Leinster indebted to hookers Tracy and Byrne as they win Cardiff thriller
Leinster began the defence of their Guinness PRO14 title with a nerve-jangler at Cardiff Arms Park.
Trailing 29-14 after 50 minutes of their league opener, against Cardiff Blues, the champions found it within themselves to turn this one around. Leo Cullen's men were indebted to their wider squad in last year's run to the double and so it proved again on Friday.
Hooker Bryan Byrne and scrum-half Jamison Gibson Park combined for three tries in the final 25 minutes to snatch a Leinster victory from the jaws of defeat.
Jason Harries was impressive for Cardiff - scoring a brace either side of half-time - but it was Rey Lee-Lo that got the Welsh side's opening try. 8-0 down, Leinster responded with a Fergus McFadden penalty and a try for No.2 James Tracy.
Joe Tomane and Rory O'Loughlin were finding it tough going in the Leinster midfield but it was an uncharacteristic Scott Fardy mistake that led to Harries first try. 15-11 behind, Byrne knocked over a penalty to make it a one-point game at the break.
That one point stretched out to 15 when Leinster's porous defence allowed Cardiff in for two easy scores after the break. Byrne reduced the arrears with a nice drive off the back of his lineout throw. Gibson Park scored with 10 minutes to go after a nice cross-kick from Byrne as he spotted numbers out wide.
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Cardiff went six clear with a penalty after 75 minutes but Leinster remained calm and worked their way into another strong position in the Welsh 22.
Byrne showed strength and awareness to crash the ball against the posts and tee up Ross Byrne to chip over the match-winning conversion.
Post-match, Byrne was asked about him staying on at Leinster while Joey Carbery felt compelled to move on to Munster. He was also asked about his Ireland chances in the months ahead.
"Look," he replied, "I'm just trying to take it week to week...
"We don't talk about second string and first string. We know we have an incredible squad. Last year we used over 50 players in the league and we know it will take something similar this year. ... To be honest, I'm just taking each week as it comes. Getting the win her is the most important thing... For me, I'm just trying to get a win each week and hopefully my form will get me there."
Very diplomatic from the young outhalf. Cullen and Stuart Lancaster would be proud.
OUR MAN OF THE MATCH: Bryan Byrne