Watch the extended match highlights from Leinster’s 45-8 win over Connacht at the Sportsground in Round 14 of the United Rugby Championship.
Leinster Rugby wore down Connacht with six second-half tries to leave The Sportsground with all the points in Round 14 of the United Rugby Championship.
In hindsight, it all hinged on an early red card for Tom Daly, Connacht’s brave resistance eventually giving way to precision strike play for Leinster to move five points clear at the head of the table.
A challenge by Tommy O’Brien on Niall Murray in the air from Ross Byrne’s kick-off resulted in a yellow card for the winger.
One man down, Leinster opted to hold onto the ball. Daly did not wrap in the tackle on Ciarán Frawley, making contact with the neck for a red card.
Referee Chris Busby having a quick chat with the respective captains about the discipline of the opening exchanges.
This break in play was quickly followed by a Tiernan O’Halloran burst and Oran McNulty punt out of defence against a Jimmy O’Brien counter from the long ball.
A bout of kick-tennis concluded with a Leinster lineout which Byrne translated into a touch-finder deep inside the 22.
A crooked throw by Dave Heffernan made for a scrum and a subsequent scrum penalty led to a lineout.
James Tracy broke away from the maul for multiple drives, leading to Rory O’Loughlin’s try from an overlap on the left, Byrne converting in the 15th minute.
The Leinster rush defence forced Kieran Marmion to kick the ball away, relying on Murray and Jarrad Butler to carry the fight.
Leinster’s commitment to the counter-ruck was compromised by failing to keep their feet, Jack Carty slicing the posts for 7-3 in the 22nd minute.
The interprovincial intensity left little space to move the ball, pressure causing mistakes. When Frawley left for a Head Injury Assessment, 20-year-old Chris Cosgrave entered for his debut in the 32nd minute.
A Connacht scrum penalty was the catalyst for a Tom Farrell charge and Scott Penny had to take Marmion around the ankles.
The home side chose a scrum ahead of a penalty and when the forwards couldn’t breach, Carty whipped a high, wide pass for full-back O’Halloran to dive in for 8-7 at the break.
Frawley returned for Cosgrave shortly after David Hawkshaw came on for Byrne as Leinster’s kicking game delivered sound field position.
Wing John Porch wrangled a penalty at the breakdown to spark a nice attack in which left-wing McNulty could not hold a pass on the outside.
The Leinster front row of Peter Dooley, James Tracy and Michael Alaalatoa cranked out a penalty at the scrum and Tracy snatched a penalty on the floor.
The commitment of Connacht’s 14 men showed in how Carty and Butler covered across to bundle O’Loughlin into touch
The Blues’ scrum provided another penalty advantage to play off and the backs spread it for Tommy O’Brien to cut inside and for Rhys Ruddock to take off up the middle.
The ball was recycled for Hawkshaw to drive through Murray for the lead try and, also, the conversion in the 55th minute.
Luke McGrath’s strip of Ultan Dillane enabled Hawkshaw to spot space in the backfield. His kick was gobbled up by the Leinster counter-ruck for McGrath to shoot a gap for the third try, Hawkshaw converting for 21-8 in the 57th minute.
Jamie Osborne’s sweet out-to-in line was taken on by Jimmy O’Brien only for Sammy Arnold to conquer a ruck.
It was difficult to see how Connacht could launch a comeback with their numerical disadvantage, Jimmy O’Brien accelerating away and Hawkshaw tickling a kick in behind Porch for Frawley to scoop up the bonus-point try in the 65th minute.
The Westerners were all out of energy and Frawley’s playmaking skills were key to putting Tommy O’Brien outside Diarmuid Kilgallen for a sharp finish up the left.
The replacements were making an impact, Josh Murphy streaming through the cover and the forwards queuing up for Max Deegan to carry to the line, Hawkshaw converting in the 72nd minute.
Subtle involvements of Osborne and Cosgrave, on a decoy line, allowed Tommy O’Brien to move into overdrive for his second try, Hawkshaw adding the extras and capping a fine second half.
Leinster: Jimmy O’Brien; Tommy O’Brien, Jamie Osborne, Ciaran Frawley, Rory O’Loughlin; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Peter Dooley, James Tracy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, Joe McCarthy; Rhys Ruddock, Scott Penny, Max Deegan.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Ed Byrne, Thomas Clarkson, Josh Murphy, Martin Moloney, Nick McCarthy, David Hawkshaw, Chris Cosgrave.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Oran McNulty; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Jack Aungier; Oisin Dowling, Niall Murray; Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler.
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Matthew Burke, Greg McGrath, Ultan Dillane, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Sammy Arnold, Diarmuid Kilgallen.