Undefeated: And Then There Was One…

Luke Baker
28 October 2019

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The reigning Guinness PRO14 champions have showed no signs of halting their dominance as the 2019/20 campaign kicks off, now proudly sitting as the only side in the competition to be able to boast an unbeaten record following their narrowly-fought Round 4 triumph over Zebre.

They may be lacking 14 players through World Cup duty for Ireland, but Leo Cullen is in possession of a more than capable group of understudies who have stepped in admirably to pick up three bonus-point victories over Benetton, Ospreys and Edinburgh.

And, following their triumph in Parma on Friday night – the joint-lowest scoring game in Guinness PRO14 history – and defeats for Scarlets and Toyota Cheetahs, it is the men from the RDS who represent the solitary side to have enjoyed a flawless campaign.

As they prepare to face Dragons on home soil in Round 5, here’s how they’ve done it.

King Kearney gets them off to the perfect start

It was a tricky test up first for Cullen’s side, who travelled to Italy to face Benetton at a ground where the hosts had only lost at twice since Round 5 last season.

But it was a challenge easily navigated by the men in blue, grinding out a 32-27 victory thanks to a brilliant hat-trick by winger Dave Kearney under the Treviso lights.

Kearney dazzled for the visitors in a game where Benetton’s pack sought to continually frustrate the champions, but the Irishman’s trio of tries combined with Ross Byrne’s 12 point haul and an early Adam Byrne score was enough to suppress the Italian side’s chances.

Running riot at the RDS

Such close margins were not so visible as Leinster made their return to the fortress-resembling RDS, however. Cullen’s players romped to 93 points in the space of two rounds, seeing off a deflated Ospreys 53-5 and then Edinburgh 40-14 to continue their early hegemony.

There were 11 different try-scorers in the pair of emphatic triumphs, with Ronan Kelleher making it two Leinster hat-tricks in the opening two games as he helped his team romp past Ospreys and become just the fourth hooker to score a Guinness PRO14 trio.

And such a free-flowing, fluent display was similarly on show when Richard Cockerill’s men came to town the following week, as Jamison Gibson-Park, Michael Bent, Caelan Doris, Scott Penny, Michael Milne and Rowan Osborne all dotted down to send them back to Scotland in misery.

It may have only been Round 3, but Leinster were sending out a resounding statement of intent in the competition’s embryonic stages.

Zebre resistance not enough to stop the charge

Back to Italy Cullen and his players went this weekend, travelling to Parma for another early test of their away day credentials.

And it was once again a task they were able to handle competently, encountering a staunch and steadfast opponent in Michael Bradley’s Zebre but Byrne’s first half penalty kicking them to yet another victory.

As Cheetahs and Scarlets both failed to overcome the respective threats of Connacht and Edinburgh in Round Four, that meant Leinster now sit as the Guinness PRO14’s solitary unbeaten side, claiming four wins from four in what has been a thunderous start to the season.

And, with their Irish contingent’s return after international duty now imminent, it is difficult to look past Cullen’s men as the team to beat in this pulsating and unfolding Guinness PRO14 season.

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