Connacht Eagles were in clinical form as their 17-point first half tally was enough to overcome a young Leinster ‘A’ team in today’s ‘A’ interprovincial clash at the Sportsground.
‘A’ INTERPROVINCIAL MATCH: Wednesday, January 14
CONNACHT EAGLES 17 LEINSTER ‘A’ 0, the Sportsground
Scorers: Connacht Eagles: Tries: Mata Fifita, Conor Finn; Cons: Shane O’Leary 2; Pen: Shane O’Leary
Leinster ‘A’: –
The game was played in extremely wet and windy conditions, with Connacht Eagles stealing a march on the visitors in the first half to open up a telling 17-point lead.
Girvan Dempsey’s experimental Leinster ‘A’ side, including a number of underage talents, played well in patches but they were unable to get the better of an experienced home pack.
The fixture was used as a warm-up for Saturday week’s British & Irish Cup quarter-final, allowing the players to get some valuable game-time ahead of the trip to Rotherham Titans.
The youthful Leinster ‘A’ line-up – with prop Ian Hirst the oldest player at only 25 – fell behind to a 35-metre penalty from Shane O’Leary, who kicked very well in a difficult cross-field wind.
The opening quarter was scoreless with the visitors struggling for territory, although the likes of Tadhg Beirne, Nick Timoney, Peadar Timmins and James Tracy carried strongly up front to make some hard yards.
The Eagles added to their lead when former Leinster scrum half John Cooney broke through off set piece ball and linked with the supporting Mata Fifita who finished off for a 35th minute try which O’Leary converted.
There was still time before the interval for the Connacht men to register their second seven-pointer. The greasy ball proved problematic for both sides before the hosts seized the initiative as an O’Leary chip sent centre Conor Finn over in the corner. O’Leary tagged on a superb touchline conversion.
Leinster changed jerseys at half-time and the conditions duly worsened. Scoring opportunities were at a premium despite some inventive play from Steve Crosbie and Charlie Rock, while Josh Murphy and Harrison Brewer also made good impacts as replacements.
The Eagles, who kicked smartly out of hand, came closest to adding to their tally when winger Fionn Carr, another former Leinster player, just put a foot in touch as he attempted to score out wide on the soggy surface.
It was a very impressive performance from the Eagles who benefited from the experience and game management of captain Michael Swift, with Andrew Browne, Cooney and O’Leary also making key contributions.
Connacht prop Nathan White (pictured above) also made a welcome return from injury, playing the first half as planned. He came through with no concerns, although a facial injury meant he had to be heavily bandaged before resuming in the front row.
Injuries picked up by fellow forwards Ultan Dillane and Jack Dinneen will also be of concern to the Connacht management team. The Eagles, coached by Nigel Carolan, are back in action at the Sportsground on Saturday week when they host the German national team (kick-off 2.30pm).
CONNACHT EAGLES: Shane Layden; Niyi Adeolokun, Conor Finn, Peter Robb, Fionn Carr; Shane O’Leary, John Cooney; Ronan Loughney, Jack Dinneen, Nathan White, Michael Swift (capt), Ultan Dillane, Andrew Browne, Mata Fifita, Daniel Qualter.
Replacements: John Healy, Jacob Walshe, Saba Meunargia, Eoghan Masterson, James Connolly, Conor Lowndes, Conor McKeon, Rory Parata, Cian O’Donoughue, Conor Kyne.
LEINSTER ‘A’: Billy Dardis; Sam Coghlan Murray, Colm O’Shea (capt), Steve Crosbie, Garry Ringrose; Joe Carbery, Charlie Rock; Ian Hirst, James Tracy, Oisin Heffernan, Tadhg Beirne, Gavin Thornbury, Jordan Coghlan, Nick Timoney, Peadar Timmins.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Maks van Dyk, Jeremy Loughman, Josh Murphy, Conor Oliver, Nick McCarthy, Harrison Brewer, Adam Byrne.