COMMENT: Garry Ringrose and Josh van der Flier screaming out for Six Nations debuts
It was an atrocious evening in Dublin but the young Leinster players illuminated a hard-fought slog.
The Blues leapfrogged Connacht into second place in the Guinness PRO12 with a 13-0 win over the westerners.
Leinster deserved their victory but were fortunate to have a try awarded to them via the video replay.
35-year-old Eoin Reddan won the sponsor's man-of-the-match accolade but the form of two of Leinster's younger charges, and a Sean O'Brien cameo off the bench, will have heartened their fans. 2015 was decidedly bleak but, one day into the new year, the future looks brighter.
Not for the first time this season, Garry Ringrose was the stand-out back. Josh van der Flier grabbed the contentious try but there was so very much more to his game than the five-pointer.
Both players will attend Ireland's first Six Nations 2016 meeting on Sunday as Joe Schmidt has clearly been watching their rapid progress.
Ringrose beats opponents for fun. In inclement weather, the ball was slick to the touch but Ringrose was even harder to grasp.
The Ireland U20 made two clean breaks in the match, both of which fast-forwarded his team into the opposition 22.
All told, Ringrose made 59 metres on just seven carries, only one of which failed to get over the gainline. He beat six defenders on his runs, got his team on the front-foot and linked up well with his teammates.
— Newstalk Sport (@NewstalkSport) January 1, 2016
Van der Flier was EVERYWHERE.
The 22-year-old only made his Leinster debut 14 months ago but he has been a fixture of their back row all season.
Having held the fort during the World Cup, he showed coach Leo Cullen the he should be starting once the likes of Jordi Murphy and Sean O'Brien returned. A try off the bench in the Champions Cup loss to Bath emphasised the point.
Against Connacht, van der Flier landed 18 tackles. To put that in perspective, it was double that of his closest Leinster teammate [Devin Toner] and six more than Connacht's best tackler, Eoghan Masterson.
He was effective at the breakdown, in defence, but did concede two turnovers. Both Cullen and Schmidt will have noted that chink in the armour.
As for O'Brien, he came off the bench for the final 20 minutes and begged for carries. He drew two and three white shirts with every charge and gave breathing room to those around him.
The Six Nations is on the horizon and three-in-a-row talk may not now draw derision. Neither should talk of either, or both, Ringrose or van der Flier starting against Wales on February 7.
There is reason to hope again.