Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

Match Page 2017-18 - Last Time WP ID: 133

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Match Page 2017-18 - Last 3 Matches WP: 142

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Preview: Leinster v Connacht

Daniel Barnes 30 Dec 2017

After clinching a stirring success at Munster in Round 11, Leinster go looking to begin the new year with more derby day success.

At the RDS Arena on New Year’s Day, Leo Cullen’s troops roll out the red carpet for Connacht, who also head out in search of a second successive victory over interpro opposition following their win over Ulster last time out.

What’s at stake?

In-form Leinster recorded back-to-back European Rugby Champions Cup victories over Exeter Chiefs before returning to Guinness PRO14 action on St Stephen’s Day with that 34-24 triumph over Munster at Thomond Park.

Currently two points behind Scarlets, they may well have the opportunity to move top of Conference B if the current table-toppers slip up at Cardiff Blues on New Year’s Eve.

Connacht, meanwhile, who are fifth in Conference A, will go looking to close the gap on the third-placed Toyota Cheetahs, who aren’t in action again until January 6.

Team news (Leinster):

With bruising assignments coming thick and fast at the turn of the year, Leinster head coach Cullen has made sweeping changes to his line-up, with just two players retaining their place from the side that bested Munster.

Peter Dooley makes his first start of the season at loosehead while James Lowe is set to make his first appearance at the RDS Arena.

Team news (Connacht):

Having all come off the bench as replacements against Ulster, hooker Tom McCartney, lock James Cannon and winger Cian Kelleher all come into the Connacht starting line-up.

Ultan Dullane, a two-try hero in Round 11, retains his place and is set to partner Cannon.

Talking points:

Leinster winger Fergus McFadden said: “We won the back-to-back games last year. Then you run into one of the toughest games of the season – Christmas, down in Thomond Park.

“We lost that game and this year, we went down and performed very well and beat them (Munster) well with a fully-changed team.

“You look at that and think we must be in a better place but you can’t judge where we’re going to be until we’re getting to that April period when you’re looking to start peaking.”

Connacht flanker Eoghan Masterson added: “It takes time to get used to a new style and a new system, and that’s what we have been working on since the start of the season.

“When people outside of Connacht don’t see immediate results, they presume that the plan isn’t working, but that’s not the case and we have seen things really coming together over the last few weeks.

“The interpro games are difficult games, especially when you are playing away from home, so we are under no illusion of the challenge we face on New Year’s Day.”

Key battle: Ross Byrne v Jack Carty

Leinster’s Ross Byrne is a fly-half in super form and on New Year’s Day, he comes up against another number 10 at the top of his game.

Byrne, 22, has slotted his last six attempts while his crossfield-kicking ability means that the Leinstermen are able to switch the focus of their attack in an instant.

Lining up at the opposite end of the field, Jack Carty will be aiming to dictate proceedings for Connacht.

The current top scorer in Europe – due to his exploits in Connacht’s Challenge Cup campaign – he is currently just 24 points off hitting the 500-mark for the province.

Key stat: Leinster have not lost a regular season Guinness PRO14 match at the RDS Arena since February 2015 when they were bested by the Dragons.

Did you know? Connacht have won just three times against Leinster in Dublin since their first meeting in 1932.

Leinster: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Noel Reid, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath, Peter Dooley, Seán Cronin, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Ian Nagle, Dan Leavy, Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan.

Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Michael Bent, Mick Kearney, Scott Fardy, Nick McCarthy, Cathal Marsh, Rory O’Loughlin.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, Denis Coulson, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (capt)

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, Naulia Dawai, Caolin Blade, Eoin Griffin, Niyi Adeolokun.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

AR1: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

AR2: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (IRFU)

TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon

TV: TG4

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Leinster hold firm for dramatic win over Connacht

Jimmy Booker 1 Jan 2018

Max Deegan and Luke McGrath scored tries as Leinster survived a monumental late onslaught by a spirited Connacht in a tense New Year’s Day clash at the RDS Arena.

Matt Healy’s fine individual score gave the visitors hope in the last ten minutes in a fiercely-contested all-Irish GUINNESS PRO14 encounter.

The triumph meant Leinster keep pace with Scarlets at the top of Conference A, but they were made to work incredibly hard for their Round 12 victory.

In blustery conditions in the capital, Conference B outfit Connacht struck the first blow when Jack Carty sent a penalty sailing between the posts.

Jonathan Sexton levelled minutes later with a penalty of his own, converting at the second attempt after his first fell off the tee due to the winds, despite the Ireland fly-half picking it up and drop-kicking it through.

After cagey opening 20 minutes, the hosts sprung into life and nearly went over. Luke McGrath’s lovely dummy set up Rob Kearney, who hared directly for the posts only to be denied by a tremendous covering challenge by Kieran Marmion.

Dan Leavy went for glory on the follow-up, but was held up over the line.

However, six minutes later, smart work on the left led to the hosts’ opening score – Noel Reid and James Lowe displaying terrific handling to set up Max Deegan, who crashed over in the left corner. Sexton missing a difficult kick from the touchline.

Carty replied immediately for Connacht with another three points and they got their noses in front on the stroke of half-time.

A great break from Bundee Aki eventually led to prop Finlay Bealham burrowing over, Carty making no mistake with the extras.

Sexton edged Leinster in front with a long-range penalty ten minutes after the restart and they moved eight points clear on the hour mark when Luke McGrath squeezing over after heavy pressure near the Connacht line.

The ever-reliable Sexton made no mistake with the boot to make it 21-13.

But back came the visitors with a rally of their own five minutes later, skipper John Muldoon being held up over the line and going close for a second time from the resulting five-metre scrum.

Connacht threw everything time and again in a dramatic passage of play, but found themselves against a wall of dark blue.

They eventually switched play wide and Matt Healy finished wonderfully after sidestepping inside three tackles. Healy missed the conversion in what was his first slip of the day from the tee.

With just ten minutes to go, the game was set for a grandstand finish. Connacht hurled bodies forward in desperate search of a breakthrough, but Leinster’s defence remained solid and despite a mammoth 26-phase period of play at the end of the game, the visitors were eventually penalised for not releasing the ball and Leinster held on.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138