We had a tasty encounter this evening as Leinster pitched up in Galway to take on Connacht.
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Connacht 34-6 Leinster
19.43 – Good evening to you, and you, and you. We are live for Pro12 action at the Sportsground in Galway. Breaking team news comes from Leinster, with Fionn Carr taking Isa Nacewa’s spot on the wing.
19.45 – Here are the two teams for this evening’s fare:
Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, B Macken, G D’Arcy, F Carr; I Madigan, J Cooney; H van der Merwe, T Sexton, J Hagan; Q Roux, T Denton; B Marshall, S Jennings (c), L Auva’a.
Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, M Ross, D Toner, J Murphy, L McGrath, N Reid, AN Other.
Connacht: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley, A Flavin, N White (c); M Swift, M McCarthy; E McKeon, J O’Connor, G Naoupu.
Replacements: J Harris-Wright, B Wilkinson, R Loughney, D Gannon, W Faloon, D Moore, M Nikora, M Fifita.
19.46 – Here is what happened the last time the two sides met:
YouTube credit: LeinsterrugbyTV
19.52 – Here is your cheat sheet, from an Irish perspective, for all the weekend’s rugby action. Get up to speed before kick-off.
Leinster coach Guy Easterby was talking to TheScore.ie earlier in the week and is looking forward to the battle of the young scrum-halves John Cooney and Connacht’s Kieran Marmion. Here is what he had to say.
20.00 – TG4 has been chatting to both coaches before kick-off. Eric Elwood says bragging rights are on offer for the players that emerge victorious from what is always ‘a tasty affair’. Joe Schmidt said:
I’m delighted that we’ve got three wins from four, especially after a pretty catastrophic start to the season … I’m expecting a really rugged encounter, you don;t get anything else when you come here.”
20.01 – Just to update you on the Ulster v Cardiff Blues match over in Wales – Mark Anscombe’s men lead 17-9 at half-time after two super tries from Michael Allen and Nick Williams.
20.03 – Kick-off! Connacht in possession and running the ball out of defence. Well observed minute’s silence in memory of Nevin Spence beforehand.
20.06 – Here comes the first scrum of the match. Windy in Galway but not too bad weather-wise – no buckets o’ rain. Leinster comfortable there and they retain possession.
Bit of a back and forth before Fionn Carr takes a swirling kick with some high-flying dynamism.
20.09 – Connacht 0-3 Leinster: Good pressure straight up the middle from Leinster and they are rewarded with a penalty. Straight in front of the posts but 35 yards out – no bother to Ian Madigan. Six minutes gone.
20.11 – Leinster press and nearly break through after Dan Parks scuffs a dropped kick out of his ’22. Good Connacht defence earns them the put-in to the scrum and Parks hoofs clear.
20.15 – Spot of treatment for props White and van der Merwe already but plays is underway again. Eoin Griffin tries to get his team ticking but Leinster’s defence is strong. Gordon D’Arcy is off already and Noel Reid is on. Perhaps his rib injury wasn’t properly healed.
Two good men down already for Leinster (with Nacewa a late omission) and the game is just 12 minutes old.
20.15 – We’ve got a TMO as Michael Swift crashes over the Leinster line.
20.18 – Inconclusive says the video official and, in fairness, it looked as if Tom Sexton had turned Swift in the tackle. Scrum five metres out.
20.21 – Hold the phone! Dave McSharry with a magnificent TRY. Marmion feeds Parks who flings it to a flying centre. He dives over by the posts and Parks adds the extras. 7-3 to the home side now.
20.23 – More indiscretion from Connacht there and Ian Madigan makes it Connacht 7-6 Leinster with a well strick penalty from the left wing.
20.25 – Great break from Connacht Number 8 Geirge Naoupu but the ball is held a fraction too long and Leinster get a penalty out. Quinn Roux was also in the battles there – went off as a blood sub for a while.
20.28 – Great feet from Noel Reid in attack as he almost jinks free. Fionn Carr backs himself for a dart at the Connacht line (his former club) but is smothered in the tackle. Connacht earn a penalty out and clear.
20.30 – TRY! Fetu’u Vainikolo scores after a perfectly timed/delayed pass from Robbie Henshaw. He burns up the left and evades Kearney to touch down.
20.33 – Dan Parks – that man can kick. The Australia-born Scotland international lands a second conversion to make it Connacht 14-6 Leinster.
20.35 – Bonus point try number four for Ulster as Tommy Bowe gets his second five-pointer. Ulster 34-12 Cardiff Blues in Wales. 20 minutes to play there.
In Galway, Leinster press but Connacht scramble the ball back but Parks can’t find touch.
20.37 – Penalty for Connacht but it could have been another try. Kieran Marmion is so, so close to scoring as he snaps up a bouncing ball. Yellow card for Brendan Macken for tackling illegally and up the side. Sin bin for you sir.
Dan Parks – love/hate figure and here is further evidence in the hate column. He needlessly chips possession into the grateful arms of Kearney to spoil a promising attack. Kearney was the one exposed two minutes before when Marmion almost sniped in. 31 minutes gone.
20.41 – What a disaster for Joe Schmidt and Leinster. Rob Kearney, tackled just after he made the mark from that chipped ball, lands badly and has to be assisted off the pitch. He is limping badly.
