With a Champions Cup final already in the bag, Leinster travel to Connacht on Saturday in the final round of the Guinness PRO14 regular season looking to seal a home semi-final.
The visitors will hope for a repeat performance from when the two sides met in the reverse fixture earlier this year, when Leinster edged out Connacht 21-18 at the RDS Arena.
What’s at stake?
Leinster need just a point to make sure of top spot in Conference B, with Scarlets five points behind them in second ahead of their trip to Dragons in their final round robin fixture.
Should Leo Cullen’s side get the result they need – or Scarlets fail to get a bonus-point win at the Principality Stadium – then they will have the advantage of a home semi-final.
Connacht’s hopes of making the play-offs and securing a Champions Cup spot are long over, but they will want to avoid finishing bottom of Conference A.
They are just two points ahead of Zebre going into Round 21, but victory at the Sportsground would ensure they finish in sixth position even if the Italian side get a result at Benetton.
Team news (Connacht)
Connacht captain John Muldoon will lead his Connacht side out for the final time when they take on Leinster in his 327th appearance for his native province.
He is named at his familiar No. 8 position alongside flankers Eoin Mc Keon and Jarrad Butler, while lock Gavin Thornbury starts alongside Quinn Roux.
Tom Farrell and Bundee Aki continue their centre partnership in the midfield and the back three of full-back Tiernan O’Halloran and wingers Matt Healy and Niyi Adeolokun remains unchanged.
Team news (Leinster)
Noel Reid makes his 100th appearance for Leinster – having made his debut in October 2011 – as Tom Daly returns for his seasonal debut outside him after recovering from an ACL injury.
Jack McGrath captains the side with James Tracy and Andrew Porter completing the front row, while Ross Molony and Mick Kearney start behind them in the second row.
In the back row, Max Deegan starts in the number six jersey for the first time this season and Peadar Timmins and Jack Conan complete the starting pack.
Joey Carbery starts at full-back with Barry Daly and James Lowe on the wings. The team is completed by the half-back pairing of Nick McCarthy and Ross Byrne.
Connacht captain John Muldoon said: “It’s my final time to throw on the green jersey and I just want to do the lads justice before I bow out at the Sportsground.
“It has actually crept up on me and I have had mixed emotions this week when I have gone into training with the lads.
“It’s been bittersweet getting ready for this game against Leinster. It has built up nicely towards a game against a phenomenal team and they were outstanding in their Champions Cup win over Scarlets again last weekend.
“It certainly won’t be easy to finish my career against them, but I am looking forward to getting stuck into my last game for my province.”
Key battle – Jack Carty v Ross Byrne
Carty was influential as Connacht ran Leinster close in their previous meeting and he will need to be at his best if the hosts are to spring a surprise against the Conference A leaders, with Ross Byrne looking to show what he can do in Johnny Sexton’s absence.
Key fact: Connacht have suffered five straight defeats – including four in the Pro14 – since beating Benetton in Italy at the end of February.
Did you know? Leinster suffered only their second-ever defeat to Benetton Rugby at the RDS Arena in their last Guinness PRO14 clash.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (C)
Replacements: Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader
Leinster: Joey Carbery, Barry Daly, Tom Daly, Noel Reid, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Nick McCarthy; Jack McGrath (C), James Tracy, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Mick Kearney, Max Deegan, Peadar Timmins, Jack Conan
Replacements: Seán Cronin, Cian Healy, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jordan Larmour, Adam Byrne
TV: TG4, kick-off 3.05pm
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
AR1: Joy Neville (Ireland) AR2: Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €35 at www.ticketmaster.ie with tickets available to suit every experience.
To book hospitality visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/hospitality
For Travel packages visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/travel-packages
For Fanzone & Dublin 7s visit: http://www.dublin7sfestival.ie
A brace for Niyi Adeolokun and Kieran Marmion saw Connacht bulldoze Leinster on an emotional day.
It was John Muldoon’s last game for Connacht after 327 appearances and he even got on the scoreboard with a conversion in the last five minutes to end his career at the Sportsground in style.
Tiernan O’Halloran also featured on the scoreboard, along with Bundee Aki and Caolin Blade, with Barry Daly the only scorer for Leinster as they fell to their second successive defeat in the Guinness PRO14.
The hosts opened the scoring after Shane Delahunt made a break in midfield, and after some lightning fast hands the ball made its way out to Adeolokun, who shook off a tackle and dotted down.
Jack Carty converted before Joey Carbery got three points back for Leinster, then missed another to close the gap to one.
The visitors ramped up the pressure, with phase after phase of pick and goes edging them towards Connacht’s try line, but the hosts got a breakaway try to ease the tension.
James Lowe flung a no-look pass in midfield but O’Halloran read it perfectly and intercepted to race away and put daylight between the teams, with Carty again adding the extras.
Connacht used the momentum gained from the try to score another, with Delahunt again making a break after picking and going straight through the middle.
Marmion was in support and after fending off two tackles he muscled his way over under the posts, with Carty again on hand to convert.
Leinster surged forward through Lowe in search of a score as the half drew to a close, but after Ross Byrne went for the corner instead of taking the points from a penalty, Connacht won the line-out and cleared their lines to go into the break with an 18-point lead.
The hosts continued their brilliant defence and clinical attack straight from the off in the second half, stripping Leinster of the ball then breaking through Thomas Farrel.
The ball went out to the wing where Delahunt drew his man and made an incredible off-load out the back as he fell, setting up Adeolokun for his second.
Connacht then scored arguably the best try of the match as Carty put through a delightful chip for O’Halloran, who jumped through one tackle then drew the last defender to put Marmion in under the posts.
Leinster finally responded as Daly intercepted a pass on the touchline, brushed off a tackle by Carty and ran in from the half way line, with Carbery adding the extras to take the visitors into double figures after 55 minutes.
Aki added a sixth for Connacht when he powered over in the right corner and Carty once more converted to restore the 30-point gap.
The hosts even had time for another score as replacement scrum-half Blade sold a great dummy 10 metres out to dive over under the posts.
This set up the moment of the match as No. 8 Muldoon stepped up and powered the conversion over to the roar of the crowd, sealing a great end to a memorable day for Connacht as they secure sixth place in Conference A with the victory.