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20th Jan 2024

Harry Byrne limps off in big Leinster win over Leicester Tigers

Patrick McCarry


Leinster clinched top spot in Champions Cup ‘Pool 4’ and, in doing so, have set themselves up for a home game in the Last 16. Austin Healey was not happy with one of their tries, though.

Leicester Tigers started off well against four-time European champions, at Welford Road, but were outdone by another super effort from the Irish side.

Tigers, already with two wins in their pool, could have leap-frogged Leinster with a decent home win. They targeted a defensive weakness, early doors, and were rewarded when forward Hanro Liebenberg cruised over for a try.

Harry Byrne, playing outhalf for Leinster after his inclusion in the Ireland squad, was subjected to some fearsome hits but he timed his passing well, to set up a couple of damaging line breaks. At one stage, Ollie Chessum hit him with everything he had, but Byrne was able to dust himself off and soldier on.

Leinster answered pack with a sustained period of pressure and were rewarded with a crucial Joe McCarthy try. As replays rolled, the TNT Sports commentary team were convinced McCarthy had made a double movement after being tackled, even though the officials disagreed.

“It’s a great finish, in the end, but is it legal?” – Austin Healey.

“It was clearly a tackle from Liebenberg” added Ben Kay, on co-commentary.

“For me, it shouldn’t have been a try”, chimed Andy Goode, during the half-time break. Sensing that the TNT panel was stacked with former Tigers, Martin Bayfield added, “As a former Northampton Saint, I agree with you.”

There was no arguing with the second Leinster try, after another reel-em-in move involving Harry Byrne. Hugo Keenan’s looped pass lead to a James Lowe break up the left. Jamison Gibson-Park almost got away for a score until play switched wings and Jordan Larmour got over.

Austin Healey compares Joe McCarthy to Springbok

Early in the second half, Tigers scrumhalf Tom Whiteley was yellow-carded for deliberate knock-on that shut down a Robbie Henshaw and James Lowe attack, up the left wing.

Leinster kicked for touch, Caelan Doris won the resulting lineout and Dan Sheehan spun before diving over to score. It was as simple as that.

As if to show if there was no hard feelings [almost], Austin Healey compared Joe McCarthy to Springbok legend, Eben Etzebeth. He did give Man of the Match, though, to James Lowe.

There was still time for Leinster to seal the bonus point win and they did just that when Doris powered over, in time added on.

The only issue for Leinster, and Ireland, was Harry Byrne limping off in the final quarter. Andy Farrell will be hopeful it was not as serious as it looked, with Byrne looking in discomfort and his thigh heavily strapped.

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