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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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GOOD EVENING 

It’s that time of year again… inter-provincial derby time!

A few years ago the sting went out of these derbies, with the provinces often fielding heavily rotated teams. That trend has thankfully died down a little over the past few seasons, and while tonight’s game between Connacht and Leinster may not be two fully locked and loaded teams, there’s still set to be a large number of Ireland internationals playing, and it will be interesting to see how they slot back into provincial life following the World Cup.

The big breaking news before the game is that we won’t get to see Robbie Henshaw back on his old turf. The former Connacht player has had to pull out with illness, so Jimmy O’Brien comes in to partner Joe Tomane.

A big blow for Leinster, but O’Brien will be keen to make the most of his opportunity in front of a sold out Sportsground.

We’ll have all the action as it happens.

KICK-OFF

Ross Byrne kicks-off and we’re up and running. It’s a perfect night for rugby too, which makes for a nice change at the Sportsground. Connacht have been in flying form recently, winning their last four. Leinster are unbeaten but there’s always a risk when you make so many changes, so Leo Cullen will be hoping his Ireland internationals get back up to speed with their teammates. 

Great atmosphere here,  let’s hope the game lives up to it!

3mins

A bit of  nervy start for Leinster. Ronan Kelleher overthrows the lineout and Connacht go right down the pitch. Luke McGrath box-kicks to safety to relieve the pressure, and now Connacht are going through the phases looking for an opportunity. The home crowd are enjoying this.

4Mins

Penalty for a high tackle by Max Deegan on Finlay Bealham. The Connacht prop needed some treatment on his leg – maybe a result of a Will Connors tackle just before Deegan’s hit – and it looks like his night is over.

In better news for Connacht Jack Carty struck the penalty perfectly and the hosts are 3-0 up.

5Mins

A bit of pressure now for Connacht near their own line  but they clear their lines well. Dominic Robertson McCoy has come on to replace Bealham.

8Mins

TRY!

Brilliant work from Andrew Porter to put Leinster in the lead. He burst through about four players to down down after a neat passing move. That’s his sixth try for Leinster, and Ross Byrne has no problems with the conversion. 

11Mins

A short break in play as Peter Robb gets some treatment on a nasty looking blood injury. Bundee Aki enters the action as a blood replacement as gets a huge roar from the stands.

14Mins

Try!

Bread and butter for Leinster. Scott Fardy collects a Ronan Kelleher lineout throw, he joins the maul, collects the ball, and Leinster drive over the line. Connacht will be disappointed with their defensive effort there. Byrne converts again and Leinster have opened up a nice early lead here.

17Mins

Penalty

Boos ring around the stadium after Will Connors catches Jack Carty high and late. It looked bad in real time but Connors didn’t have much time to react. The referee has decided he caught his chest, rather than his head, and that the tackle was just late rather than high. The decision is a penalty, but the home crowd aren’t impressed.

Darragh Leader steps up and sends the ball between the posts.

Flag 23Mins

TRY!
Leinster go hunting for a third try as they go through the phases in front of the Connacht posts. They spread it out wide, but nothing comes of it and we go back for a penalty for offside.

Ross Byrne turns down the handy three points and kicks to the right corner. It’s almost a carbon copy of Kelleher’s earlier try as he joins the back of the maul again, only this time he found Devin Toner rather than Scott Fardy with his throw. It’s all a bit too easy for Leisnter so far. That’s Kelleher’s sixth try of the season. Byrne converts to bring Leinster up to 21 points.

Meanwhile Aki has gone back to the warmth of the bench as Robb resumes his place in the Connacht team.

 

Here’s a look at that third Leinster try. Kelleher’s on a hat-trick with less than half an hour played.

31Mins

TRY!

More front row power from Leinster to bag the bonus point!

This has been a devastating first half from Leo Cullen’s team.

Cian Healy and Joe Tomane both made breaks before held up near the line. Porter eventually got the ball over, and the try is given after a quick TMO decision. Byrne makes it four from four with his conversion.

That’s Porter and Kelleher both on two tries. Who’ll get the hat-trick first? 

