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Leinster do enough to take out Connacht

Leinster do enough to take out Connacht

An unusual-looking Leinster side had just enough about them to score a good 18-9 win against a full-strength Connacht team and keep up their challenge in the Celtic League.

The Leinster website ran a competition to select correctly in advance the Leinster side that would line out for this match. It’s safe to assume that the prize lies unclaimed. For who could have predicted that the inscrutable one would select Felipe Contempomi at fullback, that blindside flanker to date Ciaran Potts would be in the second row, Niall Ronan on the openside flank, Brian O’Meara at outhalf, and Kieran Lewis in the centre? Not necessarily wrong, but entirely unpredictable.

They began as though it was all a bit of a surprise to them, as Connacht dominated possession and territory in the opening quarter. In fairness, Connacht looked sharp, still on a high from last week’s exploits, but without threatening scores. However, on 9 minutes they got some reward as Nigel Williams pinged Emmett Byrne for an offside on the 10m line. Warwick’s boots still had gold in them as he just cleared the bar for 3-0 to Connacht.

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The two number eights, Dillon and Muldoon were prominent at this stage, the latter typifying Connacht’s uncompromising physicality with a great drifting tackle on O’Riordan. As if the scrumhalf was under any illusions, Jackman mushed him with a handoff a few minutes later.

A typically scything counter-attacking run by Gary Brown was the catalyst for Leinster to get into the game. It was however, brought to a shuddering conclusion when James Downey high-tackled him. Cue the dust-up as Leinster reacted. When the dust settled, Downey was in the bin for ten and Contepomi slotted the penalty to equalise.

While the second quarter was fairly even, Leinster looked to have marginally the sharper cutting edge. This was blunted somewhat when Brown had to retire with a groin injury on 33 minutes. Still, Kieran Lewis showed some pace and good hands down the right to send McWeeney behind.

Contepomi slotted a second penalty just before the interval when Connacht were penalised for crossing. A quick tap and go for an extra ten made it a bit easier. However, one felt they hadn’t really capitalised on Downey’s binning at 6-3 ahead.

Leinster took a penalty to the corner at the start of the second half in an attempt to break free, but then duly lost the lineout. However, they had that freedom presented to them when, of all people, Paul Warwick sought to change the direction of the attack and succeeded only in passing straight to Niall Ronan. He wasn’t hanging about to check the condition of the horse’s teeth and raced in from the 10m line. Contepomi’s convert made it 13-3.

But Connacht weren’t for lying down. They came at Leinster again, frequently running from deep. Warwick quickly landed a penalty before Connacht enjoyed their best period. Warwick and Keane broke down the right before the ball was transferred left, with Warwick involved again, before Leinster coughed up a penalty in the centre when Potts was penalised on the deck. Warwick did the needful to reduce the score to 13-9 and the game was definitely back on.

Leinster nearly profited from a clean Kieran Lewis break on a dummy switch but, once through, he fell in trying to round Mark McHugh and the chance was lost.

Anything you can do, said James Downey, as he used a decoy run from Matt Mostyn to burst through the centre but was unable to link again with Mostyn.

Though Downey was a threat throughout, that was a rare occasion when the Leinster defence was in real trouble. Even when Emmet Byrne was sinbinned for repeatedly lowering the scrum, Connacht didn’t look like getting over the whitewash. Indeed, Leinster effectively sealed the win in the 68th minute when Contepomi went over in the right corner. Des Dillon and John Lyne, on now for Byrne, made the initial punches before a sweet long ball from O’Meara sent Contempomi past the defence and he was able to make it to the line. At 18-9, the jig was up for Connacht.

Encouragingly for Leinster, that’s two shut-outs in a row from two markedly different defences. It was no classic but the result tightens things up at the top of the Celtic League, as The Dragons did everybody a favour in taking down The Ospreys. Leinster, while still third, are well-positioned now to make an assault on the title.

15. Felipe Contepomi
14. James Norton
13. Kieran Lewis
12. Christian Warner
11. Gary Brown
10. Brian O’Meara
9. Brian O’Riordan
1. Emmett Byrne
2.Gavin Hickie
3.Ricky Nebbett
4.Ciaran Potts
5.Ben Gissing
6.Aidan McCullen
7.Niall Ronan
8.Des Dillon (Capt)
16. John Lyne (for Byrne 60m)
17. David Blaney (for Hickie 70m)
18. Leo Cullen (for Potts 60m)
19. Jamie Heaslip
20. Guy Easterby (for O’Riordan H-T)
21. David McAllister
22. John McWeeney (for Brown 33m)
15. Mark McHugh
14. Matt Mostyn
13. Darren Yapp
12. James Downey
11. Conor McPhillips
10. Paul Warwick
9.Chris Keane
1.Ray Hogan
2.Bernard Jackman
3.Stephen Knoop
4.Christian Short
5.Andrew Farley
6.Michael Swift
7.Matt Lacey
8.John Muldoon
16. John Fogarty
17. Dan McFarland (for Hogan 55m)
18. Michael Carroll
19. Paul Neville
20. Conor O’Loughlin (for Keane 68m)
21. Eric Elwood (for Warwick 70m)
22. Ted Robinson