WE WERE SERVED an intense interprovincial clash to keep us happy after the hyperbolic ecstasy of the Heineken Cup. Leinster were hoping to climb the standings by defeating a Connacht team on a one-game winning streak.
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Leinster 16 — 13 Connacht
18:04 – Welcome along to our live interpro coverage from the RDS and One Republic are on a sound system loop.
Late change to the Leinster line-up as Sean O’Brien [ankle twinge] misses out on the match. Shane Jennings comes in at openside with Rhys Ruddock on the bench. Kind of makes our Jake Heenan v Sean O’Brien preview null and void. We’re blame Adrian Flavin for jinxing it! Here are some other previews and tidbits to whet the appetite:
18:08 – Here are your slightly amended teams:
LEINSTER XV: 15. Rob Kearney 14. Fergus McFadden 13. Luke Fitzgerald 12. Noel Reid 11. Dave Kearney 10. Ian Madigan 9. Eoin Reddan 1. Jack McGrath 2. Sean Cronin 3. Michael Bent 4. Devin Toner 5. Quinn Roux 6. Kevin McLaughlin 7. Shane Jennings 8. Jamie Heaslip (captain).
Replacements: 16. Aaron Dundon 17. Jack O’Connell 18. Martin Moore 19. Mike McCarthy 20. Rhys Ruddock 21. Isaac Boss 22. Jimmy Gopperth 23. Zane Kirchner.
CONNACHT: 15. Gavin Duffy 14. Tiernan O’Halloran 13. Robbie Henshaw 12. Craig Ronaldson 11. Matt Healy 10. Dan Parks 9. Kieran Marmion 1. Brett Wilkinson 2. Sean Henry 3. Rodney Ah You 4. Michael Swift (captain) 5. Craig Clarke 6. Mata Fifita 7. Jake Heenan 8. George Naoupu.
Replacements: 16. Dave Heffernan 17. JP Cooney 18. Ronan Loughney 19. Aly Muldowney 20. Andrew Browne 21. Paul O’Donohoe 22. Darragh Leader 23. Fionn Carr.
18:14 – Here is what happened the last time the two sides met at the RDS. It was four days after Santy came to town but Leinster were in no mood to give out pressies as they held Connacht scoreless in a 17 — 0 win.
YouTube credit: LeinsterrugbyTV
18:18 – Ok, let’s get some predictions in. Who do you reckon will win this evening’s interpro clash?
18:28 – The O’Brien injury has denied us a fascinating duel between the Tullow Tank and his back-row rival, Jake Heenan. There is another interesting match-up in store, however, as Luke Fitzgerald takes on Robbie Henshaw in the midfield. Here’s what ‘Flav’ had to say on the matter:
It is good to see Luke Fitzgerald named at outside centre. He is an extremely good in broken play. Fitzgerald going up against Robbie Henshaw, Connacht’s 13, should be a super contest. Henshaw has been in fantastic form this season and his adaptability has seen him selected ahead of Fitzgerald, who has had some injury issues, in the Ireland squad.”
18:32 – We are 15 minutes away from kick-off at the RDS but I felt I must share this wonderful Justin Tipuric try from last night’s Ospreys v Dragons match:
YouTube credit: RaboDirect PRO12
18:41 – The Leinster boys get cheered off the pitch after their warm-up. Let’s see what the fan reaction is when they hear O’Brien is out…
… worried murmurs.
18:45 – Connacht jog out to a firejuggling show of extreme amazingness. Wonder what treatment the hometown favourites will get? Oh, here it is, Guns N’ Roses and more juggling.
18:47 – KICK-OFF from Dan Parks!
18:48 – PEN: Leinster 0 — 3 Connacht (Parks ’2)
Leinster spill an early Garryowen and concede penalty that Parks slots over with ease.
18:52 – Some solid Leinster scrums settle the home fans but there is crossing in the backline and Connacht get a relieving penalty, enabling Parks to clear up to the Blues’ 22.
