“There were really good decisions by Connacht and, when they made those, they absolutely ripped Leinster apart.”
There was a visceral moment, for those at the Sportsground backing the hosts, when Mack Hansen and Diarmuid Kilgallen teamed up to cut the Leinster defence to shreds. Connacht had come from 11 points behind to lead by three, with 10 minutes to go.
The last time the Westerners defeated Leinster on their home patch had been the 2017/18 season, but momentum and the scoreboard were on their side. All they needed to do was play smart, play territory and see out the clock. Some may have been hoping for more – an extra try that would secure s bonus point and, in the process, deny Leinster a losing one.
With three minutes to go, Pete Wilkins’ side had a scrum put-in on the Leinster 10-metre line. Caolin Blade will still be cursing the moment today, 48 hours on, as he was caught dawdling over the ball and pounced upon. Conor Oliver tried to come to the rescue but was pinged for offside as he was in front of Blade when he slid in to retrieve the ball.
Leinster kicked for touch, set up for an attacking lineout and, three minutes of sustained pressure later, were celebrating a match-winning try from Ciarán Frawley. As gut-punches go, this will have winded Connacht. They cannot wallow for too long as Bordeaux are coming to Galway for a Friday night Champions Cup crack.
On the latest House of Rugby, Leinster and Ireland legend Lindsay Peat spoke well about what was a gutting loss for the Westerners, and made a big call for Leinster’s Champions Cup clash, on Sunday, with La Rochelle.Leinster players Ciarán Frawley, left, and Jamie Osborne celebrate after their side’s win over Connacht. (Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile)
Connacht left to rue costly end-game
Connacht were only blown out by the Bulls in their seven URC games, thus far, this season. They ran Edinburgh and Leinster close and, with a bit of luck and/or composure, could be going into the league break with a 6-1 record.
As it stands, they are 4-3 and in seventh place in the league standings. To Lindsay Peat, they would have been deserving winners against their inter-provincial foes. She said:
“There were really good decisions by Connacht and, when they made those, they absolutely ripped Leinster apart. It just, again, comes back to game management… Caolin Blade had it. What was he doing, shining the ball?! Get the ball out; get it to your backline.”
“I’m a huge Leinster fan,” she added, “and was delighted they won, but we robbed it. Absolutely robbed Connacht blind. Connacht did deserve to win. Some of their rugby was exceptional. Mack Hansen was only back but was unbelievable… I like him at 15. He’s an ex-10 so he’s obviously a smart player, but he just oozes this ‘I don’t give a shite’ mentality.
“You’d forgive people for thinking that this lad loves himself but we’ve met him [on this show] and talked to him before. He’s just a really down to earth guy that takes it all in his stride.”
While Connacht have Bordeaux to prepare for, in the Champions Cup, Leinster travel to Stade Marcel-Deflandre to take on their European bogey side, La Rochelle.
With Ross Byrne likely to miss out on the match, coaches Jacques Nienaber and Leo Cullen must decide between Ciarán Frawley, Harry Byrne and Sam Prendergast for the starting outhalf role. Peat believes Frawley should start against Ronan O’Gara’s men.
“I’d go with Frawley,” she said. “Think about it – he brings on the gainline, he’s very physical, runs straight lines and knows his stuff, inside out. If Leinster start with Harry Byrne, La Rochelle are going to target him.”
PAT MCCARRY & LINDSAY PEAT ON HOUSE OF RUGBY
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