Flag 36Mins

TRY!

This is getting ugly for Connacht. Some good work by Tomane, who has been impressive tonight, to free Hugo Keenan, before the ball is worked out to Ross Byrne who can race clear for Leinster’s fifth try of the half. He picks himself up to convert the try. 

Andy Friend will be so disappointed with this half. His team have barely fired a shot.

Flag

Poor old Eddie the Eagle is doing his best to get the crowd back into this game, but he’s flapping those wings in vain. The atmosphere has been sucked out of the Sportsground after a disastrous opening first half.

Leinster have been brilliant on both sides of the ball. Five tries, and it could have been more. The second half is going to be about damage limitation for Connacht, which is really disappointing considering the form they entered this game in. The hosts are really struggling to make any ground on the ball, and have been far too loose in the tackle. 

Leinster have been throwing the ball around a bit more towards the end of the half, which may actually be a good sign for Connacht as most of the damage has been done by direct, powerful running. 

Whatever approach Leinster take after the break, Connacht certainly need to do something different, as Leinster don’t tend to take the foot off the gas in these situations.

40Mins

We’re back in action for the second half at the Sportsground.

Our old coaches always told us to win the second half, but we’re sure Andy Friend managed something a bit more inspiring than that.

No changes for either side, Connacht will be hoping that doesn’t mean more of the same. They need to keep things tight at the restart here and get some kind of handle on this game. 

Flag 49Mins

TRY!

After a slow start to the half Connacht swoop for their first try of the evening.

After weathering some early pressure they get some territory, and Fardy is called up for a high tackle. Connacht kick to the corner. The ball is worked back to Jack Carty who hits a beautiful cross-field kick, and Stephen Fitzgerald is able to cut inside to finish a fine move. Carty can’t add the extras, but Connacht now have something to build on.

52Mins

While we’re obviously neutral here, at the same time we are sad to report that the front-row hat-trick dream is dead for tonight.

Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter, who both scored two first half tries, have been replaced by James Tracy and Michael Bent. Cian Healy has also been replaced by Ed Byrne, so Connacht have a whole new front row to deal with.

Here’s a look at that lovely Connacht try. Has anyone ever mentioned that Jack Carty has a GAA background?

 

 

60Mins

Substitute James Tracy thinks that he’s picked up where Ronan Kelleher had left off. Tomane was held up just short of the line, and Leinster re-set and work the ball to Kelleher who powers over, but it’s not given as Devin Toner is deemed to have been ahead of the ball carrier, and Connacht get the penalty for obstruction. 

62Mins

Lots of changes in the last few minutes. Jamison Gibson-Park, Rhys Ruddock and Rob Kearney are all on the pitch for Leinster, while Bundee Aki has replaced Peter Robb for Connacht, and Matthew Burke is on for Denis Buckley.

Flag 70Mins

TRY!

James Lowe end their try-scoring drought and score their first try since the 33rd minute. The wing gobbles up a loose pass from Heffernan in his own half and sprints down the pitch to score his 24th try in Leinster blue. He’s been a decent signing hasn’t he? 

Byrne taps over the conversion with ease. 

78Mins

We’re into the last few minutes now, and Connacht are still struggling to get up the pitch. Leinster have been looking pretty comfortable in defence but Fardy gives away a penalty and Connacht get a chance to kick to the corner. 

They don’t make any ground from the maul so move through the phases instead, and end up getting pushed back a bit after some huge tackles by Leinster. 

The move eventually breaks down and we come back for a Connacht penalty.

79Mins

Leinster turnover the Connacht lineout and then may be that. Gibson-Park clears the danger and Connacht’s hard work fails to reap any reward.

Flag 80Mins

That’s that, and the full-time whistle is met with a small smattering of claps.

A very forgettable night for Connacht. They can take some comfort from the fact they only conceded one try after then restart, but the damage had long been done.

Leinster were just awesome in that first half, and Ronan Kelleher really stood out again. 

We’ll have a full report and reaction up shortly, thanks for joining us!

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