18:54 – PEN: Leinster 0 — 6 Connacht (Parks ’8)
Hold on, I did Parks a disservice. He called for the shot at goal and nailed it from the halfway line. Great start by Connacht.
18:56 – PEN: Leinster 3 — 6 Connacht (Madigan ’10)
Jake Heenan is pinged for popping out of the scrum at the back and Madigan, from the left touchline, has a chance to reduce the arrears. Never in doubt.
18:59 – Madigan is lifted over the Leinster tryline by three green shirts after his clearance is blocked down. 5m attacking scrum for the visitors. Fantastic steal by Reddan as Naoupu tried to nurse it. Opportunity wasted as Leinster get the put-in.
18:59 – We have a TMO for Connacht. Marmion could be in…
19:01 – TRY: Leinster 3 — 13 Connacht (Marmion ’12)
A disaster for Reddan as he lets scrum ball slip through his legs and Marmion is there to pounce. Another try from the young scrumhalf. Parks with the extras.
19:06 – Jennings links up really well — pop pass– to Dave Kearney but he is hauled down 5m short. Brother Rob has a dart before Reddan keeps the play ticking over. Dropped pass and Connacht swarm to break upfield.
19:07 – Ian Madigan down for treatment as replays go up of Fafita’s superb snatch and break upfield. Gopperth ready to come on for the outhalf…
Madigan wants to continue. Fair play to him. Connacht, meanwhile, have an attacking scrum on the Blues’ 22. Maul is set up. How did Heenan get away with that Richie McCaw-esque piece of breakdown disruption? He was practically lying down on that breakdown.
Ah, fittingly, a Connacht teammate is penalised one phase later for going off his feet.
19:12 – More bungling in the Leinster backline scuppers a superb McFadden break straight up the centre. Madigan panicked under pressure and his pass finds no-one and bounces forward. 27 minutes gone.
19:20 – PEN: Leinster 6 — 13 Connacht (Madigan ’29)
Stoppage as Cronin gets treatment. Scrum eventually gets going and Henshaw gives away a really, really foolish penalty for breaking the line and running offside before Reddan plays the ball. 40m out but straight in front and Madigan sends it home.
19:23 – Fergus McFadden is the best thing about the Leinster backline but his crowd-rousing up-and-under is spoiled a minute later by a Devin Toner spill forward outside the Connacht 22.
19:26 – The scrum goes in Leinster’s favour this time out. Their pressing earns a lineout that Toner claims. Heaslip tries to peel off the maul but Connacht have studied that video before and shut him down. 35 minutes gone at the RDS.
19:27 – 19 phases and Leinster have gone minus 10 metres. Great Connacht defence.
19:29 – Amazing defence as Connacht give up the breakdown battle to focus on keeping numbers in the line and around the fringes. Can the visitors keep it up for 80 minutes?
Connacht will love this — Leinster go in from the side at another ruck and concede a penalty.
19:32 – PEN: Leinster 9 — 13 Connacht (Madigan ’39)
Leinster’s next attack gets some reward as Clarke is sandwiched between two blue shirts and can’t extricate himself in time. Penalty conceded and Madigan slots it over.
19:32 – HALF-TIME
What did you make of the opening 40 minutes?
19:37 – This picture will give you an idea of the horror show Eoin Reddan had for Connacht’s opening try:
Kieran Marmion pounces on Reddan’s butter-fingered error. INPHO/Dan Sheridan
19:44 – Connacht are back on the pitch.
19:45 – Dave Heffernan is on at hooker for his Connacht debut.
19:47 – Jack McGrath gives away an early penalty and Parks thumps into the Leinster half. No changes for Leinster yet and Madigan is moving better.
19:49 – Great Connacht lineout move, straight off the training ground. Solid claim, ball fed to Parks and his crossfield kick is claimed by O’Halloran on the right wing. Connacht get the penalty and choose to kick for the 5m lineout. Brass!
