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FIFTH HOST SIXTH as Connacht travel to the RDS to face Leinster. The westerners have never won at the ground, but could tonight be the night when they break their streak?

Hello and welcome the TheScore.ie’s live coverage of Leinster vs Connacht. We have just over an hour to go til kick-off, so get acquainted with the teams while I put the kettle on.

Leinster

15. Rob Kearney
14. Zane Kirchner
13. Luke Fitzgerald
12. Noel Reid
11. Dave Kearney
10. Jimmy Gopperth
9. Isaac Boss
1. Michael Bent
2. Aaron Dundon
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. Kane Douglas
6. Kevin McLaughlin
7. Shane Jennings
8. Jamie Heaslip (Capt.)

16. Sean Cronin
17. Jack McGrath
18. Maks Van Dyk
19. Jack Conan
20. Jordi Murphy
21. Luke McGrath
22. Cathal Marsh
23. Gordon D’Arcy

Connacht

15. Mils Muliaina
14. Danie Poolman
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Rodney Ah You
4. Quinn Roux
5. Aly Muldowney
6. John Muldoon (Capt)
7. Eoin McKeon
8. George Naoupu

Replacements:

16. Dave Heffernan
17. Ronan Loughney
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Willie Faloon
21. Caolin Blade
22. Craig Ronaldson
23. Darragh Leader

So can Connacht actually do the business tonight?

The bookies don’t think so anyway.

Leinster are nine point favourites (although the handicap opened at 11 so people are backing Connacht) and 2/9 for the win.

If you fancy a punt on an upset, Connacht can be backed at 7/2.

Connacht won 10-9 when the two sides met earlier in the season. The decisive moment of the game was this searing break by Kieran Marmion.

Marms completely did Kearney in with this step.

Source: Abdullah Mahmood/Vine

It really was a poor outing for Kearney that night in The Sportsgrounds. He probably needed a cast on his rear after getting dump tackled by Dave McSharry.

Source: James Byrne/Vine

Good to see Shane Jennings return for Leinster tonight. When everyone is fit again in the back row for Leinster, Matt O’Connor will have a selection migraine.
https://vine.co/v/OXBW0IP6vnm

We are five minutes away from kick-off now. Time for the pre-match predictions. It has been 12 years since Connacht have won in Dublin, will they scalp the champions tonight?

We are off at the RDS!

Big Dev Toner fumbles in his own 22 but it goes backwards and Isaac Boss clears to halfway.

We’ve a scrum in midfield now after a knock-on from Bundee Aki.

Good start for the Leinster scrum as they win a penalty and Gopperth kicks to the corner. The battle between Connacht’s Denis Buckley and Tadhg Furlong will be an intriguing sub-plot.

Leinster’s clearing out was sloppy against Quins and it has spilled over into tonight. Buckley gets over the ball in his own 22 and wins a penalty.

Leinster turn the ball over and go through the phases in midfield. Robbie Henshaw is penalised for hands in the ruck and Gopperth goes to the corner once more.

Leinster are camped on the Connacht line at the moment. Fitzgerald almost made it over in the corner but Robbie Henshaw tackled him (very high). We are going back for a Leinster penalty to the left of the posts in the Connacht 22 now. Back to the corner again.

Gopperth fires a pass around Noel Reid’s ankles but Leinster had an advantage after Connacht collapsed their maul. Back to the corner AGAIN.

Aly Muldowney gets sin-binned for pulling down a Leinster lineout jumper but from the resulting maul, Boss is snagged and knocks on. Connacht did very well to hold out there.

Leinster have owned the ball and possession for the first ten minutes but have nothing to show for it. They had three 5m lineouts but couldn’t get over the line. Some uninspiring back play to start tonight’s game.

Michael Bent absolutely destroyed Rodney Ah You at that scrum and Leinster have a penalty. Back to the corner we go.

TRY! Leinster 5-0 Connacht

Shane Jennings is at the back of the maul and it finally rumbles on long enough to get over the try line.

Gopperth drags the conversion wide but Leinster have a reward for their early dominance.

That try came after a huge shove from Bent at the scrum. It was like watching The Beast vs Phil Vickery.

Mils Muliaina knocks on under a high ball in midfield and Leinster break quickly, with Noel Reid carrying the ball into the Connacht 22.

Big Dev Toner just swats George Naoupu away as he rumbles towards the line. Leinster have a penalty from straight in front now and Gopperth should make it 8-0 from inside the 22.

Leinster 8-0 Connacht

Gopperth nails the handy penalty and Leinster are pulling away now.

Connacht have a scrum in the Leinster 22 after a Jamie Heaslip knock-on.

Bundee Aki runs a lovely switch line off Jack Carty and makes good ground past the gain line. But Leisnter are able to force a turnover and Boss clears to just outside the 22.

Kieran Marmion and Matt Healy combine cleverly off a maul to set the wing sprinting towards the Leinster line but Zane Kirchner makes a last-ditch tackle. Connacht still have possession in the 22.

Connacht have a penalty in front of the posts after Jamie Heaslip plays the ball on the ground.

Muldowney is back from the sin-bin so Connacht are restored to 15.

23Mins

Connacht have looked far more potent with the ball in hand thus far. Aki has made some nice cuts and the pack are carrying aggressively.

24Mins

Leinster 8-3 Connacht

Carty reduces the gap with a straightforward penalty.

Carty misses the straightforward penalty and the gap stays at eight.

