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Ciarán Frawley dives over to score the winning try. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Derby

Frawley's late try breaks Connacht hearts as Leinster win in Galway

The fullback crossed with the last play of the game.

Connacht 22

Leinster 24

CIARÁN FRAWLEY’S LATE try broke Connacht hearts in Galway as the Leinster fullback’s score saw the visitors take the spoils at The Sportsground.

Connacht looked on course for a rousing victory when Diarmuid Kilgallen’s 69th-minute try sent The Sportsground into raptures, Connacht overturning an 11-point deficit to move into the lead with 10 minutes play.

However an absorbing contest had another twist as Frawley crossed for Leinster’s fourth try in the final minute.

It was a fittingly dramatic end to a brilliant URC contest, but Connacht will be desperately disappointed to have seen the result slip from their hands.

After an error-ridden first half, tries from Jason Jenkins and Rónan Kelleher looked to have put Leinster on track for a hard-earned away win but a brilliant closing quarter from Connacht saw the home side storm back into life with tries from Caolan Blade and Kilgallen.

Connacht will now look to pick themselves up heading into next weekend’s opening round of Champions Cup fixtures while Leinster prepare for a testing trip to play La Rochelle.

A lively Connacht crowd made themselves heard right from the off but in the opening stages it was Leinster who played most of the rugby. Leo Cullen’s side probed for the opening score but – as with last weekend’s performance in beating Munster – their play was ridden with errors.

With Robbie Henshaw the only Leinster player retained from the team which started against Munster, the province lacked cohesion and repeatedly fluffed their lines as they looked to land the first blow. 

mack-hansen Mack Hansen made his first appearance of the season for Connacht. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

In the opening 10 minutes they saw two lineouts lost, the second of which sparked Connacht into life. Attacking from their own half, Connacht did well to move the ball wide to Byron Ralston, who burst forward before finding Mack Hansen on his inside. Hansen, making his first appearance since returning from the World Cup, brought Connacht into the Leinster 22 before offloading to David Hawkshaw – an early replacement for the injured Tiernan O’Halloran – who crossed in the corner to finish a brilliant team move.

JJ Hanrahan’s conversion attempt fell short but Connacht had taken the initiative.

The next 30 minutes saw Leinster dominate the play, only to be frustrated by their own inaccuracy and some superb Connacht defensive work.

On 15 minutes Harry Byrne spilled the ball into the hands of Caolan Blade as Leinster moved the ball across the Connacht 22. Moments later they saw another lineout go astray, before a heavy collision between Charlie Ngatai and Cathal Forde saw the latter yellow-carded. Referee Chris Busby deemed head-to-head contact with a low level of danger, but the home crowd felt the decision was a harsh one.

On the pitch, the Connacht players dug in and kept Leinster scoreless while down to 14.

The visitors lost possession three times in quick succession when applying pressure on the Connacht tryline before being pinged at the scrum, allowing Hanrahan stick another three points on the scoreboard.

jacques-nienaber Leinster new senior coach Jacques Nienaber. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Tonight was Jacques Nienaber’s first game with Leinster since joining from the Springboks and the two-time World Cup winning coach must have been deeply frustrated with their inaccuracy.

Byrne saw another ball lost as his pass missed both Jason Jenkins and Michael Ala’alatoa. Minutes later Rónan Kelleher threw a short lineout to the front crooked, before Rob Russell dropped a ball on the sideline to kill another Leinster attack.

When Cullen’s team finally muscled their way into the contest, it came as a direct result of Connacht losing their discipline. Another scrum win in the Connacht 22 resulted in a scuffle started between Jack Aungier and Ed Byrne. The penalty was reversed and Leinster advanced, before Ngatai muscled through Hanrahan after receiving a tap-and-go penalty from Ben Murphy. Byrne added the extras to bring Leinster to within a point just before the interval. 

Having seen their setpiece struggle across the opening 40, Leinster introduced Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy five minutes into the second half, with Healy making his first appearance since suffering a calf injury which ruled him out of Ireland’s World Cup campaign. 

Soon Leinster began to iron the issues out of their game. Cormac Foley, only minutes on the pitch, made a clever dart from a penalty in the 22 which saw Peter Dooley binned for not retreating. Leinster immediately twisted the knife as Jason Jenkins went over from close range to mark his 28th birthday with a try. Byrne converted with 30 to play and Leinster led by six.

 

sean-jansen-and-ryan-baird Connacht’s Seán Jansen clashes with Ryan Baird of Leinster. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

In a flash, they moved further clear with their best move of the night, settling into a nice attacking shape before Ngatai’s smart grubber found Russell on the wing. The Leinster man couldn’t gather the ball but did enough to keep it in play with his feet before Kelleher pounced to score their third in the corner.

Byrne’s conversion was off target but it now looked a long way back from Connacht.

They briefly thought they had pulled one back when Paul Boyle charged over, but Hawkshaw’s pass to the backrower was clearly forward. 

Connacht continued to threaten and soon struck with another excellent attack, Boyle and Forde both doing well before Blade ran in their second. Hanrahan converted and the home side trailed by four with 15 to play. 

The Fields of Athenry rang around the ground as Connacht looked to build on their momentum.

Another huge moment came when Boyle ripped the ball back on halfway, before Connacht’s backline sparked into life. Moving the ball the width of the pitch from right to left, Hansen tore through a gap and played in Kilgallen, who dived over unchallenged. Hanrahan converted to put Connacht three up as the game entered the final 10 minutes.

Leinster still had time to save the result but continued to misfire in the redzone, with a malfunctioning clock adding to the tension as the stadium announcer intermittently informed the crowd and players of the remaining time over the PA.

In the final clutch moments, Connacht were coming out on top – Niall Murray stealing a Lee Barron throw on the Connacht 22 before the hosts took another win at the scrum to the disgust of Furlong.

Connacht were almost there, but then Frawley landed the devastating final blow. With Leinster playing smart and patient on the edge of the 22, the ball was spun wide where Frawley was on hand to step inside and silence the home support, Byrne sending his conversion attempt wide with the last play of an enthralling interpro clash.

Connacht scorers:

Tries – Hawkshaw, Blade, Kilgallen

Penalty – Hanrahan [1/1]

Conversions – Hanrahan [2/3]

Leinster scorers:

Tries – Ngatai, Jenkins, Kelleher, Frawley

Penalty –

Conversions – H Byrne [2/4] 

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (David Hawkshaw, 7mins); Mack Hansen, Byron Ralston, Cathal Forde, Diarmuid Kilgallen; JJ Hanrahan, Caolin Blade (captain); Peter Dooley (Denis Buckley, 62), Dave Heffernan (Dylan Tierney-Martin, 64), Jack Aungier (Finlay Bealham, 53); Darragh Murray, Oisin Dowling (Niall Murray, 18-25, 30); Cian Prendergast, Shamus Hurley-Langton (Conor Oliver, 54), Seán Jansen (Paul Boyle, 56).

Yellow card: Forde 17, Dooley 51 

Leinster: Ciarán Frawley; Rob Russell, Robbie Henshaw, Charlie Ngatai, Jamie Osborne (Liam Turner, 60); Harry Byrne, Ben Murphy (Cormac Foley, 49); Ed Byrne (Cian Healy, 45), Rónan Kelleher (Lee Barron, 64), Michael Ala’alatoa (Tadhg Furlong, 45); Ryan Baird, Jason Jenkins; Max Deegan (Ross Molony, 49), Scott Penny (captain) (Will Connors, 76), James Culhane.

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

Attendance: 8,129

Written by Ciarán Kennedy and posted on the42.ie

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