Leinster back to their best to obliterate Connacht
The visitors crossed the whitewash five times in the opening 40 minutes in Galway
Leinster’s James Tracy scores a try against Connacht. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Connacht 21 Leinster 50
Leinster were back to their best at the Galway Sportsground this evening. On the back of two defeats, including their exit from the Champions Cup, the visitors delivered a stunning performance, obliterating any Connacht hopes of backing up their victory at the RDS earlier this year.
That hope had disappeared by half time. The home side’s inspiring start belied what was to follow as Leinster were relentless, and simply blitzed their opponents, crossing the whitewash five times in the opening 40 minutes.
Connacht had opened with two early penalties struck by outhalf Conor Fitzgerald within six minutes, and it got even better when scrumhalf Caolan Blade intercepted to race through from the 22 for the first try, Fitzgerald converting for a 13-0 lead.
Connacht went 16-0 ahead but then conceded 33 unanswered points in the opening half. Leinster, having lulled their hosts into a false dawn, found their pace and rhythm, showed all their attacking class, and superiority up front, led by two of their Lions Andrew Porter and Jack Conan.
There were ominous signs for Connacht when after forcing a turnover from the restart, Leinster produced a simple attacking move with Hugo Keenan touching down. Within minutes another soft penalty handed Leinster the initiative, and in a sweeping move from left to right, Scott Fardy supplied Keenan from close range. To show their range of tricks, Leinster’s third came four minutes later from a lineout, with hooker James Tracy claiming the try from an unstoppable maul.
As Connacht continued to concede penalties, Leinster took advantage. Despite a captain’s challenge from Connacht’s Jarred Butler, the fourth try was awarded to Ross Molony, with Byrne adding the extras for a 26-16 lead. And as the home side struggled to protect their ball, a turnover at the breakdown provided another opportunity. This time it was Ross Byrne who supplied the perfect cross-field kick to replacement wing Rory O’Loughlin, and with the Connacht defence at sixes and sevens, it was a easy pass to Kelleher for the fifth, with Byrne converting for a 33-16 lead.
The rout continued after the break. Porter added his name to the try tally from a driving maul, as did Fardy, while in-between Connacht’s Dave Heffernan was held up, and a five metre line-out went awry.
Despite Abraham Papali'i’s efforts to inject some go-forward ball, Connacht could only muster a 70th minute try from Peter Sullivan as Leinster eased home to a 50-21 victory - man of the match Keenan bagging his hat-trick at the end.
Connacht: J Porch, P Sullivan, S O’Brien, T Daly, M Healy, C Fitzgerald, C Blade; D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham, N Murray, G Thornbury, E Masterson, C Oliver, J Butler (Capt).
Replacements: O McNulty for Healy and A Papali’i for Butler (30m), M Burke for Buckley and D Robertson-McCoy for Bealham (57), C Prendergast for Oliver and S Arnold for Porch (55), K Marmion for Blade and J Murphy for Heffernan (both 64).
Leinster: H Keenan, C Kelleher, G Ringrose, C Frawley, D Kearney, R Byrne, L McGrath (Capt), P Dooley, J Tracy, A Porter, R Molony, S Fardy, J Murphy, S Penny, J Conan.
Replacements:R O’Loughlin for Frawley (36m), D Sheehan for Dooley, E Byrne for Tracey, and T Furlong for Porter, J Larmour for Byrne (all 54), R Osborne for McGrath and R Baird for Murphy (63).
Referee: F Murphy (IRFU)