Pro12: Connacht v Leinster

John Muldoon wins his 300th Connacht cap, in a repeat of last year's Pro12 decider against Leinster

Eamon Donoghue Sat, Apr 15
 
LIVE: Pro12: Connacht v Leinster

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  • Hello and Welcome . . .  It's Connacht versus Leinster in the second Irish Pro12 derby of the day, but the Sportsground won't be sold-out because of what's at stake in the table, but rather to celebrate stalwart John Muldoon's 300th Connacht cap. Lest we forget the bragging rights.


    Last year the two met in the final, this year Leinster are already bound for the semi-finals (probably a home one), and Connacht will have to take the play-off route to qualify for next year's Champions Cup.


    Leinster have a second string XV named to reflect that, but, revenge will still be on the cards. And Connacht will be enthused by the prospect of another home upset. So expect a real contest.

    We'll keep you updated throughout. Any comments and be sure to get in touch via either the comments section ('Contact Us' tab) or on Twitter (@DonoghueEamon).

  • Updated Pro12 table
    Updated Pro12 table
  • Team news

    CONNACHT:  Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Danie Poolman; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, Andrew Browne, Eoin McKeon, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (capt).

    Replacements:  Shane Delahunt, JP Cooney, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Sean O’Brien, Naulia Dawai, Caolin Blade, Steve Crosbie, Eoin Griffin.

    LEINSTER:  Zane Kirchner; Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath;  Cian Healy, James Tracy,  Mike Ross, Ross Molony, Hayden Triggs, Dominic Ryan, Josh van der Flier, Rhys Ruddock (capt).

    Replacements:  Seán Cronin, Peter Dooley, Michael Bent, Ian Nagle, Peadar Timmins, Nick McCarthy, Tom Daly, Barry Daly.

    Referee:  Ian Davies (WRU)

  • Gerry Thornley's Lowdown

    Overall PRO12 head to head:  Played 29, Connacht won 8, Leinster won 21.

    Last three seasons:  (2014-15) Connacht 10 Leinster 9, Leinster 21 Connacht 11. (2015-16) Leinster 13 Connacht 0, Connacht 7 Leinster 6, (Pro12 final) Connacht 20 Leinster 10.

    Five-game form guide:  Connacht – W W L L W. Leinster – W W W W W.

    Leading try scorers:  Connacht – Niyi Adeolokun 6. Leinster – Joey Carbery 8, Luke McGrath 7, Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin 6 each.

    Leading points scorers:  Connacht – Jack Carty 70, Craig Ronaldson 50. Leinster – Isa Nacewa 85, Ross Byrne 58.

    Betting (Paddy Powers): 10/11 Connacht, 14/1 Draw, Evens Leinster. Handicap odds (Leinster + 1pt) 10/11 Connacht, Draw, 10/11 Leinster.

    Forecast:  Connacht to win.

  • “I still enjoy it. When I get up in the morning and the sun is shining, it’s lovely, but even if it’s raining, I go in there with a smile on my face. I don’t know anything else. It suits me, my personality.


    “Connacht has given me a hell of a lot. It has brought me to a lot of places, given me a life and a lifestyle – a lot of things I couldn’t have dreamed of. It has also tested my character in a lot of ways that people never can.


    “I always thought we would be successful and that’s ultimately why I didn’t leave. I don’t see myself as the true Connacht man, but the fact that I’ve been around the place and at the coalface so long, people see it that way.”

    John Muldoon wins his 300th Connacht cap today. Linley MacKenzie talked to the Connacht captain about the milestone.


    Read that piece in full here

  • Pre-match thoughts:

    Leo Cullen:  "We make sure we manage our resources. There are a lot of lads with a big point to prove today. A lot of big games coming up, so a big opportunity."

    Pat Lam:  "Every year our goal is the Champions Cup, eveything above that is a bonus. We are on track still."

    (On John Muldoon) "It's unbelievable, the amount of times he's put his body on the line. If we could have 15 John Muldoons out there today!"

  • Pro12 leaders Leinster have made 11 changes for this game.  


    Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Jack Conan, Joey Carbery, Robbie Henshaw and Isa Nacewa join Johnny Sexton and others on the sidelines.


    Although they still field a frontrow of internationals, with the likes of Luke McGrath, Noel Reid and Dave Kearney getting their chance in the backs.

  • Five minutes 'till kick off in Galway
  • Rhys Ruddock leads out Leinster.


