Connacht were left devastated tonight when a late penalty try for Leinster put the hosts in the lead for the first time with three minutes remaining on the clock.

Pat Lam’s men showed determination from the kick off and were on par to make history and snatch their first ever win at the RDS. But the current RaboDirect  champions, needing a late score, saw it off for a lucky escape.

Dan Parks opened the scoring within the first minute when Leinster were penalised for going off their feet at the breakdown. The former Scottish International slotted the three points with ease.

He subsequently added a second from the half way line, splitting the posts perfectly to put the visitors 6 – 0 up on five minutes.

Connacht were soon punished at the scrum when the front row went to ground. Irish outhalf Ian Madigan put his side on the scoreboard with an on-target three pointer from his right boot.

The men in green were making huge strides for the Leinster line and took advantage of a loose ball with September Player of the Month Kieran Marmion pouncing on it and diving over. Parks added the extras from the tee and Connacht were 10 points clear.

They were made to defend hard however in the ensuing minutes, when penalised for coming into the ruck from the side. Madigan kicked his penalty to touch and put his side in a dangerous attacking position. But Connacht fought off the pressure superbly through a break up field from Mata Fifita to win a lineout on Leinster’s 22.

Connacht continued to work hard to keep the visitors out and despite Leinster being deep in their 22, a knock on just seemed to frustrate the home side.

However, Connacht’s own errors cost them when they were pinged for going offside and Madigan was able to reduce the deficit to seven points with his penalty kick.

Leinster were back on the Connacht line and continued to exert pressure but Connacht’s defensive line held strong and they were eventually awarded a penalty. Parks kicked to touch for the lineout. However, Leinster stole the ball at the back  and won a penalty when Connacht failed to roll away from the tackle. Madigan made it three from three with his penalty kick just before the half time whistle.

Half time: Leinster 9 – 13 Connacht

Connacht’s Dave Heffernan made his senior debut as hooker, replacing Sean Henry at the restart. Connacht won the first penalty six minutes into the second half but Parks’ kick struck the left post and bounced back into play. Ah You was there to pick it up but Connacht were quickly penalised for not releasing at the breakdown.

Madigan’s next effort was also in vain as his penalty kick from the half way line fell short before the posts.

Leinster intensified the pressure as Connacht made changes to their pack with props JP Cooney and Ronan Loughney as well as flanker Andrew Browne all coming on.

The visitors were dealt a huge blow, however, when Lougheny was sent to the sin bin for being offside. One man down , four points ahead and 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Connacht remained resolute in their defence to keep the home side from going ahead.

Another great move from Marmion held replacement Rhys Ruddock up as he dived over the line and the referee David Wilkinson ruled ‘no try’. But the scrumhalf was soon shown yellow for indiscipline off the ball.

Down to 13 men, the Leinster scrum stormed ahead and eventually secured the penalty try, and the lead for the first time in the game. Madigan’s conversion was on target and the home side ensured they held on for the last two minutes to take the win.

Full time: Leinster 16 – 13

Man of the Match: George Naoupu

LEINSTER: R Kearney; McFadden, Fitzgerald, Reid, D Kearney; Madigan, Reddan; McGrath, Cronin, Bent; Toner, Roux; K McLaughlin, Jennings, Heaslip. Replacements: McCarthy for Roux (46 mins), Ruddock for McLaughlin, Moore for Bent (55 mins), Kirchner for R Kearney, Gopperth for Reid, Boss for Reddan (all 71 mins), Dundon for Cronin (77 mins). Not used: O’Connell.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy, Tiernan O’Halloran, Robbie Henshaw, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion, Brett Wilkinson, Sean Henry, Rodney Ah You, Michael Swift, Craig Clarke, Mata Fifita, Jake Heenan, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan (for Henry, 41 mins), JP Cooney (for Wilkinson, 61 mins) Ronan Loughney (for Ah You, 61 mins) Aly Muldowney (for Swift, 50 mins), Browne for Fifita (63 mins), Paul O’Donohoe (for Browne, 70 mins), Darragh Leader, Fionn Carr for Duffy (79 mins)

Sin Bin: Loughney (70 mins), Marmion (76 mins).

Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU).


All you need to know: Connacht v Benetton