Scarlets taught second half lesson as Leinster finish with a flourish
TWELVE months ago Leinster were leaving Llanelli licking their wounds after an opening-day drubbing.
This time, the scars all belonged to the home camp as the Scarlets endured a miserable start to their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign.
There was little sign of what was to come as the West Wales region — semi-finalists last season — led 13-0 in as many minutes.
But Leinster have filled their trophy cabinet at the RDS for a reason and even without their stellar names, fought back to claim a resounding bonus-point triumph.
After so much early promise it was a hugely disappointing finish for the home fans, who had little to cheer in a second period dominated by the 'boys in blue'.
Trailing 16-10 at the break, the defending champions ran in four second-half tries, taking advantage of some slack defence and schoolboy handling errors.
And it leaves Simon Easterby and his team with plenty to put right before Treviso roll into town next week.
Despite the absence of both sides' British Lions representatives, 14 internationals were still able to take the field in what was a repeat of last season's opener in Llanelli.
On that night Simon Easterby's side were in irresistible form, running in seven tries in a 45-20 thumping of the then European champions.
Of course, the tables were quickly turned in favour of the Dubliners in the Heineken Cup with Joe Schmidt's side also going on to lift the Pro12 trophy in front of their own fans at the RDS.
The Scarlets came into the match on the back of a winless pre-season, but it appeared the rustiness had been shaken off at Kingsholm with the home side flying out of the blocks.
A break from the outstanding Aaron Shingler led to an early penalty for brother Steve — back in Llanelli after his two-year spell with London Irish.
And the Hendy siblings were key performers as the Scarlets laid the foundations for a 16-10 half-time advantage.
No sooner had Leinster restarted than Scott Williams was haring up field. His progress was halted by a high tackle from full-back Dave Kearney with the Leinster 15 duly seeing yellow for his indiscretion.
It got better quickly for the Scarlets.
Aaron Shingler was again at the heart of it, bursting through the thin blue line and after good work from hooker Ken Owens, it was Shingler the younger who put his skipper Rob McCusker on a free run to the posts.
There was a nervy moment with the television match official called up to adjudge whether the pass was forward, but the ruling came down in favour of the home side.
Shingler's conversion made it 13-0, but after being restored to their full complement, Leinster hit back with a try of their own.
This was far simpler in manufacture — a catch and drive from a short-range line-out with prop Martin Moore crashing over.
New signing Jimmy Gopperth converted and then reduced the arrears to just three points as Leinster began to find some rhythm to their game, but the Scarlets finished the half strongly with another Shingler strike giving them a more than deserved six-point cushion at the interval.
The home eight had enjoyed a significant edge at the scrum during the opening 40 minutes, with young tight-head Samson Lee a particularly effective weapon.
However, all their good work was undone within two minutes of the restart.
Leinster attacked down the right and with the Scarlets defence unable to deal with the danger, No. 8 Jordi Murphy did well to twist over.
Gopperth's conversion gave his side the lead for the first time, but the visitors found themselves down to 14 men again when replacement Darren Hudson was carded for a dangerous challenge on Liam Williams.
The Scarlets brought on former Wales Under-20s prop Rob Evans for veteran Phil John on 51 minutes and he was part of another powerful scrum effort that led to a penalty which Shingler landed to reduce the arrears to a point.
However, that man Gopperth was gifted another opportunity moments later and the lead was four points again courtesy of the former Newcastle man.
With centre Scott Williams a danger, the Scarlets were offering threats, but all too often a rushed off-load proved that undoing. South African lock Joe Snyman was helped from the field in clear discomfort with what appeared to be a shoulder injury as the home side became ever more desperate for the winning score.
But errors continued to plague their game with the clock against them.
Instead, it was Leinster who were celebrating the crucial try of the game when Hudson finished off a move down the touchline. Gopperth's immaculate performance with the boot continued to make it 30-19 and the travelling support were celebrating a bonus-point score soon after with Gopperth continuing his fine night with a try to add to his tally.
The fans were heading to the exits as Gareth Owen and Jack O'Connell were yellow carded for an off-the-ball scuffle before Kearney drove the final nail in with try number five.