Connacht lose to Leinster – Should have won but not even a BP

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Score lines can be deceiving. They can give you a false sense of how a game went if you didn’t watch it. Last night at the Sportsgrounds was a prime example. Connacht hosted Leinster on a miserable Friday night in Galway. Leinster came out on top on a score line of 10-0.

If you didn’t watch the game, you would think it was a comfortable win for Leinster and that Connacht didn’t create much and must have played poorly to not even score. That isn’t the case however, Connacht played quite well for major parts of that game.

When Leinster scored their only try of the game after 2 minutes, we all feared the worst. Most Connacht fans at that stage feared a fifty-point drubbing potentially on the cards and where Connacht teams of the past few seasons would have crumbed and conceded another try in quick succession, this team now seems to have more resolve.

This resolve seems to start in the Connacht pack. Niall Murray had a monster game in the second row. What a player he is blossoming into. Connacht must be delighted that when other provinces can afford to buy in experienced physical locks, they seemed to have unearthed one from their academy. Josh Murphy has continued to impress and was involved in so much work on that pitch, surely spurred on by facing his old team he was a constant pest to Leo Cullen’s men.

I said during the week that if Connacht’s scrum and Line-out could live with Leinster’s then it would be a real positive sign for the rest of the season. Connacht’s set piece did more than just live with it, it challenged it. Bar the opening try which was more Van Der Flier’s brilliance than shoddy mauling, Connacht’s scrum and maul was great all game. Murray, Thornbury and Dowling all contested well and made themselves a nuisance. This should be a great sign for the remainder of the season. Connacht can now look to dominate smaller packs and score plenty more tries from the attacking platforms that a good set piece can provide.

Connacht did not struggle to get into Leinster territory at all which makes the zero points even more bizarre. It was when they got into Leinster’s 22 that it all seemed to fall apart. Whether it was an individual error or a turnover by Leinster and their incredible line speed, it just didn’t click for Connacht in the scoring zone.

Three chances for a kick at goal were turned down by Connacht in the first half. You could argue all three had the potential to be kicked but realistically only one had a very good chance of going over. I am always torn about what the best strategy is for these decisions. Part of me loves the aggressive call to go for the corner, especially when your line out is firing on all cylinders. However, turning down any points, likely or not, seems a bad call, especially against a team as good as Leinster.

A few more opportunities presented themselves in the second half to kick for goal but at that stage Connacht were behind the eight ball and they had to go for it. Will they look back and regret those calls? Perhaps.

The stats will show 26 missed tackles for Connacht which is not good. A lot of those however where after a poor kick chase from Connacht led to a few missed tackles but ultimately didn’t lead to anything horrific. Very few of those missed tackles were up the middle which is a great sign. A shout-out must go to John Porch who was phenomenal all game and made two or three textbook tackles which stopped any potential breakthrough out wide.

While the main theme of last night is disappointment, there is still a lot of positives to take from that game. On another night where Connacht were clinical, that score line could have looked a lot different. They must now look to the next two weeks. Two wins from the next two games is very possible and if Connacht are to get themselves in the conversation for the Champions Cup qualification, they need to get on a good run. I think the next few weeks will be successful ones for Connacht.

Connacht

Conor Fitzgerald (rep: Tom Daly ’65); John Porch, Byron Ralston, David Hawkshaw, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty, Colm Reilly (rep: Caolin Blade ‘50); Peter Dooley (rep: Denis Buckley ‘45), Dave Heffernan (rep: Grant Stewart ’60), Finlay Bealham (rep: Jack Aungier ‘60); Niall Murray (yellow card 74)Gavin Thornbury (rep: Oisin Dowling ’55); Josh Murphy (rep: Conor Oliver ’21-33), Shamus Hurley-Langton (rep: Conor Oliver ’55), Paul Boyle (rep: Ciaran Booth ’66)

Leinster

Jimmy O’Brien; Liam Turner, Garry Ringrose, Charlie Ngatai (Rob Henshaw ’46), Rob Russell (rep; Ciaran Frawley ’73) Ross Byrne, Cormac Foley (rep: Nick McCarthy ‘55); Ed Byrne (rep: Andrew Porter ‘45), Dan Sheehan (rep: John McKee ‘80), Tadhg Furlong (rep: Michael Ala’alatoa ‘41); Ross Molony, James Ryan (rep: Joe McCarthy ’63); Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan (rep: Martin Moloney ’34)

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

ENDS

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