By Press Association
Leinster warmed up for next week’s Champions Cup match with a clinical 42-11 PRO14 derby win over Connacht at the Sportsground tonight.
Five tries in a terrific 27-minute spell had the defending champions 35-6 clear by half-time, with Andrew Porter and man-of-the-match Ronan Kelleher scoring two tries each and Ross Byrne, who finished with 17 points, also touching down.
Leinster had five of their Rugby World Cup players back – an ill Robbie Henshaw was withdrawn beforehand – while Jack Carty and Bundee Aki returned for Connacht. Carty and Darragh Leader kicked penalties for the hosts and Carty created Stephen Fitzgerald’s 48th-minute try.
As Connacht’s four-match winning run was halted, Leinster completed their impressive display of power, pace and precise finishing with James Lowe’s intercept try with 12 minutes remaining. Their sixth successive victory has them 10 points clear at the top of Conference A.
Carty’s third-minute penalty quickly got Connacht up and running, although the sight of tighthead Finlay Bealham hobbling off was an early blow. His opposite number Porter did brilliantly well to barge over for the opening try just a few minutes later.
All three members of the visitors’ front row were involved, Kelleher taking a clever line onto a Luke McGrath pass and Cian Healy carrying further. Porter picked from the close-in ruck, shrugged off Niyi Adeolokun’s tackle and took three defenders with him over the line. Fly-half Byrne converted from wide on the left.
Maintaining the territorial pressure, a penalty against the newly-introduced Aki saw Leinster go for the right corner and the subsequent maul drove Kelleher over in the 13th minute, with Byrne again converting.
Leader’s central penalty, following a late Will Connors tackle, closed the gap to 14-6, but it was all Leinster after that. Hooker Kelleher took his season’s haul to six tries with a muscular 21st-minute maul effort, aided by captain Scott Fardy’s timely support.
Porter plunged over for the bonus point score at the end of 10 attacking phases, and strong running from Joe Tomane and Hugo Keenan preceded Byrne’s slick try which saw him dummy his way to the whitewash, seven minutes before the interval.
Connacht reduced their errors and, armed with a penalty advantage, Fitzgerald cut in from his wing to gobble up Carty’s drilled cross-field kick and dive over, although the conversion went wide. In response, James Tracy’s try was ruled out for obstruction by Devin Toner.
Lowe was also denied by a similar infringement by Fardy, but the eager winger picked off a loose Dave Heffernan pass to dart clear from just outside the Leinster 22 and close out the scoring. Injuries also hampered Connacht on the night, and a Fardy lineout steal ruined the home side’s late push for a consolation score.