Pro 14: Leinster v Connacht

2018 starts with a bang as the 2016 Pro 12 champions look to raid the capital

Patrick Madden Mon, Jan 1
LIVE: Pro 14: Leinster v Connacht

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  • Good afternoon!

    Welcome to our coverage of Leinster's Pro 14 clash with Connacht at the RDS.

    2018 could prove to be a huge year for Irish rugby, with a Six Nations championship win on the cards and markers to be laid ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

    And what better way to start it than with a resurgent Connacht looking to raid the capital, as Jonathan Sexton keeps guard for the hosts.

    We'll be bringing you all the action from Dublin, so put your feet up and enjoy these final days of festive freedom before the return to reality can take hold (sorry).

    Come on!!!

  • TEAMS:

    Leinster: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Noel Reid, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath, Peter Dooley, Seán Cronin, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Ian Nagle, Dan Leavy, Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan. Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Michael Bent, Mick Kearney, Scott Fardy, Nick McCarthy, Cathal Marsh, Rory O’Loughlin.

    Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, Denis Coulson, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon. Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, Naulia Dawai, Caolin Blade, Eoin Griffin, Niyi Adeolokun.

    Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

  • It has taken Connacht a while to adjust to life post-Pat Lam, but back-to-back wins on the continent over Brive have sparked the province into life and now the West is well and truly awake.

    The 2016 Pro 12 champions head into today's game flying high on the back of a 44-16 thumping of Ulster on December 23rd, a result which allows to head into today's game with the pressure off.

  • One player starting for Connacht today is Cian Kelleher, a product of the Leinster youth system. Johnny Watterson has looked at Connacht's clever use of players raised outside of the province and outside of Ireland.  

    You can read that HERE.

  • Leo Cullen has made a host of changes for today's game, and the strength of his XV is a testament to Leinster's deep playing resources. All eyes will naturally be drawn towards Sexton at outhalf, but this fixture is also the first time James Lowe lines out at the RDS - a tantalising prospect.
  • Five minutes from kick off in Dublin.
  • Here come the teams at the RDS!
  • A pretty miserable day in Dublin today. Too windy to be kicking it around, so let's have some running rugby, lads.
  • Jack Carty has the ball in hand, and we're off!
  • 1 min: Deep kick off from Connacht and Leinster look to run the phases. Great work over the ball from Muldoon and the visitors have an early penalty under the sticks.

    Easy chance for Carty, which he takes. Good start for Connacht.


  • 3 min: Sexton's restart goes high and gets stuck in the wind, O'Halloran knocking on before Connacht are pinged for not rolling away. Sexton nudges the kick about 10 metres up the line into touch - strong breeze.
  • 4 min: Good spoiling at the lineout from Connacht and Healy clears well downfield. Another Leinster lineout on halfway.
  • 5 min: Quick ball off the top and Leinster make inroads, McFadden carrying well in midfield before it's moved out to Lowe, who dismisses O'Halloran with a big handoff and surges into the 22 before offloading back inside.

    Penalty to Leinster under the sticks - easy chance despite the wind. Sexton lines it up and the ball falls off the tee - Sexton quickly picks and looks for the dropgoal but the refereee blows his whistle and gives him another chance, which he takes.


  • 8 min: Another deep restart from Connacht and Leinster look to play out, running up four phases before McGrath tries to clear with a boxkick. Again, it gets caught up in the air and Connacht have an attacking lineout just outside the home 22.
  • 9 min: Connacht secure the ball and look to build on the Leinster 22, Marmion fizzing about in usual fashion. Loose ball though and it's knocked forward - but then Leinster throw a wild ball into touch on the right.
  • 11 min: Connacht win the lineout and stick it up the jumper, Muldoon making a couple of carries, but are then too easily turned over. Leinster look to kick over the top and it nearly falls for Lowe, but at the next breakdown Sexton is pinged for coming in at the side. Connacht stick the penalty into the corner.
  • 12 min: Connacht nearly grind a lineout maul over the line but are held up. Again though Leinster's clearance doesn't get past the 22.  

    Connacht lineout - great steal from Ross Molony.

