Leinster young guns step up to the plate

Leinster 17 Connacht 0
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt hailed his unsung heroes for keeping their RaboDirect Pro12 challenge afloat at a bitterly cold RDS on Saturday night.

Connacht’s bold bid to secure a first ever double league victory over the Heineken Cup champions failed in the face of a gritty display by Leinster’s youngsters.

“I thought the lineout was superb,” said Schmidt, “especially in the first half where we got drilled into our own territory.

“I guess it gave us an exit point time and time again, it was a real credit. Dev [Toner] ran the lineouts really well. Ben Marshall did a great job and obviously Aaron Dundon too. They got us through that first half effectively.”

Leinster lost skipper Shane Jennings to illness and struggled for the opening 30 minutes before a try from Ian Madigan settled them into a 7-0 lead against.

“It was a massive boost, especially because we had the young guns out tonight.

“Shane felt ill and didn’t make it through the warm-up but Dominic Ryan stepped in and delivered a smashing first up tackle that forced a turnover and he continued in that vein. It was also good for Adam Byrne, an 18-year-old kid, to get his first run and it showed he is a pretty elusive young fella.”

Leinster again struggled after the break though and were only able to push on only after a straightforward 56th minute penalty from Madigan.

Connacht’s failure to take advantage of a couple of promising moves summed up their evening and Leinster grabbed a second try seven minutes from the end through Jack McGrath, with Madigan’s conversion sealing the victory.

Another frustrating night for Connacht’s Eric Elwood, who acknowledged the failure to make first half possession pay cost his side.

“When you have that much possession and territory, when you’re in the ascendancy, you have to make it pay,” he said.

“We slipped off tackles for the last seven or eight minutes of that half although, to be fair to them, they controlled the breakdown area. That was the key, their work at the breakdown was very good.”

However, Elwood reckoned his side should have kicked for goal rather than for position in an effort to score a try at a stage when his side were ten points down.

“I’ve spoken to Dan Parks,” said Elwood, “it would have put us on score sheet, put ourselves into a bonus point situation. However, the lads were confident in what they were doing with the call, the strike play didn’t work but had it worked it would have been great.”

LEINSTER: A Conway (N Reid 42), F McFadden, B Macken (A Byrne 74), A Goodman, F Carr, I Madigan (J Cooney 78), I Boss, H van der Merwe (J McGrath 57), A Dundon (S Cronin 57), M Bent (M Ross 54), B Marshall, D Toner, R Ruddock, J Murphy, D Ryan (L Auvaa 71).

CONNACHT: R Henshaw, D Poolman, E Griffin (T O’Halloran 58), D McSharry, M Healy, D Parks, K Marmion (P O’Donohue 71), D Buckley (B Wilkinson 61), J Harris-Wright (E Reynecke 61), N White (captain, R Loughney 57), M Swift (M Kearney 64), G Naoupu, A Browne, E McKeon, J O’Connor (E Grace 60).

Referee: J Lacey (IRFU).

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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