The match began with a minute’s silence in respect of Leinster, Ireland and British Lions flanker Mick Doyle, who died in a car crash earlier in the week.
The Dragons showed no respect for the former Triple Crown-winning Ireland coach when No 8 Michael Owen burst through a bemused Leinster defence before slipping the ball to Wales hopeful Jason Forster for the game’s opening score under the posts in the fifth minute. Springbok star Percy
Montgomery hasn’t missed many this season and slotted the conversion to give his side a healthy early lead.
The home side weren’t there to make up the numbers, though, and brilliant centre Brian O’Driscoll showed the skills that make him arguably the best outside back of his generation with a stunning burst which left the Dragons
defenders grasping at thin air.
O’Driscoll’s score in the corner proved too big a task for kicker Brian O’Meara, but the Leinster fans weren’t disappointed for long. A misplaced clearing kick from the Dragons dropped kindly for Leinster and international lock Malcolm O’Kelly galloped over for a morale-destroying
five-pointer. O’Meara had no trouble with the extras, but he’d barely got back on his side of halfway when the Dragons hit back.
Hooker Steve Jones supplied the crucial pass and winger Ben Breeze flirted with the try-line before dotting down for the game’s fourth try in only the 12th minute.
Dragons fly-half Craig Warlow made it five tries in 19 minutes when he charged down a Felipe Contepomi clearance and the Dragons were three-quarters of their way to the crucial try bonus point with an hour left on the clock.
It wasn’t long before the crucial fourth try came along. Scrum-half Gareth Baber broke clear, fed lock Peter Sidoli and prop Chris Anthony juggled the final pass before scoring the try that had them in tears at Stradey Park.
Leinster hit back when winger Jimmy Norton scored his seventh try of the season in the 37th minute, and O’Meara added the conversion and a last-gasp penalty goal to narrow the margin to 25-29 at the halftime break of an action-packed match.
Leinster lost backrower Victor Costello to the sin-bin in the early exchanges of the second half, and Dragons secondrower Sidoli enhanced his claims for a ticket to Argentina and South Africa next month with a well-taken try in the corner after some clever work from flanker Jamie
O’Meara bagged his third penalty goal of the match and Norton’s second try – a powerful individual effort – brought the home side right back into
contention. O’Meara’s conversion narrowed the margin to one point with 20 minutes remaining.
With Montgomery staying off the field at halftime, Warlow was taking care of the second-half goal-kicking and a penalty goal gave the Dragons a small amount of breathing space.
It didn’t last long. O’Kelly bagged his second of the evening and the Dragons’ hopes of an upset ournament victory took a huge hit when O’Meara’s conversion gave his side a three-point lead.
Argentinian fly-half Contepomi and backrower Niall Ronan put the result beyond doubt with late tries, and Dragons coach Mike Ruddock was left to ponder what might have been if his side had bagged a few more bonus points.