It was a disappointing night for Connacht at the RDS tonight as their winning run came to an with a 21 – 11 loss to the defending champions Leinster.

Despite a 74th minute from Number 8 George Naoupu which left Pat Lam’s men trailing just three points, a last-gasp try from Leinster wing Zane Kirchner secured the win for the hosts.

Leinster were in the driving seat early on and won a penalty on 9 minutes which they opted to kick to the corner. With Aly Muldowney sent to the sin bin for an infringement at the lineout, the Connacht defence was tested and despite the best efforts, the Leinster maul forced their way over for Shane Jennings to score on his 201st appearance for the club. Jimmy Gopperth was wide with the conversion but the outhalf was on target shortly after when he kicked a simple penalty to give Leinster an 8-0 lead.

It was 23 minutes before Jack Carty had his first shot at goal but the chance went awry for the 22-year-old Athlone man as the ball flew wide. He made amends on the half hour mark however to get his side on the scoreboard with a three-point penalty.

With five minutes to go in the first half, referee Ian Davies awarded Connacht a penalty in the hosts’ 22 but Lam’s men opted against a pen and instead showed their hunger for a game-tying try by kicking to the corner.

It was agonisingly close when Danie Poolman was the receiver of a cross-field kick from Carty and touched down for what would have been a brilliant score but the winger was adjudged to have a foot in touch as he dotted down.

Leinster went down to 14 shortly after with tighthead prop shown yellow and this time Carty  took the points reduce the gap to 8 – 6.

Half time: Leinster 8 – 6 Connacht

Despite being a man down, Leinster made the most of the restart grabbing a penalty which Gopperth kicked from just inside the Connacht half.

The New Zealander was on target again before the 50 minute mark and stretched his side’s lead to eight points.

Against a stiff wind, Connacht decided to crash up with ball in hand rather than deploy kicking tactics but they were kept out of the hosts’ 22 by a resolute Leinster defence.

Winger Matt Healy set up a scoring chance when he chipped and chased a ball in behind the Leinster backs. His tackle lead to a 5m attacking scrum as Leinster were penalised for holding on. But the chance was squandered by a knocked on ball and Leinster had a scrum under the posts which allowed them to clear their lines.

With less than 10 minutes remaining, Connacht had a penalty which Carty kicked to the corner for a 5m penalty. Replacement lock Ultan Dillane, on his debut for the province, took the lineout ball and the maul was set up to barge over with Naoupu grounding the ball for his side’s first try.
Carty’s difficult touchline conversion attempt into the wind was wayward but Connacht trailed by just three points with seven minutes remaining.

Connacht went in search of the winner but Leinster turned over the ball in midfield and attacking with advantage, the referee went back for the penalty which Gopperth kicked towards touch. Healy, attempting to keep the ball in play, tapped it back in but the onrushing Kirchner was in pole position to pick the bounce and run in for the try. Gopperth, who kicked four from five tonight, added the extras as the clock showed 80 minutes.

Full time: Leinster 21 – 11 Connacht

Leinster: R Kearney; Z Kirchner, L Fitzgerald, N Reid, D Kearney; J Gopperth, I Boss; M Bent, A Dundon, T Furlong; D Toner, K Douglas; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip (capt). Replacements: J Conan for McLaughlin 47 mins; J McGrath for Bent 52 mins; S Cronin for Dundon 55 mins; J Murphy for Jennings 62 mins; M van Dyk for Furlong 65 mins; L McGrath for Boss 79 mins; G D’Arcy for Reid 79 mins.

Connacht: M Muliaina; D Poolman, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You; Q Roux, A Muldowney; J Muldoon (capt), E McKeon, G Naoupu. Replacements: W Faloon for McKeon 47-51 and 67 mins; D Leader for Muliaina 62 mins; U Dillane for Muldowney 68 mins; R Loughney for Buckley 70 mins.

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)

Yellow card: Aly Muldowney (Connacht) 10 mins; Tadgh Furlong (Leinster) 39 mins; Devin Toner (Leinster) 73 mins.

Man of the Match: Noel Reid, Leinster

 

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