Sunday 19 November 2017

Des Berry: True Blue grit wins out

Leinster move to second at Connacht's expense in a rain-drenched rumble

Leinster’s Garry Ringrose makes a break during the Guinness PRO12 clash with Connacht at the RDS Photo:Sportsfile
Leinster’s Garry Ringrose makes a break during the Guinness PRO12 clash with Connacht at the RDS Photo:Sportsfile
Leinster’s Ian Madigan, left, shakes hands with Jonathan Sexton as he replaces him on the pitch during the Guinness PRO12 clash with Connacht at the RDS, Dublin Photo:Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen Photo:Sportsfile

Leo Cullen made no bones about where Leinster's focus lies as they leapfrogged Connacht into second place in the PRO12.

With Europe nothing more than a stinging memory, the League is where it's at for the next five months.

"All our attention is trying to do a much as we can out of every single League game that we play. At the moment, all we're thinking about is Ospreys," he said, in advance of going to The Liberty Stadium next week.

These were four points ground out of hard-nosed rugby.

Leinster meant business and the first indication came from Mike McCarthy's shoulder for the cost of a penalty.

Then, the lock blasted out of the blocks to hammer out a real bone-tingling tackle, legally this time to set the tone physically.

Kieran Marmion's lack of patience offered Leinster a penalty which came to nothing.

Richardt Strauss poached another off the floor. The lineout-into-maul didn't work the first time. Or the second.

The pressure was non-stop. The conditions demanded one-out or one-back-inside options. That was fine by Connacht.

It took the deception of Eoin Reddan to get in behind, referee George Clancy eventually bringing Jonathan Sexton back for the first three points in the 14th minute.

Niyi Adeolokun was driven into touch by Dave Kearney. Garry Ringrose threatened trough trickery. Craig Ronaldson bravely cleaned up Reddan's loose ball as the conditions deteriorated.

Nathan White's swinging arm on McCarthy drew a penalty which Sexton launched inside the 22.

There, Eoghan Masterson was given the benefit of serious doubt when awarded a penalty without any clear release on Strauss.

The turnovers were beginning to rise rapidly, Sexton taking a shot from Kieran Marmion as bodies flew to the ball.

Reddan was twice good for gains before Masterson stepped in to steal an unattended ball to the rear of a ruck.

When Connacht did find precious territory, Jordi Murphy took it away from them at the front of a lineout.

They were given a second chance when McCarthy pulled down a new born maul. Again, the lineout faltered as Strauss latched onto an overthrow.

Then, Connacht came closest to a breakthrough when Adeolokun's lightening speed caused Dave Kearney to bundle him into touch in the 36th minute.

When Jack Carty took liberties, he was smashed by McCarthy before the half fizzled out.

When Craig Ronaldson's technique deserted him, Strauss was there to claim a penalty. Josh van der Flier had to collar Marmion on the touchline.

Carty was unlucky to overcook a clever kick. Reddan put three balls to the skies and got a mixed return from them and another along the floor.

The silky skills of Ringrose cracked Connacht wide open only for ball security to become an issue.

Tiernan O'Halloran had to rescue Connacht from ping-pong kicks from Rob Kearney and Sexton.

Leinster were able to get around the outside for Dave Kearney to shoot into space. The recycles came hot and heavy footed.

Eventually, Van der Flier was given the benefit of the doubt in his grounding by referee George Clancy for Sexton's conversion to make it 10-0 on the hour.

The Westerners had to strike back quickly. Bundee Aki made a burst. Marmion knocked on.

Sean O'Brien triggered a counter for the Kearney brothers. O'Halloran was well-positioned again to snuff out the danger.

Rob Kearney got away with a fumble close to home, Van der Flier was in to claim a turnover penalty and Ian Madigan shot Leinster 13 clear in three signs of how it would not be Connacht's night.

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