Danny Wilson hopes Cardiff Blues’ best ever start to a season can fire them to just a first Guinness PRO12 win over Leinster since 2011.
The Welsh capital side have won four consecutive games to sit second in the league – level on 17 points with Les Kiss’ unbeaten Ulster – and were boosted by 131-cap Test prop Gethin Jenkins signing a contract extension in the week.
Wilson has stuck to a winning formula, with Gareth Anscombe starting at outside-half, while Nick Williams starts at No.8 alongside Wales captain Sam Warburton and Ellis Jenkins.
And after wins against Glasgow Warriors, Zebre, Munster and Edinburgh, Wilson believes his side can claim overturn a run of one win in 19 games against Leinster.
“Confidence is good, confidence is high off the back of winning four games and we go in knowing it’s a home game and will hopefully perform as we know we can,” Wilson explained.
“They are a side we lost to last season so we definitely want to put that right but we’re under no illusions that we are playing a fully-loaded Leinster. It would be a huge scalp to take.
“They are a tough team to play, whether home or away, but we have to take some confidence from Glasgow and Edinburgh at home which were good wins, and Munster, who you can also put in that bracket as a top-end side.
Lock Ian Nagle starts his first Guinness PRO12 game for Leinster, with experienced second-row Devin Toner on the bench.
Rory O’Loughlin starts alongside Noel Reid for the first time this season, with Garry Ringrose dropping out of the match-day squad.
And experienced lock Toner is wary of Blues, especially considering their win over Munster at Irish Independent Park.
“If you look at the talent in the Cardiff squad there is no surprise that they are where they are,” Toner told the Irish Independent.
“They have come into the season all guns blazing.
“This Cardiff team have already beaten Munster away from home and Glasgow at home so they know what they’re at and have an excellent coach in Danny Wilson.
“I think it’s going to be a good game, and a fast track on the artificial surface.”
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c)
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Dan Fish
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Johnny Sexton (c), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dan Leavy, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Mike Ross, 2 James Tracy, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Barry Daly
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 26, Blues won 5, Leinster won 19 and 2 games drawn.
At BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, 7.35pm. Live on S4C and TG4
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU, 64th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Ian Davies (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (WRU)
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)
In-form Cardiff Blues suffered their first defeat of the GUINNESS PRO12 season as Jonathan Sexton helped Leinster come from behind to triumph 16-13 at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.
The Irish province had trailed 13-3 at half-time but Rhys Ruddock’s try and eight points from the boot of Sexton completed the turnaround and continued their unbeaten run against the Blues which dates back to 2011.
Sexton also stole the headlines away from Blues fly-half Gareth Anscombe who scored all of his side’s points, including a breakaway try to put them in control in the first half.
Despite their best ever start to the season, the hosts went into the match aware that they had won just five of the 26 encounters with Saturday evening’s opponents.
They shaded the opening minutes though with Kristian Dacey launching an early attack while winger Blaine Scully also made up ground before the move was eventually stopped by referee Dudley Phillips for an infringement.
Leinster then thought they had crossed for the first try of the match when flanker Dan Leavy forced his way over in the corner on 14 minutes but the TMO ruled he had been in touch.
But they did get on the scoreboard shortly afterwards when the Blues were penalised for not rolling away in the tackle and Sexton slotted over a simple penalty on 19 minutes.
The hosts were dealt another blow when news filtered through that Sam Warburton would not be rejoining the field after earlier taking a heavy blow to the face from Josh van der Flier.
Leinster were enjoying better position but when Sexton was wide with a long range penalty attempt, Cardiff Blues drew level on 26 minutes through Anscombe’s long-range three-pointer.
And the fly-half was involved in the next big move of the game shortly afterwards as he received the ball off Lloyd Williams in the middle before spotting the gap and running half the length of the pitch to score the opening try of the night.
The conversion was also successful, shortly followed by another penalty – this time from 50m – and suddenly BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.was rocking as Cardiff Blues went 13-3 up and maintained that ten-point advantage into the break.
After their strong first-half, conceding a soft early penalty was certainly not part of the plan with Sexton duly dissecting the points for 13-6.
And it got worse for the hosts as minutes later Leinster drew level with a converted try of their own – centre Rory O’Loughlin setting things up with a soaring 50m break.
The Blues were then forced to defend a five metre line out, which they were unable to do, as Ruddock forced his way over and Sexton converted on 50 minutes.
The Welsh side tried to find a way back onto the front foot and almost got it on the hour mark when they overpowered the Leinster scrum to win a penalty, but the previously unflappable Anscombe dragged his effort wide.
Both sides continued to try and get the edge but it was Leinster who nudged ahead with ten minutes to go when Josh Navidi was caught offside in front of the posts and received a yellow card, with Sexton easily sending over his penalty.
Cardiff Blues were not done though and found themselves camped on their opponents’ line with the clock ticking down.
They were then awarded a scrum but couldn’t make it count as Sexton seized on the loose ball and booted it into touch to bring an end to the Blues’ unbeaten start.
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