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Leinster sink champions Connacht to earn derby bragging rights

Leinster reversed last season's Guinness PRO12 final result with an impressive 24-13 derby win over Connacht at the RDS.

A crowd of 18,200 watched Ireland Sevens internationals Adam Byrne and Barry Daly run in second-half tries, with captain Isa Nacewa kicking 14 points.

A fiercely-contested first half ended 9-6 in Leinster's favour, Nacewa's three penalties cancelling out an early brace from Connacht centre Craig Ronaldson.

Pat Lam's reigning champions were craving a victory in Dublin - Connacht's last one coming 14 years ago - but they had no answer to Leinster's scrum dominance and the destructive breakdown work of man-of-the-match Dan Leavy and the returning Sean O'Brien.

Those scores from UCD wingers Byrne (49 minutes) and Daly (75) had Leinster out of sight before Connacht's replacement hooker Shane Delahunt took a great line to score a last-minute consolation try.

Ronaldson pushed a ruck offence by Cian Healy for the opening points in the fourth minute, Connacht getting their offload game going with Tiernan O'Halloran and Jack Carty both sniping and finding space.

Leinster were on the defensive for most of the first quarter, leaking a second penalty goal from Ronaldson, but a Leavy-won penalty at the breakdown broke up Connacht's attacking rhythm. Healy then got the plaudits for a 23rd-minute scrum penalty which Nacewa turned into three points.

Despite losing O'Brien to the sin-bin (the fit-again Ireland flanker saw yellow for meeting Robb's head with his shoulder at a ruck), the hosts were exerting more control at the breakdown and Nacewa duly levelled matters in the 32nd minute.

Robb was then binned for a deliberate knock-on which prevented a Leinster line-break, briefly evening up the numbers on the pitch and allowing Nacewa to boot the hosts in front.

Having survived a late bout of Connacht pressure before the interval, Leinster were much the better side in the third quarter, their aggressive defence and superior scrum becoming key factors with number eight Jack Conan also making a smashing break.

Off set piece ball in the westerners' 22, the hosts managed to suck in the Connacht defence and passes from Jamison Gibson-Park and Sean Cronin led to Byrne scooping up a bouncing ball to touch down in the right corner.

Full-back O'Halloran, arguably Connacht's best player on the night, won a vital ruck penalty as Leinster pressed for another score. But an O'Brien turnover led to Nacewa's fourth penalty success on the hour mark.

Leinster's scrum was on the cusp of winning a penalty try before Daly marked his first PRO12 start with a try, going over wide on the left from a flat Joey Carbery pass. After Nacewa's conversion, Connacht broke downfield and their efforts were eventually rewarded with Delahunt's seven-pointer by the posts.


From Belfast Telegraph