Pro14: Leinster deny Connacht in nine-try thriller
|Pro14: Leinster v Connacht|
|Leinster (7) 33|
|Tries: O'Brien, M Kearney, Cronin, Leavy, Porter Cons: R Byrne 4|
|Connacht (19) 29|
|Tries: Kelleher, Leader, Carty, Blade Cons: Carty 3 Pen: Carty|
Leinster scored 21 points in a dramatic closing 10 minutes to deny Connacht their first victory at the RDS.
The visitors seemed on the cusp of a thrilling result in Dublin when they went 17 point clear after 63 minutes.
But tries by Sean Cronin and Dan Leavy hauled Leinster back into contention before Andrew Porter burrowed over deep into injury time to snatch a 33-29 win.
Cian Kelleher, Darragh Leader, Jack Carty and Caoilin Blade all scored as the visitors salvaged two bonus points.
Centre Conor O'Brien and second row Mick Kearney also crossed for Leinster as the defending champions stretched their 16-point advantage at the top of Conference B.
Connacht, who move level on points with third-placed Ospreys in Conference A, will return to the Sportsground for their next inter-provincial derby against Ulster on 28 December while Leinster travel to Limerick to face arch-rival Munster at Thomond Park the following day.
Connacht half backs make the early running
Connacht fly-half Carty's early season form had led to calls for him to be included in the Ireland squad before the autumn internationals and the playmaker combined brilliantly with his half-back partner Blade as the they dominated the first half.
Bundee Aki, a late inclusion in the Connacht team, linked well with Carty to create a huge overlap for Kelleher to score with just five minutes on the clock which drew an immediate response from Leinster when O'Brien powered over following Gibson-Park's quick break.
The visitors deservedly regained the lead when hooker Tom Farrell offloaded out of the tackle to the on-rushing Leader who wrong-footed Adam Byrne on his 40-metre sprint to the line.
Carty missed his opening conversion attempt but the fly-half barely put a foot wrong for the rest of the game as he spotted the lack of covering defenders and gathered his own chip to score beneath the posts for a 7-19 interval lead.
Leinster signalled their intent at the start of the second half when former Connacht lock Mick Kearney pivoted out of a tackle and flung himself over the line to reduce the deficit but Carty produced an outrageous dummy to wrong-foot the home defence and found half-back partner Blade with an inside pass to clinch the bonus-point try.
Leinster bench bailout
A further Carty penalty pushed Connacht 12-29 ahead but the introduction of front-rowers Cronin and Andrew Porter helped to turn the tide for the hosts as they began their fight back with two tries in as many minutes.
Cronin drove over at the back of a solid line-out maul to close the margin to 10 points and Ross Byrne added another conversion just minutes later when Leavy finished off a spectacular score that featured offloads from Adam Byrne, Rory O'Loughlin and Scott Fardy.
Connacht were unable to regain the momentum and Leinster relentlessly ground their way through 40 phases as they marched up to the opposition line before Porter powered over in the 83rd minute for a stunning win.
A real dogged mentality
Leinster captain Rhys Ruddock on Premier Sports: "We knew what to expect from Connacht. We knew they would take us around the edges of the ruck but they came here with a real dogged mentality and they made us work really hard for that."
"We knew it would take lots of patience and lots of phases at the end so we're really pleased with that try at the end."
Connacht head coach Andy Friend on Premier Sports: "We were there for most of it but against a championship side like Leinster you have got to stay at it for the full 80 and we just couldn't do it."
Leinster: H Keenan; A Byrne, R O'Loughlin, C O'Brien, D Kearney; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; P Dooley, B Byrne, M Bent; M Kearney, S Fardy; R Ruddock (capt), D Leavy, C Doris.
Replacements: S Cronin, E Byrne, A Porter, R Molony, M Deegan, H O'Sullivan, C Frawley, N Reid.
Connacht: D Leader; C Kelleher, T Farrell, B Aki, K Godwin; J Carty, C Blade; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham; U Dillane, G Thornbury; J Butler (capt), C Fainga'a, P Boyle.
Replacements: S Delahunt, P McCabe, D Robertson-McCoy, J Cannon, E Masterson, J Mitchell, C Fitzgerald, K Joyce.
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)