Josh Drauniniu was the hero for London Welsh tonight as his injury-time try signalled the end of the Leinster ‘A’ team’s British & Irish Cup campaign in an enthralling quarter-final encounter that finished 45-39 to the visitors.
Following their exit to Worcester Warriors at the semi-final stage of last season's competition, Leinster 'A' were hoping to regain the title that they last secured in the 2013/14 campaign.
Their opponents at Donnybrook were able to call on the services of former English out-half Olly Barkley off the bench, though, and as well as handing a starting place at outside centre to Guy Armitage, brother of Toulon duo Steffon and Delon Armitage, and former Wasps star Joe Carlisle was paired with Rob Lewis at half-back.
The Leinster 'A' side's excellent from to date ensured that they received a home draw in the last-eight, and with just seven minutes on the clock, they broke the deadlock.
After picking up a loose ball inside the opposition 22, number 8 Tony Ryan drove towards the whitewash. He was stopped just shy of the line, but powerful lock Tadhg Beirne was on hand to touch down to the right of the posts.
This was just reward for the province's encouraging start to the proceedings, and courtesy of out-half Joey Carbery's expertly-struck conversion, Hugh Hogan's youngsters were 7-0 in front.
Yet, London Welsh rattled off a couple of impressive scores before the end of the first quarter. Number 8 Kieran Murphy dived over on the right flank via outstanding approach play by Nathan Trevett and Armitage in the 15th minute.
After Carlisle's conversion had brought Welsh level, winger Josh Drauniniu dotted down at the end of a lung-bursting run on the stroke of 20 minutes – and another successful conversion made it 14-7.
Leinster 'A' were quick to respond, however, as at the end of an enterprising 23rd minute maul referee Craig Evans awarded them a penalty try. Flanker Will Skuse was sin-binned for his part in this incident and Carbery squared things up at 14-all.
Hogan's charges were hoping to make their numerical advantage count and captain Peadar Timmins kick-started another purposeful move eight minutes before half-time. After receiving his neat offload, Carbery's gallop towards the line was cut short, but the alert Beirne was once again in the right position to touch down – this time on the left hand side.
A superb swerving strike from Carbery restored the province's seven-point buffer, but from the final attack of the half, a strong push by the London Welsh pack was finished off by openside Ryan Hodson for a converted score.
This meant that the two teams were tied at 21-21 for the start of the second period, but within three minutes of the restart, Leinster 'A' had regained the lead. Carbery was off target with his opening penalty of the tie, but he made no mistake from a distance of 25 metres upon the resumption.
Carbery's explosive pace was causing a number of problems for the Welsh defence and they breathed a sigh of relief when a potential Tom Daly try – following an initial Carbery burst – was ruled out six minutes into the half.
They were certainly threatening to take control of the contest, but the Leinster 'A' line was breached for a fourth time on 53 minutes as right winger James Lewis completed another sweeping attack from London Welsh.
The excellent Carlisle maintained his 100% kicking record from his resulting bonus attempt. Despite being under severe pressure at times from Rowland Phillips' men, Leinster 'A' never allowed panic to seep into their play.
Pacey winger Adam Byrne, who scored tries in recent home and away PRO12 fixtures against Zebre, touched down at the end of a extended spell inside the London Welsh 22 just shy of the hour mark, and thanks to five additional points from the boot of Carbery, the province had some breathing space, moving into the final quarter with a 34-28 advantage.
However, London Welsh simply would not allowed their heads to drop, and another rolling maul produced a second converted try for the energetic Hodson 18 minutes from the end. Indeed, a successful Carlisle three-pointer increased the London Welsh cushion to 38-34, and consequently piled the pressure on Leinster 'A' in the closing stages.
Carbery did have a chance to reduce the deficit to the minimum on 70 minutes, but instead he opted to kick for touch. This looked like being a major gamble, but after much persistence from the home attack, hooker Bryan Byrne squeezed through for his side's fifth try with two minutes to go.
Even though Carbery's touchline conversion went wide, it seemed like Leinster 'A' had done enough to book their spot in the last-four. Drauniniu had the final say, though, and his clinical finish on the left wing ensured that the Blues came up just short.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)