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