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Leinster top URC as Ireland stars return to thrash Scarlets

By PA
Hugo Keenan with ball in hand for Leinster. Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster’s international-laden team moved to the top of the BKT United Rugby Championship after beating a young Scarlets side 54-5 at the RDS.

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Sam Prendergast marked his first home start with an early try, and also converted efforts from Jimmy O’Brien and Max Deegan for a 19-5 half-time lead.

Johnny Williams made up for an early yellow card with a 26th-minute score, as Scarlets improved significantly as the game wore on.

However, on a night that saw nine of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup players returned to action, further tries from Garry Ringrose, Jamie Osborne (two), replacement Jack Boyle and Deegan made it a runaway win.

As if Scarlets’ task was not hard enough against a host of Ireland stars, centre Williams’ tip tackle on Ringrose put him in the bin after just 32 seconds.

The 14 men then fell behind in the third minute, a crisp counter-attack seeing Jamison Gibson-Park release Prendergast for an unconverted score.

A seven-pointer followed in the eighth minute, Gibson-Park picking out O’Brien to cut inside Tomi Lewis and open his account for the season, Prendergast slotting over the conversion.

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Dwayne Peel’s charges were 19-0 down by the end of the opening quarter. Jordan Larmour jinked inside and Osborne was tackled short before Gibson-Park sent flanker Deegan crashing over for the first of his brace.

On his first URC start, Charlie Titcombe lifted Scarlets with a fine kick to touch. Carwyn Tuipulotu went close and a further penalty led to Williams beating Joe McCarthy’s tackle to pull back five points.

Scarlets exerted more pressure nearing the break, but turned down two kickable penalties and prop Thomas Clarkson won a relieving penalty for Leinster.

Into the second period, Kieran Hardy outfoxed Gibson-Park off a scrum, breaking brilliantly from deep and evading O’Brien’s tackle. However, he was denied a stunning solo try by Hugo Keenan bundling him into touch.

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Just a couple of minutes later, Leinster countered for their bonus-point try. Keenan sped through to send co-captain Ringrose over from the edge of the visitors’ 22. Prendergast converted to make it 26-5.

Taking advantage of some missed tackles, Osborne slipped through from a Ross Byrne pass for try number five, which Byrne converted.

Leinster Academy scrum-half Fintan Gunne came off the bench for his senior bow and he soon made an impact, feeding Boyle to go over in the 66th minute with fellow replacement Byrne adding the extras again.

Gunne also put Osborne over to complete his brace and was hit high by Scott Williams for a second Scarlets yellow card. Deegan wrapped up the scoring with his fourth try in as many games.

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