Connacht Bring Leinster Back Down To Earth

Connacht’s win on Saturday was landmark for a few reasons. It was Connacht’s first win away to Leinster in 19 years. It was the first time Leinster lost a game in the league since April 2019, a home defeat against Glasgow when Leinster had already guaranteed a home Semi-final. It also blows Conference A wide open. Leinster trail Ulster by 10 points, with two games in hand and with the sides to meet next week.

Connacht at their best

2016 must feel like a long time ago now to Connacht fans. That season they beat Leinster in the Pro14 final. Despite the improvement Pat Lam had made to the team, it still seemed like it was well ahead of it’s time. The hope from an Irish rugby point of view would have been the Western province which there was once talk of disbanding would now be competitive. Since then, despite appearing in the Champions Cup multiple times, the last few years would probably have been disappointing. They haven’t gotten particularly close to regaining their title.

Based on the game on Saturday, you would think it was Connacht, rather than Leinster, who had won the last 3 ProLeague titles. They showed an intensity similar to Japan in the last men’s World Cup, when the Brave Blossoms picked up a big win over Ireland. They managed to get a tricky balance of being ferocious in defense while remaining composed in attack. That’s a difficult feat when coming to the RDS on a 3-game losing run.

Jack Carty in particular was outstanding. He played as someone who was taking it personally that he had somewhat fallen out of contention for Ireland’s no.10 jersey. If he keeps it up it will be very difficult to look past him for the Six Nations which is still scheduled for next month. There were times it looked like we would get a comeback similar to the one Leinster produces in this fixture 2 seasons ago. But Andy Friend’s men kept producing an extra gear. Carty got 2 tries, converted 3, and kicked 3 penalties. Their other 2 tries were scored by Wootton and Daly.

Leinster’s wake-up call

Routine win after routine win can have a negative impact when it comes to playing big games. We’ve seen that in the Champions Cup the last two seasons. Blowing away teams in the league means when a tougher opponent with the know-how on how to win steps up, it can be difficult to go up a gear.

Leinster haven’t had to put in 80 minute performances to get a win. Often times it’s been a tight first half with Leinster producing a couple of scores between the 30th and 40th minute. Then early in the second half Leinster kill off the game. In games against bigger sides that hasn’t always been possible. If Leinster come up against an Exeter, Racing, or Toulouse this season it’ll have to be an 80 minute performance. Every team needs a reality check now and then. That’s what this is.

Particular important ahead of the game against Ulster, which will go a long way to determine who tops Conference A and gets to the final. There’s no 2nd chance in the league this year, it’s the top team in each conference and nobody else. Connacht kept their chances of getting there alive.

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