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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 14 April 2021
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Good evening. You’re either just in time for our liveblog of Leinster v Connacht, or begging for some entertainment after a fairly dull second half in this evening’s opening inter-pro.

Kick-off at the RDS is at 19.35 (eir Sport), so go get yourself a comforting drink or a Saturday night treat and get back here for the action.

As is almost customary, there have been some late changes.

Leinster have ruled out replacements Tom Clarkson and Josh Murphy, with Greg McGrath and David Hawkshaw stepping into the 23.

Connacht’s bench is also tweaked as Kieran Marmion pulls out of the warm-up and Colm Reilly is now the deputy scrum-half.

Leinster:

15. Max O’Reilly
14. Andrew Smith
13. Jimmy O’Brien
12. Rory O’Loughlin
11. Dave Kearney
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Luke McGrath (captain)

1. Peter Dooley
2. James Tracy
3. Michael Bent
4. Ross Molony
5. Devin Toner
6. Ryan Baird
7. Scott Penny
8. Dan Leavy

Replacements:

16. Seán Cronin
17. Ed Byrne
18. Greg McGrath
19. Jack Conan
20. WIll Connors
21. Hugh O’Sullivan
22. David Hawkshaw
23. Liam Turner

Connacht:

15. John Porch
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Tom Daly
11. Alex Wootton
10. Jack Carty
9. Caolin Blade

1. Denis Buckley
2. Shane Delahunt
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
4. Gavin Thornbury
5. Quinn Roux (captain)
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Conor Oliver
8. Sean Masterson

Replacements:

16. Jonny Murphy
17. Matthew Burke
18. Conor Kenny
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Cian Prendergast
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Diarmuid Kilgallen
23. Ben O’Donnell

Referee: Chris Busby [IRFU].

KICK-OFF: We’re under way at a very, very chilly RDS. Peter Stringer even put his hat on ahead of this one. It’s that cold.

3 mins:  Excellent bright start from Connacht, that lovely high tempo sustained as they move through the phases and they threaten the line until Shane Delahunt spills the ball over it under tackle pressure.

6 mins: We’re still with the resulting scrum after that knock-on, and it comes to be a penalty for Leinster as the blue pack get a shove on from their five metre line.

Leinster’s promising young out-half (*checks notes) Jonathan Sexton clears his lines.

Jack Carty is the quickest thinker around and he showed it there, reacting rapidly to the sight of Ross Molony acting as scrum-half to pick off the lock’s laboured pass.

Carty still had work to do as he grabbed the ball on half way, but he pinned his ears back and burned off Sexton’s covering run with ease.

Leinster 0 Connacht 7

15 mins: Carty had a chance to make Connacht’s early lead a double-figure one, but his penalty goes off target. Was by no means a gimme.

20 mins: Leinster are on the wrong side of the penalty count and Connacht are well on top in terms of territory. Nothing comes easily against Leinster, though, and Leo Cullen’s pack come up with a big line-out steal on their own five-metre line to deny their guests a threatening platform.

Absolutely brilliant from Connacht. Carty was at the heart of the initial break, coming up in support of Caolin Blade’s incision into the final third. Leinster scrambled, but could not muster the numbers to force Connacht back and Carty crashed over with Quinn Roux leeching.

Carty missed the conversion.

TRY! Leinster 5 Connacht 12 (Penny ’25)

Scott Penny scampers in for a cheap try from Connacht’s point of view, invaluable from Leinster’s.

The score came after Jonathan Sexton went off for a HIA. We put a little too much faith in any Leinster player slotting a straightforward conversion, but Luke McGrath was off target. So the score remains:

Leinster 5 Connacht 12

28 mins:  The rigours of cold weather rugby amid a pandemic are on display. With Sexton gone, Jimmy O’Brien was slotting in as 10 – evidently late call-in David Hawkshaw wasn’t deemed ready – but O’Brien required treatment too after a blow there.

On the Connacht side, Jack Carty appeared to be stuggling with some soft tissue complaint, but he’s right as rain again.

PENALTY! Leinster 5 Connacht 15 (Carty ’32)

Leinster have a hill to climb here.