    Before John Muldoon comes on to the field with his niece in hand. The Sportsground is rocking

  • Connacht 0 Leinster 0 (2') Jack Carty kicks off. And Connacht follow up and win a penalty just inside Leinster's 10 metre line. Great start for the hosts
  • Connacht 3 Leinster 0 (2') Craig Ronaldson slots over the first penalty of the game
  • Connacht 3 Leinster 0 (4') Leinster lose their first lineout of the game, before a poor pass from Carty is fumbled by Tiernan O'Halloran. Giving Leinster possession back, and the advantage, on halfway
  • Connacht 3 Leinster 0 (6')  Leinster work their way into the Connacht 22 for the first time. They win a penalty which Ross Byrne kicks to the corner
  • Connacht 3 Leinster 5 (7')  Hayden Triggs breaks away from the lineout maul but is held up. It comes back out to Adam Byrne who offloads inside to Zane Kirchner for the first try of the game. Ross Byrne makes a mess of the conversion
  • Connacht 3 Leinster 12 (10')  Connacht turned over just inside the Leinster 10 metre line, but they work hard to win it back.


    Not before Ronaldson's delayed pass goes straight to Adam Byrne who goes the length of the field to run under the posts. An awful try to concede.


    Ross Byrne makes no mistake with the easier conversion this time.

  • Connacht 6 Leinster 12 (12') Denis Buckley gets in over the Leinster ball and forces a penalty, which Ronaldson converts. Two from two for him
  • Leinster kickoff from Ross Byrne goes straight out, giving Connacht a scrum on halfway
  • Connacht 6 Leinster 12 (15') Connacht go through the phases, John Muldoon makes some hard yards to the delight of the crowd. But Eoin Griffin knocks on. Leinster's rush defence is working well early on, Connacht yet to work their way inside the Leinster 22
  • Connacht 6 Leinster 12 (17') Dave Kearney's pass is short and Connacht scramble to turnover. And then go about trying to run out of their own half . . .
  • TRY CONNACHT. Game on again!
  • Connacht 13 Leinster 12 (18') Two brilliant pieces of play. First Tiernan O'Halloran makes a huge break deep into the Leinster 22. Then Carty kicks crossfield, an absolute beauty, into the arms of Poolman who crosses over. Ronaldson converts
  • Connacht 13 Leinster 15 (21') Connacht players furious as Leinster retake the lead via a Ross Byrne penalty given under the posts. They claim there was some dragging back off the ball. Referee and his team seen nothing
  • Bundee Aki wraps up Rory O'Loughlin on halfway. Connacht penalty. But the kick does not find touch. Ross Byrne clears his lines and Connacht have the lineout just outside the Leinster 22
  • Connacht 13 Leinster 15 (25') Outrageous kick into the corner from Carty. Connacht steal the lineout through Andrew browne spoiling, but Jake Heenan knocks on in the tackle.  
  • Connacht 13 Leinster 15 (28')  Brilliant work by Bundee Aki to put in a huge hit and then pick up the scraps himself. Connacht back in the Leinster 22. Advantage for offside comes to nothing though, so we go back for a penalty. Ronaldson will go for the posts . . .  
  • Connacht 16 Leinster 15 (29') Four from four for Ronaldson. Connacht back in the lead. This has been end to end!
  • Muldoon claims the restart, and lays off brilliantly. Connacht growing in confidence.  

    Carty's kick however goes out over the dead ball line and Leinster have a scrum. From which Dave Kearney knocks on. Both teams making mistakes, and doing a lot of great things also.

  • Connacht 16 Leinster 15 (34') Leinster in possession just outside the Connacht 10 metre line. Going through the phases. Luke McGrath makes a great break off a loose ball but is caught by a last gasp tackle from his opposite number Kieran Marmion
  • TRY LEINSTER! A quick switch back finds Ross Byrne who makes a long pass out to O'Loughlin who crosses over. Leinster have been very clinical thus far
  • Connacht 16 Leinster 20 (36') Byrne misses the tricky conversion
  • Connacht 16 Leinster 20 (38')  Connacht back in the Leinster half after a penalty for not rolling away. Leinster driving them back though
  • HT Connacht 19 Leinster 20 Connacht work their way into the Leinster 22. Some risky offloading from the forwards and big work from Aki in clearing out. But they are going nowhere and it comes back for a penalty.  


    Which Ronaldson slots. Five from five for him in that first half.

  • A great game of rugby. End to end. Connacht growing into it, and giving everything, but Leinster have been so clinical.

    Both teams will look to reduce the errors. Easier said than done though given the pace of the game and with both teams keeping ball in hand.

    Let's hope the second half is as good!

