Leinster hold off Connacht

Date published: October 29 2016

Leinster moved to the top of the PRO12 table following a comfortable 24-13 victory over Connacht at the RDS Arena.

Pat Lam's defending PRO12 champions enjoyed a positive start and went 6-0 in front via a pair of Craig Ronaldson three-pointers. However, the hosts gradually grew into the game and were leading by the break following three Isa Nacewa penalties. 

Connacht continued with their inimitable style in the second half but the home side were by far the more clinical. Adam Byrne's try and another Nacewa effort of the tee effectively secured the win before Barry Daly made the result safe. 

Shane Delahunt crossed the whitewash late on but it had no impact on the final outcome as Leinster went away with a deserved win. The Galway-based outfit endured a difficult start to the campaign but have found their form over recent weeks. Against a side without several of their Ireland stars, Lam's men would have fancied their chances of overturning the three-time European champions. 

They started with the confidence of a team who had won their last four matches as the visitors took a 6-0 lead through the boot of Ronaldson. Connacht created other opportunities but the hosts' defence remained stout, while their pack began to get on top. 

With Dan Leavy and Cian Healy to the fore, Leinster controlled the scrum and breakdown battle despite a sin-binning for Sean O'Brien briefly setting them back and Nacewa profited as a result. 

The wing soon levelled matters with a couple off the tee before Peter Robb was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on. Nacewa kicked the subsequent penalty as the back three player took Leo Cullen's team in front for the first time in the encounter. That gave the Dubliners a 9-6 buffer at the interval, an advantage they built upon in the early stages of the second period via the opening try of the evening. 

Although it was a scrappy end to the score, with Byrne picking up a loose ball and strolling across the whitewash unopposed, the move started in their own half. The wing initiated the attack and combined with Jack Conan, who made the decisive break and kicked ahead. Despite Connacht collecting the bouncing ball, the hosts were awarded an attacking scrum and Byrne was on hand to touch down out wide. Nacewa missed the conversion but made amends nine minutes later to extend Leinster's buffer to 11 points. Daly and Delahunt then traded scores in the final five minutes as the Dublin club moved to the PRO12 summit.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Byrne, Daly
Con: Nacewa
Pens: Nacewa 4

For Connacht:
Try: Delahunt
Con: Carty
Pens: Ronaldson 2

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa (c), 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O'Loughlin, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Barry Daly, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Dan Leavy, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Rob Kearney

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Peter Robb, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Cian Kelleher, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 JP Cooney
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 James Cannon, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Bundee Aki, 23 Stacey Ili 

Date: Saturday, October 29 
Venue: RDS Arena
Time: 17:15 local (16:15 GMT) 
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland) 
Assistant Referees: Andy Brace, Jonathan Peak (both Ireland) 
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)