Leinster take out their frustration on Connacht after slow start

Leo Cullen’s side get back on track with bonus-point win at the RDS

Leinster 47 Connacht 19

Leinster don’t do two defeats in a row at the RDS, least of all within a week, and the odds always were that the wounded four-in-a-row champions would vent their frustrations on Connacht. And so, beefed up by 10 recalled internationals, they vented on Connacht.

Andy Friend’s side gave as good as they got in a tit-for-tat first half before the Leinster machine went up a few gears. Their set-piece was stronger, their breakdown work more accurate and more effective in reaching the edges, they were then their ruthless selves when sniffing blood inside the 22.

Josh van der Flier and Rhys Ruddock put in their customary shifts, Harry Byrne pulled the strings without overplaying his hand, James Lowe again added real value while outside Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose oozed confidence and class in all he did.


Connacht were their adventurous selves and contributed handsomely to an enjoyable occasion, with Mack Hansen again underlining his value, while Conor Oliver was all energy, and on his return from injury, Cian Prendergast showed his rich promise off the bench.

They again unveiled some launch plays and made more offloads, but ultimately conceded seven tries to three to come away with nothing.

Yet the atmosphere was initially somewhat subdued for what was admittedly a slow burner before springing vibrantly into life and then almost as quickly Leinster killed the contest.

Both sides opted for the corner from the off and Connacht were the first to reap a reward. In a common launch play Hansen steamed on to an inside pass from Kieran Marmion before Oliver, Marmion and Eoghan Masterson made inroads. Playing with an advantage, Jack Carty weighted his kick deftly for Hansen to leap above Jordan Larmour and finish well.

Next, Leinster went to the corner and Henshaw was the launch before a sequence of pick-and-jams ended with Rhys Ruddock reaching the line.

Oran McNulty, the 21-year-old Connacht fullback making just his second start, fielded a Luke McGrath box kick and chipped ahead, appearing to win the touchdown after Ryan Baird's fumble, but the TMO, Olly Hodges decreed otherwise.

Connacht laid siege twice, culminating in Sammy Arnold taking a hard outside-in line off Carty's deft tip on to beat Larmour's tackle. Carty, who had again initially kicked a penalty to the corner, converted.

But Leinster roared back. Lovely passes by Ringrose and Byrne gave them the width before Van der Flier broke the line from Lowe’s pass and offloaded, Michael Ala’alatoa providing the link for Ringrose’s finish.

More of the same followed with the last play of the half, before Byrne released Dan Sheehan and he flummoxed Hansen by stepping to the winger's outside before beating him on the inside for a fine finish.

Leinster punished a sloppy Connacht start to the second half with a lovely strike move off a lineout when McNulty couldn't keep an attempted 50-22 by Lowe infield, Byrne pulling the ball back for Lowe to release Larmour and he stepped inside Peter Robb to secure the bonus point. Three tries and 19 unanswered points in 10 minutes either side of the interval.

Championship minutes indeed.

With Andrew Porter coming on for the second half and cranking up the heat at scrum time to earn the next territorial footing, the pack went to work again and Caelan Doris plunged over. Connacht were staring down the barrel, the gap in depth emphasised by the arrival of Rónan Kelleher. Mr Hodges and Chris Busby then awarded a questionable try to Baird form close-in battering of the visitors' line.

Connacht stemmed the blue flow when scoring directly off one of their strike plays off a lineout. Carty received the ball with three options, picking out Hansen for a clean break once again by skipping Oliver’s out-in decoy line, which meant the latter was in support to complete the try and put them within bonus-point territory.

But as the rain came, they mucked up two more launch plays before Conor Fitzgerald kicked a penalty up the line and from the ensuing scrum Leinster scored the try of the night.

Tommy O'Brien's blinding footwork made the inroads form inside halfway, Ringrose was on hand in support and released Nick McCarthy whose final offload was finished off by Max Deegan.

At the death, they once again held firm to deny Connacht anything tangible for their efforts.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 15 mins: Hansen try 0-5; 23: Ruddock try, H Byrne con 7-5; 29: Arnold try, Carty con 7-12; 33: Ringrose try, H Byrne con 14-12; 40: Sheehan try 19-12; (half-time 19-12); 42: Larmour try, H Byrne con 26-12; 50: Doris try, H Byrne con 33-12; 59: Baird try, H Byrne con 40-12; 62: Oliver try, Carty con 40-19; 74:Deegan try, R Byrne con 47-19.

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Cian Healy, Dan Sheehan, Michael Ala'alatoa; Ryan Baird, Devin Toner; Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Max Deegan for Doris (25-27 and 56 mins), Andrew Porter for Healy (half-time), Rónan Kelleher for Sheehan (50), Tommy O'Brien for Henshaw (55), Josh Murphy for Toner (60), Nick McCarthy for McGrath, Ross Byrne for H Byrne (both 61), Vakh Abdaladze for Ala'alatoa (66).

CONNACHT: Oran McNulty; Alex Wootton, Sammy Arnold, Peter Robb, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Leva Fifita, Ultan Dillane; Eoghan Masterson, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler.

Replacements: Jack Aungier for Bealham (46 mins), Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Cian Prendergast (both 50), Tom Farrell for Arnold (55), Jordan Duggan for Burke, Caolin Blade for Marmion (both 60), Seán Masterson for Oliver (70), Conor Fitzgerald for Carty (71).

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU).