Dan Sheridan/INPHO Larmour crossed for two tries.
# dancing feet
Larmour lights up RDS but Leinster lose Sexton to injury in 7-try win over Connacht
The Leinster captain picked up a facial injury as the province made it 11 straight wins in the URC this season.

Leinster 41

Connacht 12

JORDAN LARMOUR’S DANCING feet lit up the RDS as Leinster stepped into 2023 with their 11th straight win of the URC season, the league leaders beating a spirited Connacht side 41-12 at the RDS.

The visitors managed to keep things tight across an entertaining first half, trailing by five points at the interval, before Leinster pulled clear – Leo Cullen’s side crossing for four second-half tries while holding Connacht scoreless after the break.

Larmour was heavily involved throughout, scoring two tries and adding an assist on a productive night for the winger. 

The one sour note for Leinster was the sight of Johnny Sexton leaving the field with what looked a nasty facial injury following a collision with Connacht’s Jarrad Butler – Ireland’s Six Nations campaign begins on 4 February against Wales.

A highly entertaining first half in Dublin saw the two sides exchange five tries in front of 17,560 spectators; Leinster doing their best to wrap up the bonus point before the half time whistle, Connacht doing their best to prevent their hosts from pulling away.

It took Leinster just over two minutes to breach the Connacht defence – Charlie Ngatai and Sexton both showing nice hands before the Leinster out-half sent Liam Turner through for his first try for the province, with Sexton sending the conversion wide.

liam-turner-scores-a-try Dan Sheridan / INPHO Leinster centre Liam Turner scored the opening try of the night. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Those supporters who had made the long trip up from the west of the country must have been fearing the worst.

Yet Connacht didn’t fold after that early setback. Leinster continued to enjoy most of the possession but struggled to click, two lost lineouts prompting groans from the home crowd.

Then Connacht began to grow into the game. Larmour went in search of a turnover but was penalised, with Jack Carty kicking for the corner. A clean lineout allowed Connacht build pressure, before John Porch’s pass out wide just evaded Darragh Murray, who slipped at the vital moment.

Connacht kept building momentum and soon had their reward. Another lineout on the opposite flank triggered a neat move, which saw a nice offload from Carty before David Hawkshaw’s impressive footwork allowed the former Leinster man skip free and dart over. It was a sweet score for Hawkshaw on his 11th cap for Connacht – the same number of appearances he made in Leinster blue before his summer move. Carty kicked the extras and Connacht led by two.

Leinster, as they so often do, replied almost instantly, second row Brian Deeny scrambling over after a strong lineout maul in the left corner. This time Sexton was on target with the conversion and Leinster were back in control.

jonathan-sexton-is-tackled-by-diarmuid-kilgallen Dan Sheridan / INPHO Leinster's Jonathan Sexton and Connacht's Diarmuid Kilgallen. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Connacht dug in again but just after the half hour mark they were undone by a piece of Larmour magic, along with their second costly slip of the night.

Taking possession just inside the Leinster half, Larmour sensed opportunity despite having little space to work with. A flash of fabolous footwork opened up the pitch. He jinked inside past two defenders, then cut back out past another before playing in Jimmy O’Brien.

The Leinster fullback charged forward and clipped the ball in behind, where Connacht captain Carty looked well placed to snuff out the danger. Sizing up the bouncing ball, Carty lost his footing and Larmour was on hand to collect and finish the move he so brilliantly started, with Sexton again converting.

There was still time for another twist before a fast-paced first half came to a close. Winning possession from a Leinster lineout, Tom Farrell carried hard to get Connacht up the pitch before Charlie Ngatai was pinged. The visitors patiently went through the phases off the resulting lineout before Carty spun the ball back to Farrell, who ran a good line to cross, Leinster’s appeals for a forward pass falling on deaf ears.

Carty pulled his conversion wide and Leinster went in at the break leading 19-12, despite Andy Friend’s side enjoying 53% of the possession and 56% territory. 

jimmy-obrien-is-tackled-by-niall-murray Dan Sheridan / INPHO Leinster's Jimmy O'Brien is tackled by Connacht's Niall Murray. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Within three minutes of the restart, Leinster had added to their lead and once again Larmour was the catalyst. As Leinster pushed into the Connacht 22, his dancing feet on the left touchline got the crowd off their feet as Leinster closed in on the Connacht tryline, Larmour then finished the move and secured the bonus point with another sharp step inside past Hawkshaw, who then left on a stretcher after his studs got caught in the ground. Sexton’s second missed conversion of the night kept it a 12-point game.

Leinster then sent Andrew Porter into the front row, his arrival soon followed by a yellow card for Carty – the Connacht captain sent to the bin after disrupting a quick-tap penalty without being the required 10m back.  

Leinster boss Leo Cullen will be frustrated with how Leinster failed to build on their lead across the following 10 minutes – Connacht continuing the frustrate their hosts and holding Leinster scoreless during the period they were down to 14.

Entering the final quarter, Connacht were still in the game. Byron Ralston had a chance to sprint for the corner but O’Brien tracked across well to make an important tackle.

With Connacht applying all the pressure, Leinster then lost Sexton to injury, the captain leaving the pitch with a noticeable indentation on his cheek following a head-on-head clash tackling Butler. Harry Byrne would look to steer the home side home on just his third outing of the season, while Connacht would have to play out the final minutes with 14 – Butler forced off with injury when the Connacht bench had already been emptied. 

jonathan-sexton-receives-medical-attention Dan Sheridan / INPHO Sexton was forced off with a facial injury. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Leinster finally added the insurance score as the game entered the final 10. Camped on the Connacht line, Leinster carried hard before Cormac Foley spun the ball out to Rob Russell, who had a simple finish for his seventh try in seven URC games. Byrne’s first shot at the posts sailed wide. 

Try number six soon followed, Ryan Baird galloping over after brilliant work from Charlie Ngatai to create the opening, with Byrne adding the conversion.

Leinster now had their tails up and continued to carve Connacht open. Josh van der Flier was next over the line, Larmour and Russell combining well to send the 2022 World Player of the Year over in the corner for the final score of the game.

The win leaves Leinster eight points clear of the Stormers at the top of the table, while Connacht remain 13th heading into the second half of the season.

Leinster scorers –

Tries: Turner, Deeny, Larmour (2), Russell, Baird, van der Flier

Conversions: Sexton [2/4], Byrne [1/3]

Connacht scorers –

Tries: Hawkshaw, Farrell

Conversions: Carty [1/2]

Leinster: Jimmy O’Brien; Jordan Larmour, Liam Turner (Jamie Osborne, 63), Charlie Ngatai (Scott Penny, 74), Rob Russell; Johnny Sexton (captain) (Harry Byrne, 64), Jamison Gibson-Park (Cormac Foley, 68); Michael Milne (Andrew Porter, 50), Rónan Kelleher (John McKee, 63), Michael Ala’alatoa (Vakhtang Abdaladze, 63); Brian Deeny (Alex Soroka, 50), James Ryan; Ryan Baird, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (Byron Ralston, 47); Diarmuid Kilgallen, Tom Farrell, David Hawkshaw (Tom Daly, 45), John Porch; Jack Carty (captain), Caolin Blade ( Kieran Marmion, 68); Peter Dooley (Denis Buckley, 52), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt, 70), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Sam Illo, 52); Darragh Murray, Niall Murray; Cian Prendergast (Oisín Dowling, 58), Shamus Hurley-Langton (Conor Oliver,, 52), Jarrad Butler .

Yellow card: Carty 51

Referee: Eoghan Cross [IRFU]

Attendance: 17,560

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