Noel Reid makes a searing break again to bring Leinster into the Connacht 22 but Luke Fitzgerald’s floated pass is poor and Zane Kirchner steps on the touchline.

Danie Poolman attempts a chip… but it goes straight out. Leinster have a lineout around the halfway line.

Toner knocks on in traffic and then a lovely dab from Marmion brings play to just inside the Leinster 22.

Another penalty to Connacht in a kickable position. Carty badly needs to make this one from straight in front and about 35m out.

Leinster 8-3 Connacht

Carty atones for his early wide by splitting the posts.

Leinster having a spell of possession just inside the Connacht half but they are struggling to break down the Westerners and Tom McCartney is able to force a penalty.

Connacht have a penalty 5m from the line after their maul is collapsed.

The ref gives Jamie Heaslip a stern warning about the amount of penalties Leinster are giving away. Connacht opt for the corner.

We are going to the TMO after Danie Poolman grabs Jack Carty’s cross-kick and just about gets it down before falling into touch.

Foot in touch for Poolman. Leinster escape by an inch. Very unlucky for the wing.

The TMO is now checking Shane Jennings’ clear-out of Henshaw.

But there is nothing there and Leinster have a 22 drop out. Big opportunity missed for Connacht.

Jack Carty makes a great break and fends off Heaslip before feeding Marmion. The scrum-half gets tackled by Kirchner a few yards short but a few phases later Tadhg Furlong gets sin-binned for illegally stealing the ball. Carty should narrow the gap from straight in front.

HT Leinster 8-6 Connacht

Carty kicks it over but six points is a poor return for Connacht considering those two chances they had just before the break. They are still very much in this though and the second half is sure to be a tense affair.

Marmion has been superb for Connacht. His passing has been sharp and he’s been a constant threat with the ball in hand. It’s a shame that we didn’t see more of him in the autumn.

We are off in the second half!

Leinster have an early penalty after George Naoupu uses his hands in the ruck. Gopperth will go for the posts from just over the halfway line.

Leinster 11-6 Connacht

An absolutely massive kick from Gopperth restores Leinster’s five point advantage.

Leinster are starting to find a few more gaps now and Reid and Fitzgerald have been combining well in the centre. Connacht currently have a lineout right on their 22.

Connacht are trying to run it out of defence but they knock the ball on and Reid pins them back on their own 5m line. Risky strategy from the visitors.

Jack Conan is on for Kevin McLaughlin, who looks to have injured his arm.

Brilliant tackling from Leinster forces Marmion into a tough kick and the home side now have a 5m lineout. The strong wind is in Leinter’s favour in this half.

Leinster have a penalty after John Muldoon creeps offside at a ruck. Gopperth will kick from just to the left of the posts inside the 22. Tadhg Furlong has also returned from his yellow card.

50Mins

Leinster 14-6 Connacht

Despite playing the last ten minutes with 14 men, Leinster have opened up a two-score lead after another successful kick for Gopperth.

First chance of the half for Connacht and they have a lineout on the Leinster 22. Jack McGrath is on for Michael Bent too.

Connacht have a 5m scrum now after Rob Kearney was absolutely levelled on his own line.

Sean Cronin is on for Aaron Dundon too.

Massive moment for Connacht at this scrum…

But Healy fumbles and Leinster have a scrum under their own posts.

Connacht are back in the Leinster 22.

But Leinster smuggle the ball back and Reid once again pins Connacht back with a probing grubber. The inside centre has been excellent tonight.

Connacht’s ambition has been admirable but another knock-on in their own 22 has Leinster pushing for a score to kill off the game.

5m scrum for Leinster after Isaac Boss is held up. Jordi Murphy has replaced Shane Jennings.

With 15 minutes left, if Leinster were to score a try here, that would probably be it.

Connacht win the penalty at the scrum and have a chance to get out of their own territory for what seems like the first time in about 20 minutes.

Leinster knock on at the lineout so Connacht will have a scrum on their own 10m line.

Another scrum penalty for Connacht. They have a lineout outside the Leinster 22 now.

Connacht have a 5m lineout after being awarded a penalty in the Leinster 22. Can they reduce the gap?

Toner is sent to the bin for collapsing the Connacht maul.

TRY! Leinster 14-11 Connacht

George Naoupu touches down at the back of the maul. We are in for a tight finish. Conversion still to come.

Carty is short with the conversion. Connacht have five minutes to get something other than a losing bonus point from this game.

Leinster have possession in the Connacht half now. Expect the forwards to try and close it out.

Leinster still in possession and now have a penalty after Connacht go offside.

Gopperth will kick the penalty from straight in front on the 10m line. That should be that.

TRY LEINSTER! Leinster 19-11 Connacht

Gopperth elected to go for touch and after Matt Healy batted the ball in field to save his team from defending the lineout, the ball bounced straight into the hands of Kirchner to dot down. Disaster for Connacht as that sees them lose their bonus point.

FT Leinster 21-11 Connacht

What a sickening finish for Connacht. That Kirchner try was as fortuitous as they come.

Connacht will be furious to leave the RDS empty handed after a pretty dynamic performance with the ball in hand. Leinster will be delighted to eke out another win and Matt O’Connor will be pleased by the form shown by Noel Reid and Luke Fitzgerald in the centre.

Thanks for joining me for our live coverage of Leinster vs Connacht tonight. Check back in a few minutes for all the reaction from the RDS.

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