Connacht became the seventh team to claim the Guinness PRO12 title with a magnificent display at BT Murrayfield, beating Leinster 20-10 to complete a dream season.

In front of a record crowd for a Guinness PRO12 Final of 34, 550, Pat Lam’s team scored three tries on the biggest day in their 131-year history.

While they were nervy in the opening exchanges once they got their hands on the ball, Connacht dominated the opening 40 minutes.

Able to open up Leinster with alarming regularity, they scored two fantastic first-half tries, through Tiernan O’Halloran and Niyi Adeolokun to lead 15-0 at the break.

While Jonathan Sexton cut the deficit with a penalty early in the second half, Matt Healy’s try just before the hour stretched the lead out to 17.

That was cut to ten when Sean Cronin went over to set up a huge last ten minutes but there was to be know comeback as Connacht produced one final effort to see it out.

Leinster actually won the ball from the kick-off and it allowed them to dominate territory early on, Connacht failing to get out of their own 22 for the first seven minutes.

When they did though, it was in typically threatening fashion. Eoin McKeon stole the ball from a lineout, it was shifted to the left and Healy raced away before chipping over the top and forcing Luke Fitzgerald to take it into touch.

They didn’t cross on that occasion but on 12 minutes Connacht did have the first score, and it was a brilliant one. Healy was again the instigator, collecting the ball just inside his 22, evading a string of tacklers before being brought down. Bundee Aki recycled quickly and using the threat of Robbie Henshaw on his shoulder O’Halloran left Rob Kearney trailing to score. AJ MacGinty converted to make it 7-0.

Leinster then lost Mick Kearney after a big collision with Jake Heenan and on 21 minutes Connacht stretched their lead. It started with Henshaw breaking the line. Quick hands between O’Halloran, Aki and then Kieran Marmion opened up space for Adeolokun. The winger chipped over the top and had too much pace for a desperate Eoin Reddan, collecting the ball and scoring. MacGinty couldn’t convert but Connacht led 12-0.

Leinster needed some territory and finally got some only for Connacht to get it back and Adeolokun to get away again. Play was switched allowing Ultan Dillane to do his best impression of winger, crashing through Dave Kearney. Leinster were scrambling and penalised for killing the ball, allowing MacGinty to stretch the lead to 15-0.

Having dominated in attack, Connacht were also proving ferocious in defence, with Sexton on the end of one huge Aki hit, before Dillane did similar on Rhys Ruddock helping them to take that three-score lead into the break.

The one area Leinster had dominated was the scrum, and they opened the second half with a penalty that Sexton slotted to get his team on the board.

That could have been cancelled out when Jordi Murphy failed to roll away from a ruck but MacGinty’s effort from distance fell short.

However Connacht almost had their third try on 52 minutes in unlikely fashion. Tom McCartney broke through the line, left Fitzgerald for dead, but was brilliantly tackled by Sexton just as he looked certain to score. Reddan then came into help hold the hooker up over the line.

They didn’t have to wait long for the next score though, with Healy the man to get it. After a period of possession in the Leinster 22, a perfect grubber from MacGinty bounced kindly into the hands of the winger to cross. The American’s conversion came back off the post but Connacht still led 20-3.

Leinster needed a response and almost had one when replacement Zane Kirchner went over in the corner, but it was called back for a forward pass.

Trailing by three scores it was a long way back but Leinster aren’t a champion side for nothing. After a spell of possession and with O’Halloran receiving treatment, Leinster opened up space on the right and replacement Cronin raced over. Sexton converted from a tricky angle to make it 20-10 going into the last 12 minutes.

Connacht had lost replacement scrum-half John Cooney to injury, leaving Healy to fill in at nine for the closing stages.

However he stepped up admirably, and after a few nervy moments, Connacht were able to play out the final minutes in Leinster territory and seal the famous win.


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