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Insult to injury as Leinster crush Connacht in Galway

The clinical reigning champions scored six tries and had the bonus point wrapped up inside half an hour.

Ross Byrne celebrates Leinster's fifth first-half try.
Ross Byrne celebrates Leinster's fifth first-half try.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Connacht 11

Leinster 42

THE SPORTSGROUND ON inter-pro night is forever a vibrant place. The drums beat, there’s talk of an ambush in the air, anticipation builds as the bodies file in from College Road and knit tightly together in the Clan Terrace.

Leinster were in absolutely no mood to play their part in such festivities, and clinically bullied their way to a bonus point within 29 minutes.

With Europe on the way and internationals back in the fray, there was a fervent sense of occasion. But, pre-match, when some of the big names on the marquee were withdrawn, you already sensed that Connacht would suffer most.

Robbie Henshaw took ill and was denied a return to his former stomping ground. Kieran Marmion had to take leave from the Connacht bench. But it was the in-game knocks that really took the edge off the hosts.

Already down four front-line options in the tight five – in Paddy McAllister, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux – the sight of Finlay Bealham being forced off with three minutes on the clock was another shuddering blow.

Dominic Roberson-McCoy, red carded in this fixture last season, came on just as Carty kicked the home side into an early lead, but that early lead was about as good as it got for the home faithful.

Leinster made their advantage in the front five scream up from the field. Not only did they flex their muscles in the maul to deliver a remarkable fifth and sixth try of the season for hooker Ronan Kelleher. The most muscular of them all barged over for a telling seventh minute try. Kelleher’s burst was followed up by a strong Cian Healy carry before Andrew Porter trundled through a trio of tacklers to give his side a lead they would not look back from.

devin-toner-and-andrew-porter Double try-scorer Andrew Porter. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Connacht weren’t flat, so much as they were flattened. Early attacks had the vigour sucked out of them by powerful hits and voracious breakdown defence.

Andy Friend’s side looked patched together with three temporary replacements on at one time as Peter Robb, Cillian Gallagher and Jack Carty went off for either blood subs or HIA. And the scoreboard ticked upwards in multiples of seven.

Will Connors was fortunate to escape a yellow card for clotheslining Carty after a clever left-footed chip ahead. But within 12 minutes of Darragh Leader’s penalty to make the score 6-14, Porter barged over for a second try to secure a bonus point for the visitors.

The game felt over already, but as Ross Byrne capped a perfect half of kicking with a try, his fist-pumping celebration had the look of a man with plenty more he wanted to prove playing opposite the 10 selected ahead of him for the World Cup.

Connacht kicked off the second period 6 -35 down, but with increased intent. If the first 40 felt like they needed something special to break Leinster down, Carty conjured it up. The Roscommon man unleashed a superb kick from the right side of enemy territory, flat across the 22. Stephen Fitzgerald didn’t stand on his heels, he raced to meet the bouncing ball and angled around Adam Byrne.

jack-carty-and-bundee-aki Carty and Aki during the loss. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Unfortunately for the contest, it wasn’t the spark of a comeback. Just a blip. A week out from the visit of Montpellier, there was no abating on the injury front either as the luckless Sean O’Brien replaced Joe Maksymiw only to return to the bench with a game-ending knock a minute later.

The richly-resourced Leinster side just got richer as Rhys Ruddock and Rob Kearney got back in the business of provincial rugby. Connacht, to their credit, dug their heels in and produced a redoubtable defensive effort to leave their guests empty-handed after a long onslaught. But no sooner had they escaped their half, the work was undone by a loose Dave Heffernan pass that was gobbled up by James Lowe as he darted in for a 70 metre intercept try.

Leinster go into European competition with six wins from six. Party-poopers in rude health.

Scorers

Connacht

Try: S Fitzgerald

Conversion: J Carty (0/1)

Penalties: J Carty (1/1), D Leader (1/1)

Leinster

Tries: A Porter (2), R Kelleher (2), R Byrne, J Lowe.

Conversions: R Byrne (6/6)

Connacht:  Darragh Leader,  Niyi Adeolokun (Kyle Godwin ’63),  Tom Farrell,  Peter Robb (Bundee Aki ’62),  Stephen Fitzgerald,  Jack Carty,  Caolin Blade (Stephen Kerins ’69): Denis Buckley (Matthew Burke ’62),  Tom McCartney,  Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy ’3);  Cillian Gallagher, Joe Maksymiw (Sean O’Brien ’50, Dave Heffernan ’51));  Eoghan Masterson (Colby Fainga’a ’50), Jarrad Butler,  Paul Boyle.

Leinster: Hugo Keenan (Rob Kearney ’59),  Adam Byrne,  Jimmy O’Brien,  Joe Tomane (Ciaran Frawley ’69),  James Lowe,  Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson Park ’59): Cian Healy (Ed Byrne ’51), Rónan Kelleher (James Tracy ’51), Andrew Porter (Michael Bent ’51);  Devin Toner (Ross Molony ’64),  Scott Fardy; Josh Murphy (Rhys Ruddock ’59),  Will Connors,  Max Deegan 

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About the author:

Sean Farrell  / Reports from The Sportsground.

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