Brian Byrne’s hopes of nailing down a regular place on the Leinster rugby team received a massive boost when he scored two tries after he came on as a replacement in the province’s opening game of the Guinness PRO 14 Series in Cardiff on Friday evening.
The home side looked set to inflict an opening day defeat on the holders when they led 29-14 with 28 minutes remaining. The introduction of the Byrne brothers, Edward and Bryan, along with Andrew Porter had an immediate impact as Bryan came in at the end of a driving maul to touch down within a minute of his arrival.
Leinster still had it all to do but with three minutes to go constant pressure saw the earlier try scorer find a gap in a mass of bodies. With ball firmly in his possession, he found enough space to make contact with the posts for a four try bonus point. Ross Byrne’s subsequent conversion gave Leinster a 33-32 victory.
“A great start to the year. It was a very good win. We made hard work of it to get the five points,” remarked the Leinster two-try scorer who is looking forward to the challenges which a new season will bring.
Irish international hooker, Sean Cronin, would be the favourite to start the European Cup games while Kildare man, James Tracy also scored for Leinster on Friday before making way for Byrne.
Across the board there is huge competition for places and Byrne’s two tries keeps him well in the hunt for regular Leinster appearances. He is well aware there is a sea of talent out there all looking to make their mark for the province.
“I would be hoping that I would be in the mix for all the big games. There are a few lads coming up and it is about testing them at the high level,” he said.
The Leinster team flew back on Friday night after the game. Byrne was glad there was no overnight stay so close to home.
“We were back in Dublin about 1.00pm. It was good to get home that night instead of having to travel in the morning,” he explained.
Meanwhile there was no joy for the Tullow pair of Nicola Caldbeck and Hilary Griffin who lined out for Connacht against Munster in the first round of the Women’s Interprovincial Series on Saturday at Irish Independent Park in Cork.
The holders led 17-0 at half-time and held out for a comfortable win. Caldbeck was picked on the first fifteen while Griffin made an appearance in the second half against the holders.