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Garry Ringrose crosses for a Leinster try.
Garry Ringrose crosses for a Leinster try.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Clinical Leinster turn on the style to put seven tries on Connacht

The visitors started strongly but couldn’t live with Leinster’s quality at the RDS.
Dec 3rd 2021, 9:42 PM 29,381 47

Leinster 47

Connacht 19

Ciarán Kennedy reports from the RDS

THE RDS CAN be a cruel, unforgiving place for visiting teams. Connacht knew this already, so they won’t have been too surprised that for all the quality, confidence and ambition they brought to the Dublin venue this evening, they still managed to find themselves trailing by five points come half time. 

By that point, it already felt like there would be no way back for Andy Friend’s team.

This is what Leinster do so well. They can absorb pressure, occasionally ship a couple of scratches, and then turn a game on its head.

The 28-point margin here felt cruel on Connacht, but when Leo Cullen’s side get their foot on your throat, they rarely let up.

All week the message from both camps had been clear. Connacht wanted to play with the same intent displayed in the impressive wins over Ulster and Ospreys in the previous two rounds.

Leinster on the other hand wanted to summon a response following their defeat to Ulster at this venue last weekend.

As such, Leo Cullen loaded his team with returning Ireland internationals, but in the early stages it was the more settled Connacht selection that looked the sharper of the two.

With 10 minutes played, Connacht had enjoyed 68% of the possession and 80% of the territory, but, crucially, they had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. 

They needed some reward for their endeavour, and it eventually came via a beautiful piece of play from Jack Carty.

With penalty advantage, the Connacht out-half lifted his head and kicked to the corner, getting the weight on his pass just right as Mack Hansen acrobatically claimed the ball under pressure from Jordan Larmour and dotted down his sixth try for the province. Carty’s conversation failed to find the target, but Connacht had taken the initiative. 

mack-hansen-scores-their-first-try-despite-jordan-larmour Mack Hanses scored the opening try of the game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It took Leinster a little over five minutes to respond, with Rhys Ruddock muscling over following a series of pick and goes along the line.

Yet Leinster continued to live dangerously. From the restart, Oran McNulty beat James Lowe to a Luke McGrath box-kick and sliced through the Leinster defence before chipping in behind. From the resulting chase, Ryan Baird and McNulty both fell on the bouncing ball, with McNulty claiming a Connacht try. Referee Chris Busby’s on-field decision was no try, and following a length TMO check, he reached the conclusion that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn his initial decision. 

From the next play another chance went abegging as Leva Fifita was held up over the line from a five-metre Connacht scrum.

The visitors didn’t let up, and went on the attack again. Carty kicked to the corner, and from the lineout Connacht moved the ball infield. Finlay Bealham made a strong carry, followed by Conor Oliver, before Carty slipped in Sammy Arnold, the centre running an excellent line to break the Leinster defence and score Connacht’s second try. This time Carty nailed the conversion.

Yet once again, Leinster quickly responded. After moving the ball from one wing to the other and back again in the next play, Garry Ringrose burst clear after brilliant hands from James Lowe, Josh van der Flier and Michael Ala’alatoa. Byrne’s conversion pushed Leinster two points clear.

They kept the pressure on, and Dan Sheehan added a brilliant third try just before the break. It was a score that highlighted the quality available to Leinster in the forward pack. After nice hands from Devin Toner and smart footwork by Ruddock, the hooker burst down the left wing and stepped Hansen with the pace and confidence of a seasoned winger. 

dan-sheehan-scores-his-sides-third-try Sheehan runs in Leinster's third try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Despite find themselves on the backfoot for much of the opening period, the hosts were five points up at the break, and Connacht already looked to be tiring.

Within two minutes of the restart Leinster had hit another gear, Larmour ducking inside two defenders to finish a clinical passing move and bag the bonus point.

With an entire half of rugby still to play, it felt like Connacht’s chance had gone, and there was a sense of inevitability about what came next, with the introduction of Andrew Porter making a telling difference. Caelan Doris powered over for Leinster’s fifth try on 50 minutes, before Baird added number six with another close-range finish.

To Connacht’s credit, they never gave up the fight and still managed to play some wonderful pressure despite the game being beyond their reach.

Just as Ross Byrne entered the action to replace his brother Harry, who will be happy with an assured 62 minute outing – he had played just 38 minutes in blue this season before tonight – Connacht found a way through, with Carty and Hansen linking cleverly to break the defence as Conor Oliver touched down.

It was little more than a consolation score, and Leinster’s seventh try was as good as any of their previous six, Max Deegan applying the finishing touch to another excellent free-flowing move.

Cullen had received the response he wanted, while Friend was served with a harsh reminder of the battle facing his side this season as they look to take the next step in their development.


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The big games come thick and fast. Next up it’s Europe. In a few weeks time, we’ll have a clearer idea of how the season is shaping up for two teams with a similar ethos, operating in very different worlds.

Leinster scorers:

Try: Ruddock, Ringrose, Sheehan, Larmour, Doris, Baird, Deegan.

Conversion: H Byrne [5/6], R Byrne [1/1]

Connacht scorers:

Try: Hansen, Arnold, Oliver

Conversion: Carty [2/3]

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw (Tommy O’Brien 55), James Lowe; Harry Byrne (Ross Byrne 62), Luke McGrath (capt) (Nick McCarthy 62); Cian Healy (Andrew Porter 40), Dan Sheehan (Rónan Kelleher 50), Michael Alaalatoa (Vakh Abdaladze 66); Ryan Baird, Devin Toner (Josh Murphy 60); Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris (Max Deegan, 25-27 blood, 56).

CONNACHT: Oran McNulty; Alex Wootton, Sammy Arnold (Tom Farrell 55), Peter Robb, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty (capt) (Conor Fitzgerald, 71), Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade 60); Matthew Burke (Jordan Duggan 60), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt 51), Finlay Bealham (Jack Aungier 45); Leva Fifita, Ultan Dillane (Cian Prendergast 51); Eoghan Masterson, Conor Oliver (Sean Masterson 70), Jarrad Butler. 

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU) 

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discuss an insane week for Munster, Ulster’s impressive win over Leinster and ask can Connacht repeat their feat from earlier this year and win at the same ground?

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Ciarán Kennedy


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