Pro14: Connacht 3-20 Leinster
|Pro14: Connacht 3-20 Leinster|
|Connacht (3) 3|
|Leinster (6) 20|
|Tries: Ringrose, Cronin Cons: Sexton 2 Pens: Sexton 2|
Leinster exacted revenge for their 37-point drubbing in Galway last season as they out-muscled Connacht 20-3 at the Sportsground.
Garry Ringrose's solo try eventually broke Connacht's resistance before Sean Cronin scored an insurance try.
Dominic Robertson-McCoy's dismissal for a stamp left the home side undermanned for the closing 10 minutes as Leinster expertely closed out the game.
The win puts Leinster five points clear at the top of the Conference B table.
Connacht's stop-start season under new head coach Andy Friend continues as the western province missed out on a chance to move up into third place in Conference A.
Connacht go for territory
Playing with the wind in the first half, Connacht were the more cohesive side in the opening exchanges as Carty's early penalty put them on the scoreboard first.
The home side used the conditions to keep Leinster pinned in their own half throughout the opening quarter with Carty cleverly kicking in behind the Leinster defence to keep his side on the front foot and it took a thunderous hit by centre Joe Tomane to end a 19-phase Connacht attack.
The defending champions were struggling to find any fluency in possession and when the likes of James Lowe and Ringrose did find gaps in the Connacht defence, they were unable to find a team-mate with their follow up pass.
The departure of Leinster captain Rhys Ruddock was off-set by the introduction of Sean O'Brien for the visitors and the first appearance of the season by the British and Irish Lions flanker seemed to spark his side into life.
Having turned down an early kick into the wind, Sexton kicked his first penalty to level the scores and Leinster immediately went back on the attack from the restart.
Josh van der Flier was held up over the line and from the resulting scrum the Leinster pack won another simple penalty that allowed Sexton to give them the half-time lead.
Ringrose goes 'against the grain'
The momentum and the wind were now in Leinster's favour and the European champions took full advantage at the start of the second half.
Rob Kearney's initial break gave the visitors a beachhead in the Connacht 22 and Ringrose produced a trademark score as he bounced back against the grain before slicing through a gap and darting over the line untouched.
Cian Healy won a crucial turnover as the home side attempted to muster a response and Leinster effectively killed off the game with their next attack.
Cronin positioned himself at the tail of a well-formed lineout maul and the Ireland hooker chose the right moment to slingshot down the narrow side for a muscular score that was well converted by Sexton.
It took a despairing last-ditch tackle and turnover by Kieran Marmion to prevent another Leinster try after Jordan Larmour managed to gather his own chip ahead but Connacht could not show the same ruthlessness in attack.
An energy-sapping 21-phase spell ended with Leinster's replacement tight-head prop Andrew Porter forcing a turnover and Connacht were reduced to 14 men just moments later when prop Robertson-McCoy was shown a red card for stamping down on the head of Josh van der Flier.
The visitors pressed in search of a third try but Rory O'Loughlin knocked-on with the line at his mercy and Connacht were able to hold on until the final whistle without conceding any further points.
Leinster 'the yardstick' of a champion side
Connacht head coach Andy Friend: "The Leinster defence was outstanding, we were throwing a lot at it but they didn't seem to waver and it was tough, we kept trying to pepper them and, credit to them, they were holding us out."
"There were moments of that game where we certainly matched it with Leinster but that's why they're the champion side, they hold on and keep that consistency for 80 minutes without a let up and that's what champion sides do. For us to learn that lesson in round five is a good thing. We now know where we sit and we've the yardstick of what makes a champion side and we'll be working towards that."
Leinster captain Johnny Sexton on Premier Sports: "Defensively we were pretty good today but attack-wise we still have a lot to work on. Our pressure didn't really tell in the first half but we eventually got on top in the second half and it paid off in the end."
Connacht: O'Halloran; Kelleher, Farrell, Aki, Adeolokun; Carty, Marmion; Buckley, Heffernan, Bealham; Dillane, Roux; O'Brien, Fainga'a, Copeland.
Replacements: McCartney, McCabe, Robertson-McCoy, Cannon, Boyle, Blade, Ronaldson, Godwin.
Leinster: Kearney; Larmour, Ringrose, Tomane, Lowe; Sexton, McGrath; Healy, Cronin, Furlong; Toner, Fardy; Ruddock, van der Flier, Conan.
Replacements: Tracy, Byrne, Porter, Molony, O'Brien, McCarthy, Byrne, O'Loughlin.