Leinster weather the storm to escape from Galway with yet another win

Leinster weather the storm to escape from Galway with yet another win



ON A NIGHT like this, it is all about taking your chances. Leinster did. Connacht couldn’t and so the early-season theme continued.

It is Leinster who are top of the URC, unbeaten in five games, looking certainties for a top seeding when the play-offs come around. As for Connacht, this was yet another frustrating night, their fourth defeat of the season, the only one where they failed to score.

Protecting the ball is becoming an issue for Andy Friend’s team. They had plenty of it, pinning Leinster back for long periods in the second quarter and then for a fair chunk of the second half, but time after time they lacked composure.

The price was hefty, another defeat. As for Leinster, they’ll know they’ll have to be better. While their defence was exceptional, their attack was not. One try – which came after just four minutes – turned out to be vital. Significantly, Josh van der Flier was the creator of that one, just as the flanker was the instigator of the move that led to Leinster’s only other score, a penalty from Ciaran Frawley.

Otherwise, they had nothing to show, this a game they could easily have lost.

There was a lack of quality in the opening half, the weather a contributing factor, neither side comfortable under the high ball, neither getting into their flow.

Leinster did score early, their maul the source for their try, James Ryan collecting Dan Sheehan’s throw, Josh van der Flier breaking off the maul to set up Cormac Foley, their scrum half, for an easy finish in the corner.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

With Ross Byrne converting, Leinster had a seven-point lead – ordinarily a tiny margin but sizeable enough on a night like this, with the wind swirling and the rain falling. For a while Connacht tried to play with width and ambition before they gradually came to their senses, opting to play the conditions rather than to stick to some fancy notion they could entertain anyone in that weather.

To their credit, they stayed in the fight when under sustained periods of first-half pressure, Niall Murray, their big lock, having a superb game, getting a couple of opportune steals at the Leinster line-out just when Connacht needed them most.

Other factors too went their way. First, a raucous crowd of 6,887 played its part, issuing demands to their players to scrap for every inch. And they needed to, because Leinster dominated territory and possession in the opening quarter, missing a chance to add to their lead when Rob Russell chose the wrong option in the Connacht 22.

Had they scored during this period, and when Garry Ringrose made a break around half-way it seemed inevitable they would, you’d have predicted a 20-point win for the visitors. But somehow Connacht kept them out, their front row doing well, their second row, Murray, doing even better.

Eventually, they found a foothold in the match, aided by Jack Carty’s tactical kicking, also by the smart decisions to turn down difficult kicks at goal in favour of going for territory. While points didn’t come from this policy, a shift in momentum did.

With the game now being played on their terms, they really should have got on the scoresheet – but a combination of good Leinster defence, both at maul-time, and in the loose, kept them out. Plus there was a misdirected pass from Colm Reilly to Mack Hansen when the winger was alone and unmarked. Had Reilly been accurate in his delivery, Connacht would have been 7-5 behind with the conversion to come.

Not that this was the only chance spurned, three five-metre line-outs all leading to sieges on the Leinster line but no reward.

Onto the second half and the pattern of the game shifted again.

This time it was Leinster who were taking fewer risks, kicking whenever they could, sticking to a conservative game-plan because they knew there was little point attempting to do anything else.

Again, Connacht had opportunities. Again, they had the ball in the Leinster 22. And again they failed to hold onto it.

Yes, the conditions were a factor, as was the incessant pressure Leinster put them under. But to win these games, you need a bit of extra class and when it came down to it, Leinster were the side who provided it, van der Flier with a break six minutes from the end that eventually saw him hauled down by John Porch inside the Connacht 22.

From the subsequent phase, Murray was penalised for an infringement at the ruck, a penalty was awarded and Frawley nailed his kick. And that was that, another win for Leinster. They’re going to take some stopping.

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Leinster scorers

Tries: Foley

Conversions: Byrne (1/1)

Penalties: Byrne (0/2) Frawley (1/1)


Conor Fitzgerald (rep: Tom Daly ’65); John Porch, Byron Ralston, David Hawkshaw, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty, Colm Reilly (rep: Caolin Blade ‘50); Peter Dooley (rep: Denis Buckley ‘45), Dave Heffernan (rep: Grant Stewart ’60), Finlay Bealham (rep: Jack Aungier ‘60); Niall Murray (yellow card 74)Gavin Thornbury (rep: Oisin Dowling ’55); Josh Murphy (rep: Conor Oliver ’21-33), Shamus Hurley-Langton (rep: Conor Oliver ’55), Paul Boyle (rep: Ciaran Booth ’66)


Jimmy O’Brien; Liam Turner, Garry Ringrose, Charlie Ngatai (Rob Henshaw ’46), Rob Russell (rep; Ciaran Frawley ’73) Ross Byrne, Cormac Foley (rep: Nick McCarthy ‘55); Ed Byrne (rep: Andrew Porter ‘45), Dan Sheehan (rep: John McKee ‘80), Tadhg Furlong (rep: Michael Ala’alatoa ‘41); Ross Molony, James Ryan (rep: Joe McCarthy ’63); Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan (rep: Martin Moloney ’34)

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

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