19:51 – Multiple phases and Leinster off their feet. Connacht camped on the line. Heaslip gets a talking to. Last warning stuff that he must pass on to his teammates. Mike McCarthy is on for Quinn Roux, meanwhile. Parks goes for the sticks now. Point proved or a chance for 7 points squandered?
Squandered, is your answer. Parks strikes the posts from 25m out. Bad miss from the outhalf and Leinster will hope to make them pay. Connacht made Leinster blink but didn’t force the issue and come away with ’0′ for their efforts.
19:55 – Aly Muldowney is on for Michael Swift. 50 minutes gone and the fresh bodies are being drip-fed from the bench.
19:59 – Kieran Marmion is the best scrumhalf on show at present. Intelligent box kicks and slick passing to go with his opportunistic try. Gavin Duffy chips through but there is too much on it and Dave Kearney slides in to dot down from the 22 drop-out.
The drop-out goes in Leinster’s favour and Madigan gets a halfway line dart at the sticks, which he misses. The gap stays at four points.
20:02 – Connacht are turned over within five metres of the Leinster line and another great opportunity is lost. Ruddock and Moore have replaced McLaughlin and Bent respectively.
20:03 – Healy drops on in his own 22 after Connacht spilled an up-and-under on halfway and the ball was hacked on. Scrum Leinster 10m out from the Connacht line. 58 minutes gone.
20:06 – Heenan drags Reddan down as he runs off the back of a scrum that Rodney Ah-You was destroyed in by McGrath. The Connacht scrum crumples again next time out and Clarke is lectured to by the ref.
20:07 – Pat Lam has seen enough and calls on the front row cavalry. JP Cooney and Ronan Loughney on and a big scrum coming up…
20:08 – Connacht win the penalty as Cronin pops up. The new boys make the difference and Connacht are screaming in the faces of the Leinster boys. Sarcastic back slaps all round!
20:10 – Leinster’s latest attack comes to nought as Jennings, I believe, is done for coming in from the side. Connacht in need of composure here with 16 minutes left but surely, surely a four point lead will not be enough?
20:13 – More yellow card warnings but the ref has yet to go to his pocket. Madigan kicks into the Connacht 22 and Leinster have an attacking lineout, which is pouched. Oh my God, Jake Heenan was immense there at the breakdown. Connacht steal and kick clear. Heenan drove Cronin back and trampled over him.
20:16 – No an iota of consistency from the referee this evening as he seems to possess a ‘one for you and one for you’ mentality when it comes to scrum penalties. 11 minutes remaining.
20:17 – Penalty awarded to Leinster for a Connacht offside and surely Madigan will go for the posts. Maybe not as Loughney is shown the yellow card
20:19 – They go for the corner as Goppreth, Boss and Zane Kirchner — debut — come on. Leinster take up residence in the Connacht 22. More committed defence from the visitors before McCarthy, of all people, knocks on 10m out.
20:21 – Rhys Ruddock shows great strength out wide and we have a TMO…
20:23 – Kieran Marmion slid in to save the day and hold up Ruddock after the flanker rode three tackles to stretch for the line. NO TRY
20:24 – The penalty goes to Leinster as the Connacht scrum crumples. O’Halloran has to pack down as Connacht have lost a man to the bin. Four minutes left.
20:25 – Yellow card Marmion and Connacht are down to 13 men but no penalty try… yet.
20:26 – PENALTY TRY! Leinster 16 — 13 Connacht
The pressure tells and Connacht crumple under extreme duress.
20:28 – Magigan added the conversion and there are just two minutes left to salvage something.
20:29 – Connacht have a scrum. Can they get the ball in and out for a Parks drop goal?
20:30 – No, they can’t and that, my friends, is that. Ball is booted out and LEINSTER WIN.
20:33 – For the 7,628th time Connacht are close but not close enough. Tremendous effort from them and I think they really deserved to come away with something from that game. As it is, Leinster get the four points and face Dragons next week before the international break.
20:34 – Many thanks for the company this evening. Feel free to share your thoughts on the game in our comments section below. We will bring you some post-match reaction shortly.