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Connacht Rugby (9) 19 - 18 (9) Leinster Rugby
Sportsgrounds, Galway

Att: 8,619
Sunday 5th October 2008, 18:00

Leinster travelled to the Sportsgrounds to take on Connacht hoping to banish memories of the previous Sunday's defeat to Munster. Leinster haven't always had it all their own way in Galway, and the previous season's corresponding fixture was a tight affair settled in part from a second half try by Shane Horgan. That match had seen Leinster withstand serious pressure under severe weather conditions, but on this occasion the sun was out. A good omen? Perhaps, but for who?

With one eye firmly on the following weekends Heineken Cup match against Edinburgh the Leinster team saw several changes with Brian O'Driscoll, Chris Whitaker, Girvan Dempsey, Shane Jennings, Bernard Jackman, Malcolm O'Kelly and Jamie Heaslip all absent from the starting lineup. Connacht had to make a late change with Mel Deane replacing Keith Matthews. The Connacht lineup also featured Leinster old boys Fionn Carr and Ian Keatley who would be looking to make a big impression on their former province.

Leinster almost made a dream start with Luke Fitzgerald crossing the try line following a nice move, but van der Linde's pass to the centre was deemed to have gone forward. Contepomi had brought the shooting boots that were so sorely missing against Munster to Galway and he struck three first half penalties, at one point giving Leinster a 9 - 3 lead.

Indiscipline was creeping into the game and after a number of team warnings Mike McCarthy was sent rather softly to the sin bin for pulling down at a line out. It was a testament to Connacht that they outscored Leinster during this period with two penalties to one with Keatley striking the ball beautifully at times. The teams departed for half time locked at nine all.

Leinster emerged for the second half looking to press on but it was Connacht who struck first. McCarthy crossed over after good work from Johnny O'Connor and Frank Murphy, both thorns in Leinster's side all evening. Following the try an altercation ensued and Elsom was sin binned for a punch and McCarthy was given a second yellow for a head butt. The second yellow resulting in a red, and abruptly ending the try scorer's night. Following all the excitement Keatley struck the conversion to give Connacht the seven point lead.

Both sides struck a penalty while Elsom was in the bin and after Elsom was re-introduced Leinster were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. Declining the easy three points, Leinster opted for the scrum, and when the Connacht scrum crumbled and another penalty was awarded it seemed a try or penalty try was inevitable. Again taking the scrum Leinster put the pressure on, but the referee adjudged van der Linde to have not bound correctly and gave the penalty against Leinster. The relief in the Connacht camp was palpable and gave them renewed confidence.

Try as Leinster could they couldn't cross the Connacht try line. Rocky Elsom came the closest with a break into the Connacht half but a try saving tackle from Keatley denied him. Contepomi added two penalties to bring the score within one and in the dying minutes Sexton tried his luck with a drop goal that skewed wide in the last minute.

Connacht saw out time with a period of ball retention reminiscent of Munster's performance in the Millenium Stadium in May, and greeted the victory with jubilation. A fully deserved victory it was too, with Leinster having to take a long hard look at themselves. The opportunity to bounce back is usually welcomed, but this time it's against Edinburgh in Murrayfield. And we all know how that story usually ends. Don't we?
TMatch Statistics
  Connacht Rugby   Leinster Rugby
Teams Fionn Carr
15 Rob Kearney
Liam Bibo
14 Shane Horgan
Gavin Duffy
13 Luke Fitzgerald
Mel Deane
12 Felipe Contepomi
Mike Roberts
11 Simon Keogh
Ian Keatley
10 Jonathan Sexton
Frank Murphy
9 Chris Keane
Brett Wilkinson
1 Stanley Wright
Sean Cronin
2 John Fogarty
Ronan Loughney
3 CJ van der Linde
Mike McCarthy
4 Leo Cullen (C)
Andrew Farley
5 Devin Toner
John Muldoon (C)
6 Rocky Elsom
Johnny O'Connor
7 Sean O'Brien
Colm Rigney
8 Stephen Keogh
Replacements Conor Muldoon (for Cronin, 67)
16 Cian Healy (for Wright, 47)
Robbie Morris (for Loughney, 50)
17 Brian Blaney
Andrew Browne
18 Trevor Hogan (for Toner, 64)
Michael Swift (for Rigneyy, 63)
19 Cameron Jowitt (for O'Brien, 42)
Kieran Campbell
20 Chris Whitaker
Troy Nathan (for Keatley, 72)
21 Fergus McFadden
John Hearty (for Roberts, 67)
22 Gary Brown
Not Considered
due to Injury

  Gordon D'Arcy
Isa Nacewa

by Sarah Lennon, © 2008-10-09