Pro12: Cardiff Blues 13-22 Leinster
|Cardiff Blues (13) 13|
|Try: Vosawai Con: Anscombe Pens: Anscombe 2|
|Leinster (5) 22|
|Tries: Reid, Gopperth, McGrath, Furlong Con: Gopperth|
Leinster took advantage of Cardiff Blues' indiscipline as they came from behind to win their Pro12 encounter.
Noel Reid's early breakaway try had given Leinster the lead, but Blues hit back through Gareth Anscombe's boot and Manoa Vosawai's close-range score.
The game turned when Blues lock Jarrad Hoeata was sent off after 32 minutes for a high tackle on Rob Kearney.
With Vosawai also sin-binned, Leinster struck as Jimmy Gopperth, Luke McGrath and Tadhg Furlong crossed for tries.
With Scarlets having lost at Glasgow on Friday night, Blues knew they could close the gap on their Welsh rivals in the Pro12 table with a win over Leinster.
Fourth-placed Leinster in turn needed victory to keep pace with their rivals in the hunt for an end-of-season play-offs place and the chance to defend their title.
But the home side made a terrible start as they spilled the ball in attack against a side they had not beaten in their last seven encounters.
That allowed Gopperth to scoop up the loose pass and send centre Reid over for an unconverted try within two minutes.
The heavy winds that had lashed the country overnight had fortunately died down in time for kick-off, but Blues were still the beneficiaries of a good breeze at their backs in the first half.
That gave Anscombe the confidence to take on any penalty in the opposition half and the New Zealander fly-half was successful with both his kicks at goal to nose Blues in front.
The Welsh side lost open-side flanker and Wales captain Sam Warburton early, who disappeared to have a facial wound seen to.
But his replacement Vosawai made an impact with a try, as the Blues forwards camped on the Leinster line before finally forcing their way over.
Anscombe's conversion gave Blues a handy 13-5 lead, but the home side then found themselves reduced to 14 men for the remainder of the match.
Rob Kearney ran a ball back from deep in his own half but was met with a high tackle from Hoeata that pole-axed the Leinster full-back.
Referee Neil Patterson took his time to arrive at a decision, but opted to show the Blues lock a red card with eight minutes remaining until half-time.
Blues made light of their man disadvantage after the restart, with wings Alex Cuthbert and Lucas Amorosino catching the eye as the home side kept ball in hand.
But the Welsh side suffered a further blow when replacement hooker Matthew Rees, who had come on for Kristian Dacey in the first half, was also forced off temporarily to have a hand injury seen to.
That saw Taufa'ao Filise come on and Wales and British and Irish Lions tight-head Adam Jones pack down in the hooker position.
Worse followed as Vosawai was sin-binned for dropping his knee into centre Ben Te'o lying on the ground.
Leinster battered away with their two-man advantage but Blues held firm for a while, helped in no small part by Gethin Jenkins - making his 150th appearance for Blues - and Josh Navidi both putting in the work of two men in defence.
But eventually the pressure told as Sean Cronin stole a ball in a maul, Leinster recycled and Gopperth scooted through a gap to score - adding the conversion himself to pull the Irish back to 13-12.
A third Leinster try soon followed when McGrath, who had made the initial break, followed up to score when Jack Conan just failed to reach the line but laid the ball back intelligently for his scrum-half.
Furlong added the gloss for Leinster with three minutes remaining, as the replacement prop forced his way over against a tiring defence to secure the bonus point with a fourth try.
Cardiff Blues: Joaquin Tuculet; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Gavin Evans, Lucas Amorosino; Gareth Anscombe, Tavis Knoyle; Gethin Jenkins (capt), Kristian Dacey, Adam Jones; Lou Reed, Jarrad Hoeata; Josh Turnbull, Sam Warburton, Josh Navidi.
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Sam Hobbs, Taufa'ao Filise, Miles Normandale, Manoa Vosawai, Lloyd Williams, Gareth Davies, Adam Thomas.
Leinster: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Ben Te'o, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Luke McGrath; Michael Bent, Sean Cronin, Marty Moore; Mike McCarthy, Kane Douglas; Dominic Ryan, Jordi Murphy, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Jamie Hagan, Tadhg Furlong, Ben Marshall, Josh van der Flier, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Darragh Fanning.
Referee: Neil Patterson (SRU)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens, Rhys Thomas (both WRU)
Citing commissioner: John Charles (WRU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)