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Connacht Rugby 10 (10) - (3) 16 Leinster Rugby
Sportsground, Galway
Friday, 29 February 2008, 19.30

Att: 3,851

The Sportsground in Galway was the setting for a wind and rain lashed match. Both sides had a lot to play for, Leinster knew that a win would help extend their lead at the top of the Magners League and Connacht had to pick up points to maintain a chance of reaching next year's Heineken Cup.

Connacht were playing with the wind at their backs in the first half and enjoyed a lot of territory. Andy Dunne was playing against his former province and had a couple of opportunities to put points on the board but to Leinster's relief missed two kickable penalties. Eventually Connacht made the wind pay and Dunne struck his third effort over after ten minutes.

The wind was playing a huge part and when Leinster were awarded a penalty immediately in front of the posts it seemed that a routine kick was in order for Felipe Contepomi. However as well as requiring the assistance of Chris Whitaker to steady the ball, Contepomi's kick went through the posts only to be blown straight back out. There was some confusion until the referee awarded three points and ordered a restart.

It seemed as if Connacht were going to go into the break on level terms having not taken their use of the wind advantage. However in injury time they struck with Keith Matthews crossing after a well worked Connacht set piece. Dunne converted to give Connacht a 7 point half time lead. Despite their lead, Connacht knew that a 7 point lead would be a flimsy one playing into the wind in the second half.

On 47 minutes Contepomi closed the gap with a more orthodox penalty. Shortly afterwards came a decisive moment. Shane Horgan had been introduced at half time having had to make do with a place on the bench and he burst down the wing and swatted away tacklers to score in the corner. Contepomi added the two points in excellent fashion.

Leinster were looking to press home their advantage and on the hour mark Contepomi added another penalty to give Leinster a six point lead. However it was Connacht who rallied and despite playing into the wind, camped themselves on Leinster's line. Desperate defending from the Leinster players was required and when Cian Healy was sinbinned it looked as if it would hand the advantage to Connacht. But Leinster held out and secured a vital four points in the hunt for the Magners League crown. Connacht would have to make do with a solitary bonus point, the very least that they deserved.

Match Statistics
  Connacht Rugby   Leinster Rugby
Tries Matthews   Horgan
Conversions Dunne   Contepomi
Penalties Dunne   Contepomi (3)
Sin Bin     Healy
Teams Gavin Duffy 15 Luke Fitzgerald
Keith Matthews 14 Felix Jones
Matt Mostyn
13 Christian Warner
Mel Deane 12 Michael Berne
Aidan Wynne
11 Gary Brown
Andy Dunne
10 Felipe Contepomi
Conor O'Loughlin
9 Chris Whitaker (C)
Brett Wilkinson 1 Ollie Le Roux
Adrian Flavin 2 Brian Blaney
Robbie Morris 3 Stan Wright
Michael Swift 4 Trevor Hogan
Andrew Farley (C) 5 Malcolm O'Kelly
John Muldoon 6 Shane Jennings
Johnny O'Connor 7 Keith Gleeson
Colm Rigney 8 Stephen Keogh
Replacements Joe Merrigan 16 Cian Healy (for Le Roux, 63, Le Roux for Keogh, 79)
Ronan Loughney (for Morris, 68) 17 Stephen Knoop
Dave Gannon (for Swift, 40) 18 Cameron Jowitt (for Hogan, 71)
Ray Ofisa (for Rigney, 51) 19 Kevin McLaughlin
Conor McPhilips (for O'Loughlin, 59) 20 Chris Keane
Tim Donnelly (for Dunne, 68) 21 Eoin O'Malley
Liam Bibo 22 Shane Horgan (for Felix Jones, half-time)
Not Considered
due to Injury
John Hearty
Mike McCarthy
Danny Riordan
Ofisa Treviranus
Darren Yapp
  Jonny Sexton
Fergus McFadden
Gordon D'Arcy
Officials Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
Sub Referee: D Wilkinson (IRFU)
Touch Judge: M Black (IRFU)
TMO: Dave McHugh (IRFU)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2008-03-03