  • 14 min: Leinster are firmly camped in their own half, but the visitors haven't been able to capitalise thus far. Sloppy penalty conceded by Connacht in midfield for not rolling away.
  • 16 min: Good work from the hosts, retaining the ball well and getting up to the Connacht 22, Leavy making a couple of big carries. But they concede a penalty, which is sent into touch on the home 10. Sloppy fare so far.
  • 17 min: Good ball off the top for Connaht and they build some momentum, Farrell making a great scampering run in midfield. They then kick into the corner, which is a waste with Rob Kearney there to pick up the pieces. But there's a knock on - good platform for Connacht deep inside the home 22.
  • 20 min: The Connacht scrum is sturdy and Muldoon digs it out and feeds Marmion who gives it to Aki, who has his first big carry. The visitors on the front foot inside the Leinster five, they try to hammer through before Marmion spins it wide. Again though, error at the base from Dillane and Leinster are awarded a penalty. Another wasted chance.
  • 22 min: There's Bundee! A great step and carry in midfield puts Connacht in the ascendancy, before brilliant work from Leavy sees the hosts turn it over. Connacht really need to cash in while they've got the breeze otherwise it will be a very long second half.
  • 23 min: Lovely break from Luke McGrath, sniping up the right and then finding the supporting Kearney on his inside. The Ireland fullback is hauled down fractions short, before Cronin picks and gets over the line - but is held up.
  • 24 min: Scrum for Leinster under the posts and they deliver a huge shunt, earning a penalty in the process.  

    They could turn the screw but opt for the easy three points - which Sexton delivers.


  • 27 min: Another stunning break from Leinster, engineered by Lowe who delivers another huge hand off on his 22 before finding Sexton, who has McGrath on his shoulder. McGrath pins his ears back but Healy hauls him down on the Connacht 22.
  • 27 min: Injury for Connacht, Kelleher being replaced by Adeolokun.
  • 28 min: Connacht clearance picks out Lowe, who ambles forward before springing into life, new man Adeolokun hanging on to an ankle. Sexton then breaks after taking the ball on the wrap around but opts to step inside rather than pass and is scragged by the Connacht cover.
  • It had been coming. Great strength from Lowe inside the Connacht 22 who takes the ball from Reid and then finds him again with a lovely offload - silk to match the steel. Reid has number eight Deegan in support and he crashes over in the corner.

    Sexton misses the touchline conversion - will let him off.


  • 32 min: Connacht looking for a response, Marmion sniping into the Leinster 22. The visitors retaining the ball deep in Leinster territory - they desperately need a score before the break.
  • 34 min: Connacht up to 14 phases, Aki booming his way inside the Leinster five. Far better ball retention from the visitors now and they have a penalty for a high tackle on Aki.

    Carty knocks it over to reduce the deficit to five points.


  • 37 min: Aki forces a Leinster knock on in midfield, Leavy spilling it forward, before Healy picks up the pieces and finds a good, deep touch on the left.
  • 38 min: Aki asserting himself on proceedings now and he makes a great break through the middle, finding Carty who has O'Halloran on his shoulder. Connacht deep inside the Leinster 22 - they have to capitalise.
  • And capitalise they do. Connacht get quick ball and run a number of short, sharp phases before Bealham worms his way over. All stemmed from that Bundee Aki break.

    Carty converts - Connacht have the lead.


  • 40 min: Restart straight to Aki and the ball is in touch.
  • Not the lead Connacht would have hoped for given they've had the wind but they've played their way back into the game admirably. Big half coming up.
  • The teams are back out for the second half.
  • Sexton has the ball in hand - we're back underway!!!
  • 41 min: Connacht secure the ball and then keep it short and tight before Marmion looks to clear up the line. The ball sticks in the air again but he's managed to force it up towards the 10.
  • 42 min: Great little snipe from McGrath again but the offload goes loose. Connacht kick it back and wow! Ringrose loops it wide to Cronin who is one on one with Aki, and he steps and burns him on the outside. Good recovery from the Ireland centre but he'll be reminded of that one.
  • 45 min: Connacht scrum just outside the Leinster 22, great platform. They get clean ball and spin it to the left, Healy chipping ahead on the wing but Leinster secure it.
  • 46 min: Good territory for Connacht since the break and they have a lineout on the home 22, but a poor throw from McCartney is matched by a poor jump and the ball goes astray.
  • 48 min: Great turnover in midfield from leinster and Deegan finds Lowe who shows another big fend before offloading inside. Connacht back in possession but they get pinged for holding on.  

    Leinster penalty just inside the Connacht half - Sexton will go for the post with the wind in his sails. Great kick.


