Leinster's fightback denies Connacht the historic win
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Leinster denied Connacht a first away victory in Dublin since 2002 as Leo Cullen’s men staged a stunning late rally to battle back from 17 points down to win 31-29.
Andrew Porter fought his way over the line in the 82nd minute to prevent Andy Friend’s men from earning only a second ever victory in the capital since 1955.
Leinster had won eight of their last nine meetings, but 14 points from Jack Carty looked to have swung the tie in the favour of the Galway side before Porter was at hand to break Connacht hearts.
With Leinster shuffling their pack after their Champions Cup travels, Connacht looked the more fluid of the two sides early on and they took advantage thanks to the dab hand of an ex-Leinsterman.
Bundee Aki drew the Leinster pack, before switching the ball wide right leaving Cian Kelleher to slide across the whitewash for an early lead inside six minutes.
But Leinster hit back when Rob Kearney burst his way through to set up Jamison Gibson-Park, who found a gap and expertly threaded in Conor O’Brien to score his third try of the season.
Connacht continued to threaten, and they made it count when Tom Farrell’s pass was dispatched to Darragh Leader and on only his second Guinness PRO14 appearance he evaded two thunderous challenges to dive into the corner and score. Jack Carty kicked for two.
When Connacht turned over possession, it enabled the visitors to stretch their advantage when Carty sumptuously chipped over the Leinster backs before catching the ball and diving over to score.
The fly-half converted his try seven minutes before the break to send the western Ireland side into half-time with a 19-7 lead at the RDS Arena.
Leinster roared out the blocks after the break and within minutes they were chipping away at the scoreboard as Mick Kearney scrapped his way to the line for his first ever try for the men in blue.
But Connacht weren’t initially fazed, especially half back Carty who dazzled his way through a slim gap in the line before showing the presence of mind to lay in Caolin Blade to score a bonus point. Carty duly converted.
Carty sent the Galway men two converted tries clear with a penalty 16 minutes from time, but the hosts didn’t give in easily as replacement Sean Cronin powered his way over to set up a grandstand finish. Ross Byrne added the extras.
Then when Connacht were unable to clear their lines, Leinster broke and Dan Leavy snuck across the line to cut the deficit to only three points.
Drama ensued as relentless Leinster pressure eventually told as Porter summoned all his muscle to throw himself over the try line and seal a sensational win.
Tries: O’Brien, Kearney, Cronin, Leavy, Porter
Cons: Byrne 4
Tries: Kelleher, Leader, Carty, Blade
Cons: Carty 3
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Conor O’Brien, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Noel Reid
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Tom Farrell, 11 Darragh Leader, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Jarrad Butler (captain), 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson McCoy, 19 James Cannon, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 James Mitchell, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Bundee Aki
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Rob O’Sullivan (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
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