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Leinster leave it late to beat rivals Connacht and go top of the URC

By PA
Leinster players celebrate after their side's victory in the United Rugby Championship match between Connacht and Leinster at The Sportsground in Galway. (Photo By Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ciaran Frawley’s last-gasp try saw Leinster snatch a 24-22 derby win from the jaws of defeat and end Connacht’s near year-long unbeaten run at the Sportsground.

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Newly-arrived senior coach Jacques Nienaber watched on as Leinster lost their grip on a 19-8 lead, despite the impact of an experienced bench.

Converted tries from captain Caolin Blade and Diarmuid Kilgallen had Connacht on the cusp of their first home victory over their provincial rivals in seven meetings.

But Leinster earned a bonus-point victory at the death through Frawley’s try and moved to the top of the United Rugby Championship table.

Short of back-line cover with a six-two bench split, full-back Tiernan O’Halloran’s early injury-enforced departure meant Connacht had to reshuffle – but they replied with a brilliant eighth-minute try.

The returning Mack Hansen combined with Byron Ralston before replacement David Hawkshaw was fed to finish off in the corner. JJ Hanrahan pulled the difficult conversion wide.

After losing three early lineouts, Leinster had a prolonged period of pressure off a five-metre scrum. Connacht held them out despite Cathal Forde’s sin-binning for making head contact with Charlie Ngatai.

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A Hanrahan penalty made it 8-0 in the 22nd minute, rewarding Connacht’s scrum, and a scrappy Leinster, with 14 personnel changes, continued to make handling errors.

But as the interval neared, a Connacht penalty was reversed for Shamus Hurley-Langton pulling Ryan Baird’s scrum cap. Ngatai barrelled over from a clever quick-tap move for Harry Byrne to convert.

Early in the second half, Leinster turned the tables on the Connacht lineout. Second row Jason Jenkins used the momentum swing to burrow over for a converted try after Connacht prop Peter Dooley was yellow carded for offside.

Attack

131
Passes
198
104
Ball Carries
158
216m
Post Contact Metres
220m
8
Line Breaks
3

Leinster were now on top, and although James Culhane was held up, Rob Russell nudged a Ngatai kick on and a favourable bounce allowed Ronan Kelleher to cross in the right corner.

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Just when Connacht looked to be struggling, replacement Paul Boyle and Forde unlocked the defence in midfield and Blade had the pace to finish from outside the Leinster 22.

Hanrahan converted and also added the extras to Kilgallen’s fifth score of the season, which saw Hansen break past halfway before unleashing his fellow winger for the line.

Both teams had set-piece issues in a nervy finish. A crooked Connacht lineout allowed Leo Cullen’s men to flood forward suddenly, and Frawley coolly stepped inside both Hansen and Forde to leave the home crowd stunned.

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Eabn 8 hours ago
Open-minded Schmidt takes hands-on approach to Australia challenge

Who cares - boring is good when it comes to Media - they don’t bug you as much. While the focus is on the resurrection of the Wallabies, don’t forget the grass roots - Any opportunity you have to visit, train or promote Rugby down here in Melbourne / Regional is pretty much imperative given the current situation with the Rebels. I’m talking about us grass roots clubs and more so, clubs in the West of Melbourne who are being absolutely smashed by Rugby League and who have been contributing directly to the game down here long before the Rebels emerged and no doubt will do so well after they may be gone. All I have heard is all about the elite level, not the grass roots level so while the talk is about “ The Wallabies” and “Super Rugby Pacific” get back to the roots of Union and include us in your plans. So Phil Waugh and those leaders within RugbyAustralia, it’s on you to ensure the bottom feeders, so to speak, are included in all the talk and the funding if you want Union to regain ground and more respect within the Union and also the broader sporting fraternity. Given you have been in Melbourne a number off times over the last month, extending the courtesy of having a meet and greet with Victorian grass root clubs eluded you for some reason. Do we count or matter in RA’s and yours bigger picture?? Ean Drummond - Club Founder/President - Wyndham City Rhinos RUFC Inc. Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne.

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