Guinness Pro12 final: Connacht 20-10 Leinster
Connacht achieved the near-impossible by not only winning their first ever final, but by doing it playing a brand of scintillating, attractive rugby. Three sumptuous tries from the men in green wasÂ matched only by one Leinster dot. The losing side were shell-shocked in the first half, trailing 15-0 at the interval. They did their best to claw back, but Connacht were not to be denied. WHAT'S HOT Super Rugby up north Connacht attacking from everywhere, as they've done all season, in the biggest game of their history made for a showcase matchÂ full of biff and sprinting. The Galway side will throw passes metres from their own line and with Bundee Aki plus a back three of Tiernan O'Halloran, Matt Healy and Niyi Adeolokun, they hadÂ the right sticks of dynamite to blow this match apart. Ignoring the fantastic narrative of Connacht climbing past all others to stun the rest of the league, it is the rugby they have played all season that has had fansÂ swooning. Well played Pat Lam, for letting his boys off the leash on such a high-pressure day. Adeolokun's try was worth the price of admission, alone. Kieran Marmion took an Aki pop off the deck and fed the winger, who chipped over the top, kicked it forward on the bounce and sprung past Eoin Reddan to score. That Healy also profited from a beautifully laced grubber by AJ MacGinty was just too much for Leinster. Breathtaking.
Pack animals The Connacht pack offloaded effectively and ran hard, while Leinster's heavies did their best to pinch ball here and there. At least from the Galway side's point of view, it is great to see a game played at such a pace that does not pass the grunters by. Want an example? Look at Ally Muldowney's offloads or Tom McCartney's almost-try. Sexton's grit After a seismic smash by Aki, you'd think that Sexton was chips. He was regularly clutching a bad shoulder in the first half. But he toughed it out, held up McCartney over the try line and was giving referee Nigel Owens plenty to think about in stoppages in play. WHAT'S NOT Playing on There was a bigÂ clash in the middle of the park as Zane Kirchner carried into O'Halloran, with body hitting head, resulting in theÂ Connacht full-back laid outÂ on the floor. Owens spotted the player, but allowed the ball to be passed over him. O'Halloran spent a long time on the deck and some of the crowd made their feelings clear with boos. As the medics attended the fallen back, Leinster scored and converted to bring the game within ten points. Forgetting about the try: shouldÂ Owens have stoppedÂ play? O'Halloran returned to the frayÂ after a head injury assessment. Scouting Ben Te'o A final like this presents a grand stage to show off your goods to those who may not have seen them before. However, for England fans not used to watching Pro12 rugby, Connacht's Super Rugby-style will have drawn eyes away from the Leinster centre who Eddie Jones is taking to Australia with him. Te'o looked incredibly comfy with a defensive set â€“ darting up and down in straight lines â€“ but this was a game with more angles than a snooker match. He carries hard, but again, Leinster's sustained possessions where never as box office as Connacht's. Te'o is a man built for Sexton's structures, but this one was far too looseÂ for such a norm.
STATISTICS 28 â€“ the number ofÂ defenders Connacht beat during the game 40 â€“ AJ MacGinty's kicking accuracy, in per cent 5 â€“ The number of mauls Connacht used, compared to Leinster's zero Connacht: T O'Halloran (Rep: S O'Leary, 68); N Adeolokun, R Henshaw (Rep: T O'Halloran, 71), B Aki, M Healy; AJ MacGinty, K Marmion (Rep: J Cooney, 60, P Robb, 65); R Loughney (Rep: R Ah You, 68), T McCartney (Rep: D Heffernan, 71), F Bealham, U Dillane, E McKeon (Rep: Sean O'Brien, 40), J Hennan, J Muldoon. Scorers Tries: O'Halloran, Adeolokun, Healy. Cons: MacGinty. Pens: MacGinty Leinster: R Kearney (Rep: Z Kirchner, 60); D Kearney (Rep: I Madigan, 75), G Ringrose, B Te'o, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, E Reddan; J McGrath (Rep: P Dooley, 71), R Strauss (Rep: S Cronin, 41), M Ross (Rep: T Furlong, 41), R Molony, M Kearney (Rep: H Triggs, 16), R Ruddock (Rep: J Conan, 62), J Murphy, J Heaslip. Scorers Tries: Cronin. Cons: Sexton. Pens:Â Sexton Man of the Match: John Muldoon Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales) Attendance: 34, 550