Libbok then intercepted a loose pass to dart past halfway and lay off for winger Hartzenberg to finish off under the posts.

Nonetheless, nice hands from Deegan played in prop Milne for a well-worked five-pointer, with the Stormers leaking a number of penalties near their try-line.

Leinster dominated the start of the second half, Penny piling over from a maul with Byrne’s missed conversion from out wide leaving it 17-10.

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Russell prevented a certain try with a turnover penalty and then popped up with his side’s third score, Blommetjies making a mess of a kick receipt before Milne put the winger over in the corner.

Following a second 50:22 kick from fly-half Byrne, Hartzenberg was sin-binned for infringing at a maul. Number eight Deegan duly barged over for Byrne to make it 22-17.

On their Dublin debut, the Stormers’ big pack forced a series of penalties. With 12 minutes remaining, a brilliantly-weighted kick from Libbok was grounded by Blommetjies ahead of Dave Kearney, yet neither number 10 could find the killer blow.

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