  • Treviso beating Edinburgh with 25 minutes to go!
  • The teams are back out!
  • Connacht 19 Leinster 20 (41') Muldoon claims the restart and Leinster give away a penalty for coming in over the top
  • Connacht 19 Leinster 20 (41') Connacht win their own lineout and try to run the ball out from their 10m line. Bundee makes the first break, then Marmion
  • Connacht 19 Leinster 20 (43') Connacht now on the Leinster 10m line. Carty chip and chase makes more yards . . . but they knock on. Comes back for a high tackle and Ronaldson kicks for touch
  • Connacht 19 Leinster 20 (45') Connacht move inside the Leinster 22. Muldoon comes through two tackles and offloads, brilliant stuff. They're still coming
  • Leinster drive them back outside the 22, Finlay Bealham takes a great offload but his own one is a little ambitious and leads to a knock on.

    Dave Kearney carried off with an injury and replaced by Barry Daly. More frustration for him, a season of injuries.

  • Connacht 19 Leinster 20 (48') Leinster win their own lineout on halfway but Ross Byrne knocks on and Connacht have it back
  • What rugby. Another massive break by O'Halloran, and an equally brilliant offload to Marmion who makes great yards. Luke McGrath denies him but it's quickly recycled and worked out to the left, where Dave Heffernan gets the try!
  • Connacht 24 Leinster 20 (51') Ronaldson misses the conversion. His first miss from six
  • TRY Leinster. What a game. Rhys Ruddock gets it
  • Connacht 24 Leinster 27 (53') Leinster come straight back from the restart. Josh van der Flier makes a great burst, he can't be stopped, crawling on his knees. He's held up just short, but the Leinster captain then bundles over. Ross Byrne converts
  • Connacht 24 Leinster 27 (56') Connacht back in Leinster territory. Muldoon doing trojan work. Connacht are very flat though and looking to be tiring
  • Connacht fumble goes back, and Carty gets there before van der Flier. Connacht break out from behind their own tryline though. Led by Dawai and then O'Halloran. Their fullback chips and chases but the bounce doesn't go with him and it's out for a Leinster lineout on their own 10m line.

  • Connacht 24 Leinster 27 (61')  O'Halloran kicks and chases. Always positive from the Galway native. Barry Daly almost knocks on with his gather but Luke McGarth clears his lines well. Connacht with a lineout just inside their half
  • They move inside the Leinster 10m line. Dawai and Muldoon making great yards. And now inside the 22 . . .
  • Big, looping Jack Carty pass is short and Adam Byrne cuts it out. With two Connacht players waiting outside him. Ross Byrne then puts Connacht back deep in their own half. Big opportunity spurned
  • Connacht 24 Leinster 27 (65') Leinster go for touch with a penalty and they win the lineout and move into the Connacht 22. Dennis Buckley though forces the penalty, not releasing the ball.

    15 minutes remain

  • Connacht have broken from deep again. Sean O'Brien this time does brilliantly. One offload too many though and Dennis Buckley's pass goes astray. Then the ball bounces perfectly for Barry Daly and he crosses over for what looks the game sealing try
  • Connacht 24 Leinster 34 (69') Ross Byrne adds the extras. 10 point game with 10 minutes left
  • Connacht 24 Leinster 34 (72') Error after error these last two minutes. Carty clears his lines and Leinster will have a lineout on the Connacht 10m line
  • Steve Crosbie has done well since coming on for Connacht. He comes out with the ball after a Connacht turnover. Then O'Hallroan runs out from under his own posts. Ghosts by two, but nobody comes with him and his instinctive pass goes out of touch. Leinster back on the Connacht 22m line
  • Connacht 24 Leinster 37 (76') Ross Byrne penalty adds to the Leinster lead. As the referee again speaks to John Muldoon about Aki's mouthing. The Connacht players are not happy with his officiating tonight
  • Josh van der Flier named man of the match. Putting his hand up for a starting place against Clermont in the ECC semi-final
  • Connacht 24 Leinster 37 (79') One last hurrah. Connacht kick for the corner and will have a lineout to end the game with a try
  • Josh van der Flier turns the ball over. A fitting end. Ross Byrne then kicks for touch and that's that!
  • FT Connacht 24 Leinster 37 - Leinster were far more clinical, and after a first half of errors all round they reduced their count in the second half. Unlike Connacht. Pat Lam's team were full of their usual positivity, but one offload too many got them in a bit of trouble here. And they gifted tries at crucial times.


    As they say though, you live by the sword you die by the sword. That's the rugby that won them the Pro12 last year.

  • John Muldoon: "Obviously I'm proud to hit 300. It's something I was looking for for a long time. But all week I just wanted the result. We gave them big scores at crucial times, and that's been our season in a nutshell."
  • Pro12 table after this weekend's round of fixtures
    Pro12 table after this weekend's round of fixtures
  • So that's that . . . A win that shows the strength in depth in Leinster's ranks. They are now guaranteed a home semi-final in the Pro12.

    Match report to follow on the site, until then, thanks for joining us.

    @DonoghueEamon

  • FT Connacht 24 Leinster 37  

    Munster 22 Ulster 20