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Kirchner try keeps Blues on course

Matt O'Connor saw Leinster's 21-11 victory over Connacht as "a lot closer to the standards we set ourselves" in the PRO12 League last night.

In a tactic reminiscent of the Northampton Saints at the Aviva Stadium last season, Leinster refused to build three-by-three in turning down shots at goal for the confidence boost that five points would bring.

They twice turned down points to go to the corner. The second time lock Aly Muldowney was carded for pulling down Kevin McLaughlin.

Connacht still had enough about them to repel more mauls. But, Leinster's front row prevented an exit strategy by churning out a penalty.

This time, for the fifth time, hooker Aaron Dundon found Devin Toner and Shane Jennings dotted down for a try on his return from injury.

McLaughlin had talked about how confidence can quickly be restored by early points. This is what Leinster were after. Now, they had it.

Muliaina made two uncharacteristic mistakes under the high ball and Gopperth danced his way forward before setting Noel Reid away down the left.

There were positive touches from Luke Fitzgerald, Reid and Dave Kearney as Connacht creaked without cracking.

A penalty did come and Gopperth stitched three more points into an 8-0 lead by the 17th minute.

Connacht needed to get Leinster's attention. Aki and Henshaw hit it up through the sweet spot.

It fell to Kane Douglas to clean up an untidy ruck ball. Connacht were not done. They stayed on point to force a penalty. Carty missed it.

Reid's calculated gamble to come up out of the line tempted Muliaina into a forward pass and Reid was the trigger for a lightening raid down the left and tight-head Tadhg Furlong's fizzing left-handed pass to put Zane Kirchner in space.

Connacht were creeping into it. Aki looked for the big hit and found it on Rob Kearney. It wasn't long before the New Zealander was moving with menace. Leinster flirted with the offside line and Carty made them pay with a 32nd minute penalty.

Flanker Eoin McKeon was 'in like Flynn' to execute a turnover. It meant precious territory for the visitors. They mimicked Leinster in going for glory instead of the rudimentary three.

It was almost rewarded when Danie Poolman could not keep his foot in play as he grounded the ball from Carty's cross-kick.

The force was with Connacht. Carty and Marmion took off. Kirchner made the stop. Tom McCartney, Denis Buckley and Rodney Ah You all carried into the teeth of the home defence.

It fell to Leinster's Tadhg Furlong to pillage the pill on the floor. Referee Ian Davies saw it as illegal. The prop was binned. Carty made it 8-6 at the interval.

Straight away, Fitzgerald got in between men and ball to eke out a penalty, George Naoupu playing the ball from in front.

Gopperth went straight for the posts and found them from distance to make it 11-6 in the 42nd minute.

There were touches of class from the hands of Fitzgerald and the delicate nature of Reid's boot.

Shane Jennings was setting the physical tone for Leinster in the trenches and replacement Willie Faloon was trying to match him, the latter slapping down the ball for Gopperth to put eight between them.

It was growing into a typical Interprovincial scrap. Aki found the gain line to his liking.

Connacht looked all out of ideas until Carty's threaded ball made Rob Kearney a target for Healy and Quinn Roux to hammer back over his line.

This was the time for Connacht to strike. The Leinster scrum stood firm and, when Marmion moved it, Fitzgerald knocked the ball out of Healy's hands.

It took Furlong's nimble steal on the floor and Reid's tumbling kick to put Leinster back in business.

Back came Connacht. Leinster's debut-maker Nicolaas van Dyk was whistled for not making way at a ruck.

Carty went for the corner. The lineout and maul came hard. Toner was binned for side-entry. They came again. Naoupu stayed in the van to grind out a try for 14-11 in the 74th minute.

From there, Leinster played keep ball, drawing Connacht into taking a chance and Faloon was the one who gave away a penalty.

Gopperth looked to the corner. Healy batted it infield and Kirchner was there to take the game away from Connacht for Gopperth to convert.


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