Match Centre: Connacht 21-26 Leinster

Jonathan Sexton kicked eight points for Leinster
Jonathan Sexton kicked eight points for Leinster

Connacht 21-26 Leinster, The Sportsground

James Lowe scored a double as Leinster edged out Connacht 26-21 in the first leg of round of 16 Heineken Champions Cup clash at The Sportsground on Friday.

The two teams will meet again for the second leg clash at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on 15th April.

Connacht dominated the opening exchanges as a delayed pass from Bundee Aki allowed John Porch to touchdown in the third minute but Jack Carty missed out on the conversion. Leinster managed to reduce the arrears as Johnny Sexton landed a penalty goal in the 18th minute and soon seized control with back to back tries from Lowe.

First he picked a line between two forwards in Connacht's defence to speed over the line in the 22nd minute and went on to complete his second in the 26th minute with this time Hugo Keenan creating the gap for the winger as the scoreline became 5-15.

With Carty and Sexton exchanging penalties the scoreline became 8-18 before the Connacht fly-half also kicking another three-pointer to reduce their deficit to four points at the end of the opening half.

Carty helped Connacht off the block early in the second half with a 45th minute penalty goal reducing the arrears to four points Keenan collected a flat pass following a huge Leinster scrum to dot down making it 14-23 after Sexton's conversion went wide.

Leinster suffered a setback in the 56th minute as they were down to 14 players temporarily with replacement scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle and Connacht made use of the numerical advantage with Leva Fifita diving from close range in the 61st minute and Carty improved it making it 21-23.

As the game entered the final phase, all three results were possible but it was Leinster, who managed to go over the line as Ross Byrne landed a penalty goal in the 76th minute to steer the visitors to a thrilling win.

Team line up:

Leinster: Keenan; J O'Brien, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Sexton (capt), McGrath; Healy, Sheehan, Furlong, Molony, Murphy; Doris, van der Flier, Conan.

Reserves: Tracy, E Byrne, Ala'alatoa, Toner, Deegan, Gibson-Park, R Byrne, Frawley.

Connacht: O'Halloran; Porch, Farrell, Aki, Hansen; Carty (capt), Marmion; Burke, Heffernan, Bealham, Thornbury, Fifita; Prendergast, Oliver, Butler.

Reserves: Tierney-Martin, Tuimauga, Aungier, Dowling, Papali'i, Blade, Fitzgerald, Arnold.


European Rugby Champions Cup Points Table