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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 25 February, 2020
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Inter-pro woe for Connacht as Deegan drives Leinster to victory

Connacht were forced to dig deep just to avoid a shut-out and it took 71 minutes for them to post their opening score against a rampant Leinster.

Leinster 54

Connacht 7

NEW YEAR, SAME old Leinster.

The reigning Pro14 champions, European Cup favourites and still-unbeaten province stormed into 2020 with a quick-fire bonus point before 20 minutes was up on the match clock.

Yet, just as everything was smoothly ticking over, a bump came to rattle them and Ireland as James Ryan picked up a calf knock. Connacht had their own injury woes at the tail end of the night as Conor Fitzgerald was stretchered off the field with a bad ankle injury.

Ryan, who is in the running to be the new skipper of the national team under Andy Farrell, was getting treatment as Connacht restarted after conceding their fourth try. Rather than immediately duck out for bigger games ahead, the lock played on in obvious discomfort for four minutes and made three tackles despite being hampered.

james-ryan-during-the-warm-up Ryan in the pre-match warm-up. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Though heavily depleted by injury, the western province made all the right noises as they headed east in derby mode. They professed a belief that they could over-turn the odds and it manifested in their play for a few blissful early sharp phases before it all unravelled in short order.

Jordan Larmour needed a second grasp at a ball coming his way, but his kick to touch was pure. Connacht botched the resulting line-out on their own 22, inviting Ryan to steal and barge forward before Peter Dooley powered through Niall Murray and offloaded to Max Deegan who reached the line despite the efforts of Gavin Thornbury.

With Ciaran Frawley – who contributed 17 points before departing injured – enjoying a solid platform and effective screens to give him room to manouvre in attack, Leinster soon forced their second try thanks to Dave Kearney’s finish from a zip-lined Garry Ringrose pass.

Frawley got on the try-scorers’ list himself four minutes later. After slipping Max Deegan through a midfield gap, the eight flung a fine return pass and the Skerries playmaker took it in stride as he cruised under the posts.

max-deegan-on-his-way-to-scoring-a-try Deegan powers towards the line for the opening try. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Deegan, Joe Tomane and Luke McGrath also crossed for the hosts to ring up a 40-0 half-time scoreline that sent the press pack delving into the record books. But Connacht can at least take solace that a forgettable night wasn’t enshrined alongside low watermarks like 58-0 in Cardiff or 64-6 away to Saracens.

The second half brought positive sparks and a score on the board for the visitors. With 71 minutes on the clock they eventually forced a breakthrough in the Leinster resistance thanks to a persevering maul that paved the way for Tom McCartney to plant the ball over the line.

By that stage, though, the game had been put further beyound doubt thanks to another big Deegan break to tee up Ringrose’s first try. And the centre ran in his second with four minutes remaining, latching onto a wild Jamison Gibson-Park cross-field kick and cantering for the corner while Conor Fitzgerald lay stricken by injury before being stretchered off.

ciaran-frawley Frawley on the attack. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A painful end to a night of painful lessons for Connacht. They will welcome the change of pace that a home clash with Toulouse brings in Galway next weekend.

Leinster need only sustain their impressive rhythm.

Scorers

Leinster

Tries: M Deegan (2), D Kearney, C Frawley, J Tomane, L McGrath, G Ringrose (2)

Conversions: C Frawley (6/7) H Byrne (1/1)

Connacht

Tries: T McCartney

Conversions: C Fitzgerald (1/1)

Leinster: Jordan Larmour, Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Joe Tomane, Dave Kearney (Cian Kelleher ’50), Ciarán Frawley (Harry Byrne ’59), Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson-Park ’59): Peter Dooley (Ed Byrne ’50), Seán Cronin (Bryan Byrne ’50), Tadhg Furlong (Roman Salanoa ’64); Ross Molony, James Ryan (Ryan Baird ’24), Rhys Ruddock, Will Connors (Caelan Doris ’40), Max Deegan.

Connacht: Stephen Fitzgerald (Tiernan O’Halloran ’24), Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, John Porch (David Horwitz ’50), Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Stephen Kerins ’59): Denis Buckley (Paddy McAllister ’45), Shane Delahunt (Tom McCartney ’45), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Conor Kenny ’60); Niall Murray, Gavin Thornbury (Joe Maksymiw ’53), Eoghan Masterson (Sean Masterson ’59), Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland

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About the author:

Sean Farrell  / reports from The RDS

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