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Leinster hit back from Champions loss to put five tries on Connacht

By Liam Heagney
Leinster's Ciaran Frawley celebrates scoring versus Connacht at the RDS (Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Six days after scoring just a single try in an exhausting 100-minute Investec Champions Cup final defeat to Toulouse, Leinster needed just 23 minutes to demolish Connacht in the final round of the URC. They scored three tries to establish an insurmountable 21-0 lead and while they curiously didn’t score again for a full 40 minutes, they were still easy 33-7 winners.

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The five-tries-to-one victory lifted them from third place to the top of the table ahead of Saturday’s concluding matches featuring defending champions Munster and the Bulls and it remains to be seen who they will now host in the quarter-finals.

Leo Cullen had billed this round 18 fixture as a test of character for his Leinster squad, picking themselves up off the canvas following yet more enormous cup heartache to put in a shift in the less glamourous surrounds of a URC regular season match where the stakes were very different.

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Antoine Dupont is the GREATEST rugby player EVER – Leinster vs Toulouse reaction

Jim Hamilton and Bernard Jackman react to Toulouse beating Leinster in the final of the Investec Champions Cup and discuss Antoine Dupont who was named player of the match.

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Antoine Dupont is the GREATEST rugby player EVER – Leinster vs Toulouse reaction

Jim Hamilton and Bernard Jackman react to Toulouse beating Leinster in the final of the Investec Champions Cup and discuss Antoine Dupont who was named player of the match.

Given their hurt, they could have understandably let standards slip. While Pete Wilkins’ Connacht were incentivised with the knowledge they needed a generous win to prolong their season into the play-offs, provided a few favours also materialised from elsewhere, third-place Leinster were already guaranteed a home quarter-final no matter what result transpired.

With that Aviva Stadium fixture next weekend in mind, Cullen only called on seven of the match day 23 from the harrowingly lost final at Tottenham and the mix between those personally wounded on the field by Toulouse and those coming in fresh was just about right against a visiting opposition that played in the opening 20 minutes like they were already on the beach in Connemara and not fighting for a top-eight finish.

Fixture
United Rugby Championship
Leinster
33 - 7
Full-time
Connacht
All Stats and Data

Jack Conan and Jamie Osborne were the standouts in the contingent kept on from last week while the retiring Rhys Ruddock and the departing Ross Molony were two of the excellent reinforcements who stood out most along with the flash handling of out-half Sam Prendergast, the apprentice who must be Leinster’s future at No10 due to the blame game surrounding Ross Byrne when it comes to finals rugby.

With the RDS packed for its last rugby match before redevelopment and the pitch looking absolutely gorgeous in the summer evening’s sun, Leinster came looking to put on a show and it was apt that their scrum, the one aspect of play where they eclipsed Toulouse in the final, got this performance up and running.

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An uncarded deliberate knock-on gave them the set-piece and with referee Chris Busby’s arm out signalling a penalty advantage following a collapse, Conan, a sub last week, bulldozed his way to the line for the ninth-minute score.

Just eight further minutes were needed for the official to confirm Leinster’s second, this time stemming from lineout possession.

Osborne, the sole repeat starter from London, ran a lovely decoy off the ball in the midfield, distracting defenders and creating the room exploited by Jimmy O’Brien with Prendergast involved.

It was all too easy, something that didn’t take long to repeat. With another scrum penalty won on halfway, hooker Ronan Kelleher then fooled the opposition with his short throw to the front at a 22-metre lineout.

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The panic this generated amongst the visitors resulted in Conan blasting through and giving a sweet offload when falling in a tackle that was grasped by Ciaran Frawley.

With Prendergast, whose well-timed pop put Conan through the hole, converting all three tries, it was 21-0 just 23 minutes in and the result was essentially settled.

Leinster now took a deep breath, leaving the scoreboard undisturbed for an inordinately long period during Connacht thought they were going in on the stroke of half-time but Tommy O’Brien’s ball-dislodging tackle on Cian Prendergast was a peach.

Onto the second half. With Conan hooked at the break and Ruddock departing to a standing ovation on 49 minutes, we had further evidence of Connacht’s blunt attack before Leinster picked up the dominance thread again.

It still took an age for their four-try bonus score to materislise. For example, there was a Rob Russell howler when the winger dropped the ball with the line at his mercy.

Other hold-ups followed, one resulting in the yellow carding just before the hour of sub tighthead Michael Ala’alatoa drove a shoulder into the head of Caolin Blade.

Funnily enough, it was while man down that Leinster broke the stalemate, Dan Sheehan breaking off a lineout drive to touch down.

Colm Reilly struck with a Connacht consolation, the only time their passing was on point, but Leinster had the final say with six minutes remaining, Jimmy O’Brien storming to the line from deep inside his own half after Prendergast floated another of his eye-catching wristy passes.

Job done. Now onto the next test of the post-Champions Cup defeat character.

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Turlough 1 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

“You want that – not hatred – but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It’s good.” Agree with this. If you can put a common motivating idea in all your players heads during a game it can produce a real Team perfromance. Erasmus is pretty expert at this. It is quite clear that the comments by Etzebeth, Allende and others were not coincidence and were actioned to create animoisty before the series in order to galvanise the South African mind set. While I understand it, I don’t like it. They result in unnessary vitriol between supporters and for what? I don’t think any of the SA players seriously believe any of these claims and with Ireland ignoring them Erasmus won’t get the escalation he seeks. The vitriol shown by some SA and indeed NZ supporters is extremely weird for NH supporters (OK, maybe England have felt it) but it just feels very odd over a sport. Ireland were more or less sh1t for the first 100 years of their rugby, they have improved significantly in the last 25 to be in a position around now (it may not last) to go into a match with the big guns with a real shot of winning. The reaction to this from some SH supporters has been bizarre with conspiracy theories of ‘Arrogance’ fueling abuse from supporters and even NZ players to Irish crowds during the world cup. I love International rugby and the comraderie between supporters. I genuinely dread and dislike the atmosphere around games with the southern giants. They take this very personally. NH teams: play them, try and beat them, enjoy the craic with their players and supporters and wish them well. SH teams wish them well and they call you arrogant in the press months later. Its just a matter of try and beat them and then good riddance til the next time.

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