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Dublin certainly not much of a fair city for the Scarlets

By Llanelli Star  |  Posted: February 27, 2013

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HE has enjoyed plenty of visits to Dublin over the years, but Simon Easterby will be glad to see the back of Molly Malone's fair city this season.

Having endured a heavy backs-to-the-wall defeat at the RDS in the Heineken Cup in January, the former Ireland captain could only watch as his side suffered another mauling in Ireland's capital.

The difference this time is that the Scarlets had headed across the Irish Sea confident of upsetting a Leinster side boasting just two players — veteran lock Leo Cullen and flanker Shane Jennings — who had started that European pool game.

Instead, they returned back to West Wales having suffered a significant dent to their RaboDirect Pro12 play-off hopes.

With six games remaining the Scarlets are now eight points adrift of Leinster in third and ten off in-form Glasgow in second.

And although they have a decent run-in that includes four games at Parc y Scarlets and away ties at Zebre and the Dragons (at the Millennium Stadium), it will take an almighty effort for Easterby's men to push for a home tie in the end-of-term shootout.

More realistic is securing fourth spot ahead of local rivals and defending champions the Ospreys while holding off the challenge of Munster, who are currently in sixth.

Despite missing a host of their international stars, Leinster still held too many aces for an out-of-sorts Scarlets side, who suffered at the whistle of Italian official Marius Mitrea.

One of those trump cards included rising star Ian Madigan, who came off the bench in the second half to push the home accelerator towards an unexpected bonus-point win.

Leinster were always in control of this top-four contest even though the Scarlets were still in the contest at 11-5 at half-time.

Two penalties by Kiwi centre Andrew Goodman set the home side on their way and although the Scarlets were able to hold firm after lock George Earle had been carded for dangerous play at the line-out, Leinster and Goodman struck for the game's opening try on 33 minutes.

The Scarlets' response was immediate.

Retrieving possession from the restart, they attacked down the left and flanker Aaron Shingler, released from Wales squad duty, and full-back Aled Thomas combined to send wing Andy Fenby streaking over for his 11th try of the season.

Young fly-half Owen Williams had gone into the match with an impressive strike rate at goal, but he missed the conversion and a couple of penalty attempts as the Scarlets kept in touch at the break.

The second period, though, belonged to the Dubliners.

A penalty given away by Earle on halfway allowed Leinster to drive a kick to the corner and then set up camp deep in the Scarlets 22.

A forward surge which led to Jennings thinking he had scored was ruled inconclusive by the television match official, though Leinster didn't have to wait long for their second try as hooker and man-of-the-match Aaron Dundon piled over from a similar line-out assault soon after.

Madigan converted to put 13 points between the sides, and although the Scarlets put some decent rugby together as they looked to get something out of the game, the final minutes belonged to Leinster.

Opting to turn down simple shots at goal in favour of try-scoring opportunities, Leinster's endeavour was rewarded when impressive No. 8 Jordi Murphy took a great line on to a crisp pass from replacement scrum-half Cooney to cross.

That appeared that. But with the clock ticking towards 80 minutes, the Scarlets coughed up possession, Leinster swept downfield and it Coomey pounced to claim a bonus point that could prove crucial.

It capped a miserable night for the Scarlets, who will need to regroup quickly ahead of the visit of Edinburgh to Llanelli on Friday night.

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