“They were beaten. They were done.”
Jacques Nienaber got his first taste of what makes this set of Leinster lads so damned hard to beat [unless you play for La Rochelle] after a gripping finish in Galway, on Saturday.
Leinster went from a 19-8 position of strength to trailing 22-19 with 10 minutes to go, and Connacht fans roaring their heads off. Blitzing scores from Caolin Blade and Diarmuid Kilgallen put Connacht ahead and they looked like holding on for a famous win.
As it transpired, though, Leinster had one last attacking parry in them and they were rewarded for slinging the ball wide when Ciarán Frawley sold two defenders short, cut inside and dived over for the clincher.
The result puts Leinster back on top of the United Rugby Championship table, after Munster beat Glasgow Warriors on Friday night. It also offered up a glimpse on what could well be an alternative Ireland back three for 2024 (and beyond).
Never write off @leinsterrugby ?
— BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) December 2, 2023
Leinster break Connacht hearts
Heading into the next two weekends of Champions Cup pool matches, Connacht were poised for a first home win over Leinster in six seasons until that Ciarán Frawley score.
The Ireland back three of James Lowe, Mack Hansen and Hugo Keenan is up there with the best in world rugby, but Andy Farrell looked short of a couple of wing options at the World Cup, especially with Jimmy O’Brien and Keith Earls picking up knocks.
Frawley may have designs on the Ireland 10 jersey, but he looked good in the fullback role and showed he is a cut above many rivals with that poise and determination for his winning try. Diarmuid Kilgallen is doing all he can to get attention, too, with his fifth try of the season.
Kilgallen, who hails from Kildare but has been with Connacht since 2019, has always been an exciting prospect. Injuries have slowed his progress in recent years but he is showing what he can do. His link-up play with the flying Hansen for what was the go-ahead try was invigorating to watch.
Keenan and Lowe will have plenty to say about who gets the jerseys for the big Six Nations games, but it could be worth looking at Frawley and Kilgallen, along with Hansen, in a back three combination for one (or more) of the home ties against Italy, Wales and Scotland. Another that showed promise on the wing, on Saturday, was Jamie Osborne. Watch this space.Thomas Ahern of Munster. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)
Thomas Ahern shows off exciting versatility
Saturday night showed us Ryan Baird getting another crack at a second row start, meaning Leinster still see him with long-term potential in the role.
The night before, we saw Munster are not going to pigeon-hole Thomas Ahern as an out-and-out lock, just yet. And with good reason.
The Waterford native, who only got to play three games last season, has now started blindside against Leinster and Glasgow and offered a lot in both appearances. He put it up to Leinster at Aviva Stadium but got to have a bit more fun when Glasgow visited Musgrave Park:
Finish the sentence: This @MunsterRugby team try is… ?
— BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) December 1, 2023
Peter O’Mahony has been such a presence for Munster and Ireland in that blindside role for over a decade now. The likes of Baird and Ahern are showing there could be a real fight for that green No.6 jersey next season.
All they have to do is snatch it from the main man…
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