Perhaps Parks knew what he was doing after all…
20.45 – Parks misses a drop goal attempt then, a minute later, McSharry throws away possession when his no-look pass can’t find Vainikolo. Connacht now have an attacking scrum on the Leinster ’22. They will want to get on the board with Leinster down to 14 men.
20.47 – TRY! Connacht over again and Tiernan O’Halloran is the hero. He gets the ball, on the charge, on the right wing and dives over. Parks misses the conversion but it is still Connacht 19-6 Leinster after 37 minutes.
20.49 – Leinster offside and Parks will have a 35-metre penalty kick to make it a 16-point game.
20.51 – Beautifully struck by Parks and it goes over. At HALF-TIME the score is Connacht 22-6 Leinster.
20.59 – It’s all over in Wales and Ulster has recorded a remarkable 48-19 win over Cardiff Blues. We will have a match report on that game shortly.
As for Connacht – they were 8-0 up against Scarlets at half-time in their last home game but shipped early points after the break. They have to keep up the tempo if they want to knock off the European champs.
21.04 – We are back playing at the Sportsground. Early penalty for Leinster but Madigan opts to kick for the corner. I bet Joe Schmidt gave his team a right going over at the break.
21.08 – Super kick to touch by Parks and Sexton with the lineout for Leinster deep in his ’22. The visitors take the throw and clear.
Schmidt has just changed his entire front row. Here comes Healy, Ross and Cronin. It’s getting serious now.
21.14 – Michael Swift is called up for some holding on and is given a stern word but no yellow. Madigan’s kick is skewed left and wide so Connacht retain their healthy lead. 48 minutes on the clock.
21.16 – Nacewa, who replaced Kearney, makes his first telling contribution up the left wing but play is called back for a forward pass.
21.19 – The front row changes win Leinster a penalty as Denis Buckley, in his last act of the night, crumbles to the ground. Brett Wilkinson comes on for Buckley and Shane Jennings gets a captain’s scolding for haranguing the ref.
21.22 – Nacewa drops a dolly to give the home side an attacking scrum. Connacht are piling forward up the left and Vainikolo goes close. Swift blows that promising position by coming in from the side.
Tiernan O’Halloran leaves Fionn Carr in his wake to score. (©INPHO/James Crombie)
21.27 – Parks nearly gets his side in huge trouble but his skittering pass to Henshaw is cleanly gathered and booted up-field. 20 minutes to go.
21.31 – Dan Parks tries and fails with another drop goal attempt. He’s a confident chap but may be the type of character that Connacht need. Jordi Murphy on for Jennings now.
McFadden takes Vainikolo low down and wins his team a penalty. Leinster need a score soon.
21.32 – Spot of bother for the westerners now as O’Halloran is yellow carded for not releasing after the tackle. The Blues will look to set up camp in the Connacht half for the next 10 minutes.
21.35 – Leo Avua’a butchers a try scoring chance as he fumbles a majestic, looping Madigan pass. 66 minutes on the clock.
21.37 – Not sure about the spelling of composure there but the sentiment is right:
21.39 – Clinical stuff from Parks as he chips behind the Leinster defence to set them on their heels. Vainikolo inches away from kicking on for a try. 10 minutes to go and it is looking good for Eric Elwood’s men.
21.43 – Vainikolo and Parks – when they were good they were good. Super stuff to keep Leinster penned in. Henshaw almost announced himself to the greater rugby world with an audacious drop goal attempt but it goes inches wide and left. Avua’a then earns himself a yellow card for a deliberate offside.
21.45 – We have another Connacht TRY! A magnificent rolling maul batters Leinster bak and George Naoupu is at the back. He thunders over the line and that, my friends, is game over. Parks misses the conversion and the score, with four minutes to go, is Connacht 27-6 Leinster.
21.48 – Unbiased stuff here from @Connachtrugby:
BONUS POINT TRY! Ronan Loughney dives over and makes it 32-6 to Connacht.
21.50 – Miah Nikora with a glorious conversion makes it Connacht 34-6 Leinster.
21.53 – A TMO goes against Leinster and Cian Healy. That is the last action of the game and at FULL-TIME Connacht record a stunning home win over Leinster. Vainikolo and Parks kept the home side ticking. Excellent stuff from all 22 of the westerners.
21.56 – Fans stream onto the pitch in Galway and there are lots of Connacht backs being patted. Superb win for them and lots for Joe Schmidt and co. to ponder. The injury to Kearney and early withdrawal for D’Arcy will certainly not lighten the mood.
22.09 – Here are some snippets from the post-match interviews:
Fantastic. It is important to win these home games early in the season. We’ve had some good patches in games but hadn’t really put it all together (before).
The forwards made the space and the backs exploited it. We were confident at half-time but Leinster are not Heineken Cup champions for nothing. We knew they’d come back at us and we did well to hold on. – Michael Swift (Connacht)
A super night for Connacht and just reward for Eric Elwood and his crew. They’ve worked hard. (Former Leinster prop) Nathan White will have enjoyed that tonight.
We missed a few lineouts and were not as accurate as we needed to be. Connacht are a good side and will make you pay for that.
The rebuilding starts on Monday and we have a full week to work into the Munster game. – Joe Schmidt (Leinster)
22.14 – That’s a wrap everyone. Congratulations to Connacht. They will travel to Ravenhill next Friday in good spirits. Leinster have no time to mope after this loss because Munster are next up at the Aviva.
Read: Pro12 Cheat Sheet: Leinster and Connacht go head-to-head and away dates for Ulster and Munster