A fiery first half performance helped Connacht open their Under-21 Inter-provincial Championship account with a 21-15 defeat of Leinster at Donnybrook on Friday.
UNDER-21 INTER-PROVINCIAL: Friday, September 2
Leinster U-21 15 Connacht U-21 21, Donnybrook
Scorers: Leinster: Diarmuid Laffan, Sean O'Brien; Con: Fergus McFadden; Pen: McFadden
Connacht: Tries: Peter Durcan, Paul Gillespie; Con: Mark Butler; Pens: Butler 2; Drop: Durcan
The sides shared two tries apiece, and while Leinster mounted a late comeback with both captain Diarmuid Laffan and his flanker colleague Sean O'Brien touching down, two second half penalties from Mark Butler were enough to seal the points for westerners.
Coached by Dan McFarland and Nigel Carolan this season, Connacht got the ideal start on 11 minutes when Brian Murphy's grubber kick ahead was touched down by Sligo flyer Paul Gillespie, just ahead of Leinster winger Fionn Carr.
Influential fly-half Durcan, one of three Mayo players on the Connacht side, had his subsequent drop goal cancelled out by a Fergus McFadden penalty for the home side, but the Ballina man scorched over for a sizzling try before the interval.
15-3 in front at the break, Connacht pulled further clear by the hour mark thanks to full-back Butler's brace of penalties. That was just the buffer the visitors needed.
Laffan did well to nab a try on 71 minutes, but O'Brien's effort in the right corner came too late for Leinster to really challenge Connacht's lead.
Next Friday, the westerners take on a buoyant Munster side, who got the better of champions Ulster in their opener, at the Sportsground, while Leinster and Ulster square off at Donnybrook.
CONNACHT U-21: Mark Butler (Sligo); Brian Murphy (Corrib), Michael Aspell (Connemara), Killian Finane (UCG) (Capt), Paul Gillespie (Sligo) (Cormac O'Beirne (Corinthians) (23)); Peter Durcan (Ballina) (Shane Considine (Corinthians) (78)), Peter Phelan (Newcastle Falcons); Michael Diffley (Buccaneers), Conor Muldoon (Galwegians), Craig Telford (Dublin Uni), Liam Scahill (Buccaneers), David McGowan (Buccaneers), Richard Morrow (Dublin Uni), Shane Young (Dublin Uni), Liam Casserly (Galwegians).
LEINSTER U-21: Cian O'Sullivan (Greystones); Fionn Carr (Blackrock College), Fergus McFadden (UCD), Cono Donohoe (Dublin Uni), Rob Ronayne (Blackrock College) (Shane Hanratty (Dublin Uni) (39)); Andrew Geraghty (Lansdowne), Matthew D'Arcy (Dublin Uni) (Derry Coughlan (Lansdowne) (58)); Killian O'Neill (Dublin Uni), Gavin O'Meara (Lansdowne) (Cian Culleton (Dublin Uni) (58)), Paul Doran-Jones (Dublin Uni), Adrian Lightowler (Greystones) (Darren O'Reilly (Dublin Uni) (67)), Devin Toner (Lansdowne), Sean O'Brien (UCD), Diarmuid Laffan (Blackrock College) (Capt), Ron Boucher (Lansdowne).
Referee: Leo Colgan (Munster)
U-21 Inter-provincial Championship Fixtures:
Friday September 9: Connacht U-21 v Munster U-21, The Sportsground, 6.00pm; Leinster U-21 v Ulster U-21, Donnybrook, 6.30pm
Friday September 16: Munster U-21 v Leinster U-21, Thomond Park, 7.00pm; Saturday, September, 17: Ulster U-21 v Connacht U-21, Ravenhill, 1.00pm
Saturday September 24: Series Play-Offs, Dubarry Park, Buccaneers RFC