Jamie Heaslip scored his first try for Leinster as they came from behind to beat Connacht 21-9 in Saturday’s Celtic League tie at the Sportsground.
Jamie Heaslip celebrates scoring his try at the Sportsground
Jamie Heaslip scored his first try for Leinster as they came from behind to beat Connacht 21-9 in Saturday’s Celtic League meeting at the Sportsground.
CELTIC LEAGUE: Saturday, December 3
Connacht 9 Leinster 21, The Sportsground (Att: 2,250)
Scorers: Connacht: Pens: Slemen 2; Drop: Slemen
Leinster: Tries: Heaslip, Dempsey; Con: Contepomi; Pens: Contepomi 3
The number eight’s score helped propel Leinster to their first away win of the league season and, in the process, condemn bottom side Connacht to their eighth straight defeat in the competition.
The 21-year-old Heaslip stretched over in first half injury-time to completely change the complexion of this provincial derby. A searing break from Ireland wing Shane Horgan, out of his own 22, saw Leinster hit Connacht for the sucker-punch score.
Horgan offloaded to Robert Kearney on a scissors move and he found Heaslip on his shoulder inside the Connacht 22 to round off a stunning move.
Try-scoring chances were at a premium for the Galway hosts – fly-half David Slemen, the son of former England winger Mike Slemen, kicked Connacht’s only points – two penalties and a drop goal – while his opposite number Felipe Contepomi, kicking 11 points, and full-back Girvan Dempsey, bagging a 51st-minute try, rounded out the Leinster scoring.
The first half was dominated by Connacht’s fired-up pack, but their backline – with new signings Gavin Williams, the son of former All Black legend Bryan Williams, and Tongan international Andrew Mailei struggling to gel together on their midfield debuts – had precious few chances in attack.
Contepomi, back in Leinster blue after helping Argentina through their autumn internationals, kicked the visitors in front on 13 minutes after Connacht number eight Colm Rigney was found guilty of holding on in the tackle.
Slemen squared it up, five minutes later, by dinking a sweet drop goal over from 35 metres. The former Orrell back then struck two penalties in the space of three minutes to fire the westerners into a 9-3 lead.
Slemen punished Leinster for offsides on 26 and 29 minutes. But a 10-point haul for Michael Cheika’s side in first half injury-time saw them grasp back the lead. Contepomi landed a straight-on penalty and then Heaslip scored his corker for a 13-9 interval buffer.
Leinster’s afternoon further improved after the break – Contepomi kicked his third penalty, stretching his league points tally to 108, and a neat move, which saw Contepomi and young winger Kearney combine, sent Dempsey rocketing over in the right corner under the last-gasp challenge of Conor McPhillips.
Contepomi walloped the conversion off the post and the edge was taken off the game in the closing stages as both blindsides – Connacht’s Colm Rigney and Eric Miller of Leinster were yellow carded – for separate ruck infringements.
Timeline: 13 minutes – Leinster penalty: Felipe Contepomi – 0-3; 18 mins – Connacht drop goal: David Slemen – 3-3; 26 mins – Connacht penalty: David Slemen – 6-3; 29 mins – Connacht penalty: David Slemen – 9-3; 40(+1) mins – Leinster penalty: Felipe Contepomi – 9-6; 40(+2) mins – Leinster try: Jamie Heaslip – 9-11; conversion – Felipe Contepomi – 9-13; HT – Connacht 9 Leinster 13; 48 mins – Leinster penalty: Felipe Contepomi – 9-16; 51 mins – Leinster try: Girvan Dempsey – 9-21; conversion missed – 9-21; 73 mins – Connacht yellow card: Colm Rigney; 80(+3) mins – Leinster yellow card: Eric Miller; FT – Connacht 9 Leinster 21.
CONNACHT: Matt Mostyn; John Hearty, Gavin Williams, Andrew Mailei, Conor McPhillips; David Slemen, Chris Keane; Ray Hogan, John Fogarty, Stephen Knoop, Christian Short, Andrew Farley (capt), John Muldoon, Matt Lacey, Colm Rigney.
Replacements used: Paul Warwick for Slemen, David Gannon for Short (both 59 mins), Tom Tierney for Keane (74), Michael Swift for Lacey (76), Ted Robinson for Williams (77), Dan McFarland for Knoop (80+3). Not used: Joe Merrigan.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Kieran Lewis, Gordon D’Arcy, Shane Horgan, Robert Kearney; Felipe Contepomi (capt), Guy Easterby; Reggie Corrigan, Bernard Jackman, Will Green, Bryce Williams, Ben Gissing, Eric Miller, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements used: Niall Ronan for Gleeson (47 mins), Brian Blaney for Jackman (61), Emmett Byrne for Corrigan, Cameron Jowitt for Heaslip (both 68), Jonny Hepworth for Kearney (71), Eoghan Hickey for D’Arcy (80+1). Not used: Brian O’Riordan.
Referee: Simon McDowell (IRFU)