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Brian O’Driscoll put in a classy performance on his RaboDirect PRO12 return to lead Leinster to a 34-20 victory over Cardiff Blues.
Tries for Sean Cronin, Dominic Ryan and Ian Madigan, complemented by 12 points from Madigan’s boot, were enough to prevent Cardiff from ending a seven-match winless run at Leinster.
Alex Cuthbert and Cory Allen scored for the Welsh side, as Leigh Halfpenny added a conversion and two penalties, but the visitors fell short.
Cardiff made the brighter start but Halfpenny missed the chance to put them ahead after just three minutes, sending a 40-metre penalty underneath the posts.
But the British & Irish Lions full-back made amends three minutes later – Leinster’s ill-discipline handed him a second penalty, at the 22, and he put the Blues ahead.
Cardiff almost added a try soon after when a break by Rhys Patchell left Owen Williams in some space but his inside pass did not come off and the chance disappeared.
The hosts struck back to take the lead after 13 minutes, when O’Driscoll took the ball to the line and offloaded smartly to Cronin to cross over, and Madigan added the conversion.
O’Driscoll continued to cause problems as Leinster probed for another try but the Cardiff defence held the hosts at bay and the home side settled for a pair of quick-fire penalties.
Madigan kicked both with ease, the first from just outside the 22 after as many minutes and the second just moments later to hand Leinster a ten-point lead.
Cardiff pressed shortly after and earned a five-metre scrum but the hosts couldn’t break a resilient Leinster back-line to score.
Halfpenny’s boot reduced the deficit just before the half-hour mark after the Blues were awarded a penalty on the 22.
Much of the remainder of the first period was played between the sides’ 22s but O’Driscoll broke once again three minutes before the break and the ball ended up with Rob Kearney, who almost crossed over in the corner – but the full-back was pushed into touch, leaving Leinster 13-6 up at the break.
The second half began as an even affair but Cardiff were reduced to 14 men on 47 minutes when Filo Paulo conceded a penalty and was sent to the sin bin.
Leinster’s pack was already dominant and the numerical advantage was too much for the visitors, whose constant infringing in the scrum was punished with a penalty try just two minutes later – Madigan added the two points.
On 53 minutes Cuthbert took the ball standing still at the halfway line and, after a strong hand-off on Kearney, he streaked away to score a try, which Halfpenny converted.
Leinster almost struck back immediately when Fergus McFadden’s effort was sent upstairs to the TMO, who adjudged the winger to have knocked on as he crossed over.
Cardiff looked set to break away for another try shortly after the hour mark but a forward pass from Cuthbert, after taking the contact, prevented Harry Robinson from scoring.
And Leinster punished the mistake on 67 minutes, after a driving lineout took the visitors back to their own five metre-line and Ryan grabbed the try, which Madigan duly converted.
Leinster sealed the win five minutes from time when Madigan grabbed a try of his own, running up the inside to touch down, and converted it himself.
Substitute Cory Allen pulled one back for the Blues, intercepting a loose pass and heading for the posts and Patchell added the conversion, but it was only mere consolation.