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Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball
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Connacht had their work cut out for them as they headed to the RDS in Dublin to take on Leinster in the second interpro of 2021 on Saturday.

Andy Friend's men came into the match knowing that they have never won in the RDS against the boys in blue, and that Leo Cullen's men have remained unbeaten since their loss to Saracens in the Champions Cup in 2020.

Leinster were well rested after the festive break, as their scheduled St Stephen's Day derby with Munster was postponed due to two positive COVID-19 cases within the Leinster squad.

Connacht started off well, pinning the defending champions deep inside their half for the opening 10 minutes of the game.

Leinster weathered the early pressure, however a poor pass in the centre of the field from Ross Molony was read brilliantly by Jack Carty, who intercepted to run in untouched for the opening try of the game for the visitors.

He converted his own try to get out to a seven-point lead over the defending champions.

Carty added to his total in the match with a second try in the 23rd mintue, finishing off a breakaway from Caolin Blade, and crashing over the line. He missed his second kick of the match, leaving the score at 12-0 in favour of the visitors.

The hosts struck right back, as Scott Penny exploited a massive gap in the Connacht defence to go in untouched. Luke McGrath closed the gap to within five points.

The early purple patch for Connacht began to wain, as Cullen's men strung together a number of slick passes, getting over the gainline on attack.

Despite Leinster beginning to fight their way back into the match, Carty kept the scoreboard ticking over for Connacht through his boot.

Alex Wootton added to the hosts' woes in the final minute ahead of half time, capitalising on an overlap out wide to score in the corner. Cart brought the visitors out to 20 points ahead at half time..

Second half proves too much for Leinster

The hosts were the first to get on the scoreboard in the second half, with a try similar to their first in that it came out of the blue.

McGrath spotted a half gap, which he exploited to run in under the posts. Jimmy O'Brien converted to reduce the deficit to 13 just five minutes into the game.

Carty brought Connacht back to 16 points ahead a few minutes later, though, as Leinster looked to claw their way back into the game and maintain their unrivalled 26-game PRO14 unbeaten run.

The hosts began doing just that with just under an hour played, as they scored their second third try of the game in the corner..

A breakaway from Sean Cronin, paired with a great offload from the hooker, allowed Ryan Baird to bring the hosts back to within 11 points, with O'Brien missing the sideline kick.

The defending champions showed just why they have been unbeaten for so long after a set move allowed David Hawkshaw to cross over the line at the end of some slick hands.

He was ultimately denied his try by the Television Match Official (TMO), as Leinster were ruled to have obstructed the tackler, on the way to the try.

With 15 minutes left in the match, Connacht held on to their 11-point lead, putting pressure on Leinster and pinning them inside their own 22m.

The visitors secured their bonus point in the 72nd with a second intercept from around the halfway mark, as Tom Daly collected the ball and brushed off two defenders to score under the posts.

Carty added the extras, taking Connacht to an almost unassailable 18-point lead with just eight minutes remaining.

With the clock and scoreboard against them, Leinster looked to up the tempo in an attempt to at least come away with a losing bonus point or two.

Cullen's men would only get the try bonus, as Ed Byrne eventually battled over the line, and with the help of the TMO, was awarded a try as the clock went red.

Hawkshaw converted the try, but Connacht secured their first victory in Dublin since 2002, when they won in Donnybrook, and their first ever victory inside the RDS with a 35-24 victory over the defending champions.

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Alex Wootton Andy Friend Caolin Blade Connacht Guinness Pro 14 Jack Carty Jimmy O'Brien Johnny Sexton Leinster Leo Cullen Munster Pro14 Ulster

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