Glasgow were denied an unlikely comeback victory as Joey Carbery’s late penalty ended Gregor Townsend’s hopes of a Pro12 semi-final in his final season as Warriors boss.
A floodlight failure in the 78th minute failed to derail Leinster after a stunning second half from Warriors saw Adam Ashe, Lee Jones and Finn Russell all score tries to overturn a 17-point half-time deficit, only for Carbery to slot the winner five minutes from time.
The game was delayed for almost 20 minutes as the lights went out, but eventually Leinster claimed the win.
After two-and-a-half minutes of Warriors’ pressure and territory a high tackle on Jonny Gray resulted in Peter Horne’s opening penalty in the third minute. Those frantic, action-packed minutes gave a picture of what both teams would go on to produce.
The home side have not lost a Pro12 game in the RDS since Dragons hoodwinked them back in 2015, and when Dominic Ryan popped up on Zane Kirchner’s shoulder to score the game’s first try in the sixth minute, Leinster took a lead and Ross Byrne’s conversion gave them a 7-3 advantage.
The unfortunate Ryan was replaced two minutes later with a wrist injury in what could be his final Leinster appearance, but his side didn’t mourn his departure for too long as they ran in their second try less than a minute later. At first viewing it appeared as if winger Adam Byrne had knocked on Ross Byrne’s high kick to the wing, but with Tommy Seymour and Jones colliding in mid air as they challenged the Leinster man, the try was awarded by the TMO.
With the minutes ticking away in Townsend’s tenure, kickable penalties were turned down as Henry Pyrgos quick-tapped in vain, before a Horne penalty to the corner and a clever lineout move saw Warriors leave Leinster territory without return following a heavy pass to Leonardo Sarto.
Fifteen minutes from the break there was a return to basics though, as Horne successfully kicked for goal when Tom Daly was caught offside near the ten-metre line, but Leinster responded in kind when Byrne made it 15-6 from the tee.
In the 35th minute the Leinster pack got in on the act and loosehead Peter Dooley scored off the back of a powerful, zig-zagging maul, while Byrne’s penalty moments later made 23-6 at the interval. There were some bright moments for Warriors in the first half, particularly the impressive ball carrying of Tim Swinson on his return from suspension, but they lacked accuracy and ball protection when their expansive game took them near the Leinster 22.
There was a more direct approach from Warriors after the restart, and when Fraser Brown was halted at the back of a maul and some brilliant Leinster defence kept them at bay, Ashe eventually stretched to score their first try in the 44th minute.
The loss of Sarto to a bizarre yellow card six minutes later was a blow to Warriors – he was penalised for a no-arms tackle despite clearly executing the tackle correctly – but Horne added his third penalty in the 57th minute to close the gap to a converted try.
Leinster bagged the bonus-point try when Adam Byrne offloaded to Kirchner, but Warriors staged a stunning comeback as Jones and then Russell scored tries in a five-minute spell.
But Carbery showed admirable nerve to slot a penalty from the right wing four minutes after his introduction to seal the home side’s victory.