Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 1°C
# best in the west
Seven-try Connacht rout Leinster on fitting farewell bash for John Muldoon
The retiring captain even kicked a conversion in a record Connacht win over their rivals to the east.

Connacht 47

Leinster 10

Sean Farrell reports from the Sportsground

FOR ALL THE hard days and thankless tasks that John Muldoon has battled through, the great days always made the struggle worth every ounce of blood, sweat, anguish and tears.

Days like Murrayfield, Harlequins, Toulouse or Thomond Park will all hold a high value in Muldoon’s memory bank, but this farewell party, a seven-try thrashing of a Leinster team apparently on the verge of a European Cup, will certainly hold its own among them.

John Muldoon after the game Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

It’s been a difficult week for Muldoon, contending with being the centre of attention before making his 327th and final appearance for his beloved province. But while he may have been embarrassed by the plaudits, he couldn’t hide away from the packed house of 8,129 that came to salute the legacy he has built over the course of 15 years.

If the actual 80-minute match felt like it was of secondary importance in the build-up, there was a complete reversal from kick-off. Muldoon, positioned on the left wing, had a bystander’s role as Connacht built pressure. Shane Delahunt made the crucial midfield break and Connacht successfully tightened up Leinster’s defensive line with one-out carries before Jack Carty, Tom Farrell and Tiernan O’Halloran all connected with nice passes to put Niyi Adeolokun away in the corner.

Niyi Adeolokun scores his sides first try Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

In a week where his future has been hotly debated, Joey Carbery had kicking responsibilities at a sun-kissed Sportsground bereft of wind. The young international kicked Leinster onto the board and missed a difficult angled 40 metre effort soon after, but the territory and possession Leinster were enjoying brought an ominous hush around College Road.

Yet, there was always a doggedness to Connacht as they mounted their defence and the reward for scrapping a way clear in difficult moments midway through the first half was that a relatively even match hit the halfway stage with a very uneven 21-3 scoreline.

Attacking off a line-out in his own half, James Lowe gifted a try to O’Halloran who put the Kiwi under pressure with rapid line-speed. Connacht, as they have tended to do in Muldoon’s latter years, revelled in the sunshine and after the skipper failed to breakthrough on a speculative line-out play on Leinster’s 22, Delahunt again made the break, raiding beyond a pillar-free ruck and offloading to Kieran Marmion who dived under the posts in the 32nd minute.

There was still time for Leinster to chip at the lead before the break, but after kicking a penalty to the corner Gavin Thornbury came up with a massive line-out steal to keep the party bubbling up nicely.

An 18-point deficit still looked attainable given the quality sitting on Leinster’s bench, but as the blue wave swelled in the opening minutes of the second half Shane Delahunt once again put himself forward to be chief instigator to take pressure off his skipper on John Muldoon Day.

Shane Delahunt offloads to set up a Niyi Adeolokun try despite James Lowe and Tom Daly Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Having contributed two big breaks in the first half, Delahunt ripped possession away from Max Deegan and set a rapier-like counter attack in motion. Not only did the hooker begin it, when he popped up on the right wing seconds later he adorned it with a sumptuous back-handed offload to unleash Adeolokun away for his second try.

Not content with a 41-minute bonus point against the best team in Europe, Connacht delved further into the bag of tricks that has been so sorely lacking during the rest of the campaign and added a fifth. Jack Carty delivered a deft chip over the top of Leinster’s on-rushing defence and O’Halloran took the pill on the full before sending it inside to a rampaging Marmion.

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Kieran Marmion runs in a try Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

There would be one riposte from Leinster, a Barry Daly chase that had a suspicion of a foot in touch, but there was no dampening the fireworks from the home side. Bundee Aki crashed over for try number six and when Caolin Blade touched down number seven in the closing minutes, Craig Ronaldson had to defer kicking duties to his fearless leader.

For the first time in many years, Muldoon was in unknown territory as he sized up the ball on the tee. Jamison Gibson-Park and Jordan Larmour tested his mettle with an early charge, but Muldoon’s nerve and skill has never been in question over the course of 327 games and he coolly slotted his kick to take Connacht up to a scarcely believable 47 points.

John Muldoon celebrates Kieran Marmion's try Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

But then again, taking this team, his team, to heights barely thought possible has been a core driver for John Muldoon since he first set foot on this field against Border Reivers.

A legend of Irish rugby, and a day in the sun like this was the least he deserved.



Tries: N Adeolokun (2), T O’Halloran, K Marmion (2) B Aki, C Blade

Conversions: J Carty (4/5) C Ronaldson (1/1) J Muldoon (1/1)


Tries: B Daly

Conversions: J Carbery (1/1)

Penalties: J Carbery (1/2)

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (Darragh Leader ’72), Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty (Craig Ronaldson ’63), Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade ’63): Denis Buckley (Peter McCabe ’71), Shane Delahunt (Tom McCartney ’71), Finlay Bealham (Conor Carey ’61); Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux (Ultan Dillane’54), Eoin McKeon (Eoghan Masterson ’54), Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon.

Leinster: Joey Carbery, Barry Daly, Tom Daly (Jordan Larmour ’54), Noel Reid, James Lowe, Ross Byrne (Adam Byrne 69) Nick McCarthy (Jamison Gibson-Park ’51): Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’51), James Tracy (Sean Cronin ’51) Andrew Porter (Michael Bent ’51), Ross Molony, Mick Kearney, Max Deegan (Caelan Doris ’64), Peadar Timmins, Jack Conan

Referee: Andrew Brace [IRFU]

Muldoon bows out as a Connacht great after leading them to new heights

‘I can’t wait to pull on the Leinster jersey. It feels good to be a rugby player again’


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