Connacht shock Leinster
PRO14 REPORT: Connacht handed Irish rivals Leinster their first Pro14 defeat since April 2019, prevailing 35-24 after an enthralling encounter at the RDS Arena.
A brace of tries from fly-half Jack Carty and an Alex Wootton score helped the away side to a 25-5 half-time lead, with Scott Penny touching down to get the hosts on the board in the 24th minute.
Luke McGrath and Ryan Baird went over early in the second half to close the gap, but Tom Daly dotted down to put the result beyond doubt before Ed Byrne clinched a bonus point for Leinster at the death.
The four-try win sees Connacht become the first Irish province to defeat Leinster on home soil since October 2014, and subsequently brings the triple-defending champions’ 26-game winning run to an end.
Connacht signalled their intent from the off as they forced Leinster back towards their own try-line within the first five minutes, but Shane Delahunt’s knock-on temporarily let the hosts off the hook.
The visitors were soon rewarded for their fast start though, when Carty expertly intercepted Ross Molony’s pass and ran the length of the pitch to touch down on the nine-minute mark.
Leinster were somewhat fortunate not to find themselves further behind when a Carty penalty sailed wide, but a lost lineout moments later summed up their slow start.
After a dominant opening quarter, Connacht were rewarded with their second try in the 22nd minute, Carty crossing once again after great work from Delahunt and Caolin Blade.
There was further bad news for Leinster when talisman Johnny Sexton was forced off injured, but flanker Penny reduced the arrears with a quick-fire try after the restart, the 21-year-old catching Connacht’s defence off-guard.
But Connacht duly responded, Carty adding six further points to his tally as the clock began to tick towards half-time, before winger Wootton went over in the corner to give the Galway-based side a healthy lead at the break.
Leinster burst out of the blocks at the start of the second period with McGrath evading the Connacht defence to crash over, but Carty kicked his third penalty to keep Andy Friend’s side in front.
Resolute defending was required from the away side to quell the threat of a Leinster team playing with increased urgency, but the Dubliners eventually found a way through with Baird going over after good work from Sean Cronin.
Leo Cullen’s charges thought they had their fourth try of the night moments later after smart link-up play between David Hawkshaw and Jimmy O’Brien, only for it to be ruled out for obstruction.
With Leinster continuing to push forward as the clock ticked towards full-time, away centre Daly latched onto a loose ball before going over under the posts to seal victory.
Replacement Byrne ensured Leinster didn’t finish empty-handed with a late drive over the line, but 2015/16 champions Connacht weren’t to be denied a fifth win of the season that lifts them up to second place in Conference B.
Tries: Penny, McGrath, Baird, Byrne
Cons: O’Brien, Hawkshaw
Tries: Carty 2, Wootten, Daly
Cons: Carty 3
Pens: Carty 3
Leinster: 15 Max O’Reilly, 14 Andrew Smith, 13 Jimmy O’Brien, 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Dan Leavy, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Tom Clarkson, 19 Josh Murphy, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Liam Turner, 23 Will Connors.
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Peter Sullivan, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Sean Masterson, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux (captain), 4 Gavin Thornbury, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Cian Prendergast, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Diarmuid Kilgallen, 23 Ben O’Donnell.
Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Eoghan Cross (both IRFU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)