Connacht 22; Leinster 24
This was a cracking “derby” game and Leinster left it to the death before sneaking in front to go top of the BKT URC table at the weekend.
And it was Johnny Sexton’s heir apparent, Ciarán Frawley, though playing at full-back, who provided the late victory score to shock and silence a massive home crowd in Galway who were full of expectation as they took a three-point lead into overtime.
Leinster Head Coach Leo Cullen put it succinctly after the heart-stopping affair when he declared that the contest had been a “bit too exciting” for comfort.
His side are getting used to pulling rabbits out of a hat at the last minute as they also hit Munster with this trick the previous week when winning in Dublin. This time around at the Sportsgrounds, it took Frawley’s moment of magic to decide a tense and exciting issue.
It was all the harder to take because Connacht had shown their worth by coming back from 11 points down to forge ahead going down the final straight.
Said Cullen: “Two provincial teams providing great entertainment. It was a bit too exciting. At 78 minutes I’m thinking, what am I going to say to the media if we’d lost the game? But we've won the game, it’s a credit to the players but wind the clock back and you go whoa, lads come on!”
That winning score not only won the game but provided the province with a bonus point as earlier Charles Ngatai, Jason Jenkins and Ronán Kelleher had touched down for the visitors.
On the last try, the Head Coach remarked: “It’s a great team try at the end which was very pleasing but there’s lots of parts to the performance you look back at and go, we’ve plenty to work on.”
His opposite number in the Connacht dug out, Pete Wilkins, was exasperated afterwards having seen defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
“You get what you deserve,” was the verdict of Connacht supremo. “I think rugby is a game like that where there's that many small moments and blocks in the game that you if you get enough of them you come out on the right side of it.
“But you know what, I thought we deserved it this evening, and I thought just the way we responded to Leinster's positive periods of momentum, the way we responded to the yellow cards, the way we responded to the scoreboard when we went behind on that.
"I felt like we had done enough and I think the biggest frustration is that we bounced back so well from those challenging moments within the game, not to get one final go of bouncing back, and that's obviously the nature of the game but that's something we'll have to process. But I'm incredibly proud,” he stressed.
His side led at the interval due to David Hawkshaw’s try and a penalty from JJ Hanrahan. On the changeover, they cut loose with tries from Jason Jenkins and Ronán Kelleher looked to be enough.
However Caolin Blade and Diarmuid Kilgallen got in for two excellent tries for Leinster before Frawley got in for the deciding score.
Munster build on ‘momentum’
Munster Head Coach Graham Rowntree was delighted with some of his side’s play as they emerged victorious by 40-29 against Glasgow Warriors at Musgrave Park at the weekend.
The BTK United Rugby holders started like a bullet train with three tries in the opening quarter of an hour. They would go on to add another three tries in the final 65 minutes but in that period they were badly exposed several times by the visitor’s lineout maul which banked five tries for the Scots.
Said Rowntree: “We were really sharp in attack. Discipline, we'll look at how we're giving them mauls at our own tryline and we have to be better there. I said to the lads, we have some work to do as a forward pack, otherwise we'll be defending mauls all season. We've got some work to do there, but it stems back to our discipline around the middle of the field.
“Beautiful, beautiful, we got our game going. We had momentum last week, even though the scoreline didn't reflect it, we had momentum in our attack and took it through to this week. It's what we asked and spoke about all week. It's tainted for me, with those maul tries. They've got good plays off the maul, which holds eyes, holds defenders and they stack backs behind the maul so you have guys hanging off the maul looking at them rather than looking in here [at the maul].
“We've got to be better, we'll fix it. We've done it before, it's a technical issue and we'll get it right."