  • 51 min: Connacht look for a response and Healy tries to step Sexton on the 22 but gets smashed with the help of McFadden.
  • 52 min: Healy knocked on in the tackle and Leinster have a scrum inside their 22 - good shunt from the home pack and they earn a penalty.
  • 53 min: Connacht looking to play out from their 10 and Healy kicks loosely to the covering Sexton who spins it inside to Kearney. Kearney launches one but it's a poor kick and it bobbles into the ingoal and out of play. Scrum for Connacht deep inside the Leinster half.
  • 55 min: Muldoon digs the ball out and Connacht have possession just outside the Leinster 22. Good ball retention from the visitors but decent linespeed from Leinster and they force a penalty.
  • 56 min: Good touch finder from Sexton, nudging it inside the Connacht 10. Quick ball off the top but Connacht turn it over in midfield - where Farrell knocks on.
  • 58 min: Sustained Leinster pressure, Lowe making a good burst before Cronin shows a great turn off foot and darts up to the Connacht five. Desperate defence from the hosts but they hang on and are able to clear up the left.
  • 60 min: Good break from McFadden and he finds Cronin who again shows a brilliant turn of speed to get up towards the Connacht 22. Quick ball for Leinster and Nagle carries but is thumped by Cannon. The visitors clinging on grimly.
  • The pressure tells, McGrath trying to snipe under the posts before Nagle forces his way over.

    Easy conversion for Sexton.


  • 63 min: Brilliant take from O'Halloran in the air under pressure from McFadden but he lands with a thud and looks to be in trouble. McFadden taken a knock as well.
  • Marmion > McGrath for me. For the moment, anyway.
  • 63 min: After some running repairs we're back with a Connacht scrum. Good shunt from the visitors and they have it inside the Leinster 10, Aki carrying well up towards the 22.
  • 64 min: Lovely step in midfield - think it was from secondrow Cannon - and Connacht are up towards the Leinster five. They move it right with men over, Adeolokun chopped down as he looks to dance over. They move it back infield with Muldoon pumping the legs. Connacht are over the line but the ball is held up - good attacking scrum coming up.
  • 66 min: The first scrum on the five comes down so they reset. It goes down again second time, no scrum penalty yet though.
  • 67 min: Muldoon picks it out and tries to force his way over, Sexton making a typically brave tackle. Dillane picks and he is nearly over but gets hauled down.  

    Penalty under the posts for Connacht - they're going for the scrum.

  • 68 min: Connacht secure the ball and Muldoon finds Aki on a short ball and he is well tackled. Connacht lose a bit of momentum after a monster tackle from Fardy, but they retain it. The visitors are desperately close, they have to score.
  • Brilliant from Connacht, probing away before landing the killer blow, as Healy dances in off his wing, stepping two and crossing.

    Carty can't force his kick inside the post. Game on.


  • 72 min: Big tackle in midfield from Healy and Connacht have a scrum on their 10. The visitors win the ball and kick, Kearney scooping it up but under pressure.
  • 74 min: Connacht with the ball inside the Leinster 10 metre. They retain it well and win a penalty for a high tackle. Carty finds a good touch, great chance for the visitors.
  • 76 min: Connacht lineout just inside the Leinster 22 and they scure the ball. Good spoiling from Leinster and Deegan somehow emerges with the ball before the visitors concede a penalty. Chance gone.
  • 77 min: Leinster have the ball in midfield and are retaining it well, running down the clock.
  • 79 min: Brilliant, dogged work off the ball from Connacht on halfway and they earn a penalty - but Carty misses touch! Lowe clears as far as the 10. Last chance.
  • 80 min: Connacht secure it off the top. Good burst from Masterson who is isolated but suppport arrives quickly. Aki carries well up towards the 22 and Connacht have a penalty. Carty sends it into touch.

    Here comes the last stand.

  • 82 min: Good ball off the top and Farrell carries well into the Leinster 22. Connacht getting good ball, Dillane running over two tacklers.
  • 83 min: Connacht up to the five but Leinster slow it down well. Eventually Connacht dig it out and look to pick and go, but are short on momentum.
  • 84 min: Connacht inside the five, desperate Leinster defence but they're keeping the visitors at bay.
  • 84 min: Connacht still hammering away, good ball retention but sturdy defence. The ball spills out and marmion recovers it well.
  • 85 min: Aki picks and goes and van der Flier locks onto it but Connacht support is quick. Up to 23 phases, brutal, gripping end here.
  • 86 min: Ball goes loose again but Connacht secure it, they're now outside the 22.

    Penalty to Leinster! Game over.

  • Right thanks for joining today - happy new year to all.