Leinster battle past Connacht
January 1, 2011
Centre Fergus McFadden grabbed one of Leinster's three second half tries
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Leinster closed in on the Magners League summit with a 30-8 victory over Irish rivals Connacht at the RDS.
Dave Kearney's first try of the season established an 8-3 half-time lead for the hosts, who overcame a poor start during which flanker Sean O'Brien was forced off with an injury. But they were clinical after the break and second-half touchdowns from Kearney, Fergus McFadden and Niall Morris powered them to a victory which sees them keep the pressure on leaders Munster. Connacht got precious little reward for a committed display, with Ian Keatley kicking a first-half penalty and Eoin Griffin collecting a late consolation try.
Keatley kicked Connacht into a second minute lead, slamming a 49-metre penalty through the posts after Nathan Hines was seen going off his feet at a ruck. Pinned back in their own half for most of the opening quarter, Leinster's early errors came as a result of intense pressure from the visitors.
Brett Wilkinson came close to breaching the try-line, following a clever move involving Keatley and Keith Matthews. But Leinster defended well and dotted down from their first serious attack. Isa Nacewa missed a penalty from close to the 10-metre line and, from the restart, lovely hands from Hines, Shaun Berne and McFadden opened an avenue on the left for Kearney to blaze over in the corner.
Nacewa's missed conversion was followed by his first successful penalty, with Conway springing through a midfield gap in the build-up to it. There was plenty of endeavour from both sides as the first half motored along, and Keatley missed a late chance to close the gap, drawing a 39-metre penalty to the right and wide just prior to the interval.
Leinster opened the second half in purposeful fashion, a close-range penalty from Nacewa extending their lead to 11-3. Connacht failed to turn a promising maul into a scoring chance and Leinster responded in decisive fashion, countering from deep with flair before Richardt Strauss' pass out of a tackle put Kearney over in the left corner.
Nacewa added the difficult conversion for a 15-point advantage and Joe Schmidt's men were out of sight after McFadden plunged over on the right after replacement Morris had been held up short.
With eight minutes remaining, Morris gathered McFadden's chip over the top and evaded Frank Murphy's attempted tackle to chalk up the bonus point. Connacht had the final say as Dermot Murphy, Andrew Browne and Dylan Rogers strung together the passes for Griffin to nip in at the corner.
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