34 mins: Brilliant stuff from John Porch, hunting down O’Brien and punishing the slightest indecision in the Leinster 22 before the cavalry arrived to force a penalty.

PENALTY! Leinster 5 Connacht 18 (Carty ’35)

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News from the medics is that Johnny Sexton has not passed his HIA.

The veteran out-half didn’t look physically at his sharpest while he was on the field, but the head knock is an added concern to start the New Year.

38 mins: And again! Connacht are in vicious form without the ball. Tom Daly now hunts down the man in possession deep in the Leinster 22 and they force a turnover that could allow them extend their lead approaching half-time.

Connacht went for pick and drives, but after two goes under the posts, there was too much space to ignore out on the left.

They sought it out and got their reward as Wootton dotted down by the left flag.

Carty nails a brilliant conversion to ring up a jaw dropping half-time scoreline.

HALF-TIME: Leinster 5 Connacht 25

The second half is off and running. How will Leinster go about digging their way out of this one?

Well, Leinster are digging their way out of trouble by absolutely blasting their way through rucks. The fruit of their efforts brings a chance for McGrath to canter on through to the posts.

Jimmy O’Brien adds the easy conversion and the comeback is on.

Leinster 12 Connacht 25

PENALTY! Leinster 12 Connacht 28 (Carty ’47)

That’s what Connacht must do from here, keep the heads. Pick off scores and kill any swells of blue momentum as quick as they possibly can.

53 mins:

Leinster have sent in the heavy artillery in the form of Jack Conan and Sean Cronin, but the hooker’s first line-out is over-thrown and it sucks the air of out the latest bout of Leinster pressure as the error was deep in the Connacht 22.

Leinster will still feel they have enough firepower to reel in this 14-point gap in the last quarter.

Baird crashes in the corner after a trademark barrelling run from Sean Cronin, who caps off his break with a fine offload for the big versatile forward to finish.

The kick is wayward again, but will it cost Leinster?

61 mins: Leinster looked to be in for another try as O’Brien romped up the right and assisted the finish from David Hawkshaw, but the TMO is on hand to see obstruction in the build-up from Andrew Smith.

Connacht breath a big sigh of relief as it remains Leinster 17 Connacht 28

63 mins:

Scott Penny took a bad bang there, so Dan Leavy is being sent back into the fray a few minutes after Will Connors was sent on to replace him.

Leinster having to show all their strength in depth these days.

68 mins: Connacht have the winning post in sight now. They won’t mind a set of phases that was low tempo as it ate away at the clock.

Even after Leinster steal and clear, the ball sinks into Carty’s arms and he drills a sublime touch-finder through traffic to pin Leinster back again.

71 mins: Carty, John Porch and Shane Delahunt are coming to the fore now for Connacht as they chase this historic result.

Leinster’s defence is a tough nut to crack, but the Western province will be content with where they are playing these late minutes.

Content with territory? Maybe I’ll just shut my big mouth. Tom Daly comes up with a bonus point try and it’s surely the winner for the men of the west.

The former Leinster man, who left after a period ravaged by injury, picked off an intercept from Hawkshaw and grappled with would-be tacklers for 25-30 metres as he worked desperately to make the line.

He made it. And Carty made it the maximum return of seven.

2002 was the last time Connacht beat Leinster in Dublin. The RDS became Leinster’s home later in the century, so Connacht are about to taste victory at this venue for the first time ever.

Leinster are pushing for a late score that will at least earn them a point from this unreal encounter with Andy Friend’s side.

The TMO is being consulted…

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TRY! Leinster 24 Connacht 35 (Byrne ’80)

 

FULL-TIME: Leinster 24 Connacht 35

Connacht gather in a huddle as the final whistle goes. They are not going cock-a-hoop over this landmark result, they want to build from it.

An amazing performance to take apart a Leinster side that struggled to patch up the holes left by their absentees by illness and injury.

Jack Carty is your man of the match. The Athlone man is a sensational talent.

We’ll have a full match report and plenty of reaction from the RDS to come but from me, it’s good night.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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