Connacht    20        Leinster    14

Connacht continued on their winning ways at Donnybrook on Saturday when they beat Leinster in this Junior Rugby interprovincial.
Connacht’s pack provided the platform for this victory and from the first scrum the Connacht front row of Doran McHugh, Martin Lee and Tom Toolan had their Leinster counterparts in real trouble. Solid lineout ball and excellent rucking at the breakdown gave halfs Mickey Murphy and Paddy Pearson quality ball to work with.
Pearson opened the scoring with a penalty on 15 minutes and was again involved two minutes later when Rory O’Connor crossed over in the corner for Connacht’s first try. Pearson made a fantastic conversion from the sideline to leave the visitors ahead 10 – 0.
The next twenty minutes saw Connacht camped in the Leinster half and they broke they Leinster defensive once again on thirty five minutes when Dave Prior sent his club mate Rory O’Connor in for his second try. Pearson just missed the conversion which left Connacht 15-0 ahead.
With two minutes to go in the half, Connacht were again pressing when an intercept by the Leinster centre looked certain to give the home side their opening score. In a game changing chase Connacht winger Aaron Spring made up 25 metres on his opponent in the race to the line, tackled him, and forced him to knock on the ball. This meant that Connacht held their 15-0 lead at half time.
Leinster regrouped at half time and hit back with a converted try 3 minutes into the second half. Crucially, with the score now at 15 – 7 Leinster missed a penalty on 47 minutes when Connacht second row Willie Parker was sin binned. The Connacht defence during this period was immense and Leinster could not take advantage of the extra man.
Connacht outhalf Paddy Pearson went off injured on 53 minutes’ replaced by Ger O’Connor, and Ronan Coughlan also replaced Doran McHugh at loose head prop.Leinster also made a series of substitutions, mainly in the pack, in an effort to change the flow of the game. But it was Connacht second row substitute, Dave Hansberry, who made the most impact when he took a pass from Martin Lee and out ran the Leinster defence to touch down in the corner. This left Connacht comfortably in front at 20 – 7 with 6 minutes to go. Connacht and Leinster both emptied their respective benches and it was Leinster sub Swindlehurst who touched down for a try for Leinster in the last minute which was converted and left the final score 20 – 14 in favour of Connacht.

Having beaten Ulster already, Connacht now face Munster in the Sportsground in Galway next Saturday at 2.30pm, where a victory would guarantee Connacht its first ever victory in this championship. However it will not be easy as Munster will provide formidable opposition having scored 24 points in each of their games to date. That said this Connacht side have shown tremendous form to date and have shown a focus and maturity in their play which, hopefully, will help them get the desired result on Saturday.

Connacht:     Kevin Higgins (Monivea) (Capt.), Rory O’Connor (Monivea), Dave Prior (Monivea), Mata Fafita (Sligo), Aaron Spring (Sligo), Paddy Pearson (Sligo), Mickey Murphy (Ballina), Doran McHugh (OLBC), Martin Lee (Corrib), Tom Toolan (Ballina), Jamie Bowes (Sligo) , Willie Parker (Monivea), Eoin Rooney (Monivea), Mike Ward (Tuam), Aidan McNulty (Ballina)
Subs    Ronan Coughlan (Monivea), Brian Murphy (Monivea), Dave Hansberry (OLBC), Tom Ellard (Westport), John Culkin (Monivea) Ger O’Connor (Monivea), Seamus Fahy (Monivea)

Pictures (C) www.sportingoccasions.ie  -Johnathan Curran

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