D’Arcy brace puts gloss on Lions’ win

IT DIDN’T say much for the quality of the game that Christian Warner, Leinster’s goal kicker, won the man of the match award at the RDS in Dublin last night.

It was a poor match, enlivened only by two late tries of superb quality from Leinster, who struggled for most of this Magners League encounter against gritty Connacht.

The game attracted close to 17,000 spectators, a good warm up before next week’s Heineken Cup clash with Leicester Tigers, but the home side will need to spend days perfecting their set pieces. The only time they really threatened Connacht, and that was seldom, was from broken play. The two all-important tries came from such counter offences.

Still, Leinster coach Michael Cheika was happy with the win.

In a sense, it was just what Cheika’s players needed, although the coach could have done without an injury scare to skipper Brian O’Driscoll, who limped off towards the end of the game after taking a knock to the knee much earlier.

Cheika paid tribute to Michael Bradley’s Connacht, whom he admitted had put it up to Leinster. “It was a good competitive game. We were just happy to get the breaks towards the end, although by that stage, I felt, we had done enough to deserve winning the game,” he said.

After a lively start, the first scoring chance of the game fell to Tim Donnelly but his 40-metre penalty went narrowly wide. He atoned after eight minutes when he kicked successfully from a second attempt.

Leinster might have come back into it; indeed they did — only to be denied a try when Gordon D’Arcy’s charge over the line was not deemed worthy of a try. Referee Peter Fitzgibbon went to the video and the decision was to award Leinster a scrum instead of the try. Leinster had to be happy with a penalty from Christian Warner after 17 minutes.

Connacht battled back after that dubious period. Donnelly narrowly missed a 22nd-minute penalty but kicked his side into the lead again after 25 minutes. It was all to play for, even after Warner kept Leinster ticking over with his second penalty a couple of minutes later.

Donnelly, though, hammered home another message that Connacht were up for the task when he secured another three pointer — this time a speculative drop goal attempt.

Leinster, without ever being seriously worried in this first half game of cat and mouse, looked off the pace in terms of preparation for the Heineken Cup, making handling mistakes we have come to expect recently from Irish teams.

Connacht deservedly led 9-6 at half time, with big first-half performances, particularly the flanker Michael McCarthy and out half Donnelly.

Warner put Leinster back on level terms in the 48th minute but despite some threatening back-line moves, they really didn’t look like breaking Connacht open.

Connacht were unlucky not to have gone in front again when Donnelly missed a penalty and they paid the price when Warner knocked over a kick from the ‘22 after 17 minutes of the second half to give Leinster the lead for the first time. Warner enhanced that six minutes later with another penalty and Leinster looked destined to win this game.

They finished with a flourish, a sensational try from Gordon D’Arcy after he was sent in by Jamie Heaslip following great work by Luke Fitzgerald who launched the initial counter-attack. Warner converted and Leinster led 22-9.

It got worse for Connacht when D’Arcy scorched through for his second try near the end, and Warner again converted. The final score was rough justice on Connacht and, Leinster’s Heineken Cup opponents Tigers will hardly be shivering in advance of this week’s clash.

LEINSTER: G. Dempsey, S. Horgan, B. O’Driscoll (captain), G. D’Arcy, L. Fitzgerald, C. Warner, C. Whitaker, O. Le Roux, B. Jackman, S. Wright, L. Cullen, M. O’Kelly, S. Keogh, J. Heaslip, K. Gleeson. Replacements. S. Jennings for Gleeson (60). B. Blaney for Jackman, J. Gomez for Wright (both 73), C. Jowitt for O’Kelly (75), R. Kearney for O’Driscoll (76), J. Sexton for D’Arcy, C. Willis for Whitaker (both 80).

CONNACHT: G. Duffy, O Treviranus, M. Deane, A. Wynne, K. Matthews, T. Donnelly, C. McPhillips, B. Wilkinson, J. Fogarty, R. Morris, D. Gannon, A. Farley (captain), M. McCarthy, J. Muldoon, J. O’Connor.

Replacements. D. Yapp for Wynne (40). A. Flavin for Fogarty, M. Swift for Gannon (both 49). R. Ofisa for McCarthy (60), C. O’Loughlin for McPhillips (63). Temporary: C. O’Loughlin for McPhillips, Yapp for Wynne.

Referee: P. Fitzgibbon (IRFU)

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