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Understudies Show their Mettle with Bonus Point Win on the Road

Leinster 13 Gunners 27

Sadly, we have no match report this week, as our regular correspondent, Martin Bell, is in the Far East on business. So I'm afraid you'll have to make do with this match summary gleaned from news reports.

With both teams resting most of their international players ahead of the Autumn Tests this match was always going to be about strength in depth. And what it proved is that what was once a Gunners weakness may have turned at last into a strength, thanks to the astute recruiting over the last couple of years. Leinster had been boosted by the return to the squad from injury of Guy Easterby, Will Green and Eric Miller, but with the Gunners squad including the likes of Hugo Southwell, Peter Jorgensen, Simon Webster, Duncan Hodge, Allan Jacobsen, Dave Hewett and Matt Mustchin, they were not going to be outdone in terms of quality players sprinkled through the team. Nevertheless both teams took to the field with some unfamiliar names, players on the fringes of the squads getting their chance to shine.

In the case of the Gunners it appears they grabbed their chance!

Leinster went in at half-time leading 13-10 thanks to a try from Peter Gleeson and eight points from the boot of Brian O'Meara, to a Gunners try by Peter Jorgensen and five kicked points from Phil Godman.

The Gunners really came out of the traps at the start of the second-half however, with quick tries from Simon Webster and Fergus Pringle enabling them to take control of the game. For a while it looked as if the Gunners were yet again going to pass up the chance to grab a bonus point, but this time there would be no mistake, an Alasdair Strokosh try in stoppage-time securing the bonus point.

For the Gunners this match perhaps represents not just one, but five bonus points. To beat Leinster in Dublin is a remarkable achievement. At the start of the season the Gunners coaches and players would surely not have looked on this match as one where they could count on picking up points. Leinster may point to the fact that they were under-strength, but the same was true for the Gunners.

Although it may not be heralded in quite the same way as our famous victories over Wasps two weeks ago and Toulouse two years ago, this victory may turn out to be more significant than either. It shows, as already mentioned, that the Gunners have some strength in depth, and that there is now genuine competition for team places throughout the squad. It also shows that the Gunners have the ability to win away from fortress Murrayfield, having now chalked up two victories out of four away games in the Celtic League this season. Finally, grabbing that bonus point could turn out to be vital. After this game the Gunners sit in second place behind Munster; if Munster had not received four bonus points for a free weekend under what is arguably the daftest rule ever conceived, that bonus point would have the Gunners and Munster equal on points, with Munster on top only by virtue of a marginaly better points difference. It's far too early to get excited yet, but current form suggest the Gunners may well be in the mix come May.