Leinster's run ends as Carty leads Connacht to victory

Leinster 24 Connacht 35

Jack is back:  Jack Carty of Connacht scores 25 points and wins Man of the Match in Connacht's first win over Leinster since 2002.   Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Jack is back: Jack Carty of Connacht scores 25 points and wins Man of the Match in Connacht's first win over Leinster since 2002. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Nothing beats New Year cheer, and Connacht delivered a bucket load in one 80 minute performance on Saturday. That it came in the RDS against Leinster is all the more special.

Rare days like these need to be applauded. The last time Connacht beat Leinster in Dublin was in Donnybrook 2002/3. Current Leinster boss Leo Cullen will remember. He was on the team that fell by 23-26. Connacht's heros included the province's talisman Eric Elwood, current Connacht manager Tim Allnutt, Ulster coach Dan McFarland, Buccaneers' Ted Robinson, Chris Keane and Colm Rigney, former Munster assistant Jerry Flannery, and one of the Connacht Clan's favourites, Michael Swift.

Fast forward to 2020/21, and Connacht stormed to a 35-24 victory at the RDS - Leinster's first Pro14 defeat in 27 games.

A "shock" victory perhaps, but this was a win that was the sum of Connacht's best. There were hints against Scarlets, more against Racing 93, but on Saturday it was more complete, led by outhalf Jack Carty.

The 28-years-old Carty was back to his best - leading Connacht's charge with a heads-up performance - and the deserving recipient of the Man of the Match award.

Not only did he provide his usual quota of touch-finders and delicate grubbers, but his anticipation and pace provided Connacht with two tries that ensured Andy Friend's side was always on the front foot.

It was the type of performance which had earned Carty a deserved place on the national squad in the 2019 Six Nations, including a Man of Match in his first start in Cardiff.

However his international career has been something of rollercoaster, but after a difficult World Cup and omission from the November Six Nations squad, Carty put all that behind him with a display of composure and control.

Connacht coach Andy Friend, says the Buccaneers' man "is a classic example of how powerful the mind can be".

"You could see when Jack got into the Irish team and went to the World Cup, he had that confidence and was walking on air, and he was brilliant.

"Things happen in a player's career and things happen when a player loses form and loses a bit of confidence - starts to have that self doubt. But Jack Carty on the weekend was back to that bloke who didn't self doubt. He believed in everything he was doing. He bossed the show," says Friend.

"What does Jack needs to do? He needs to keep being Jack. He needs to be the positive Jack because he's got the skill set, he's got the awareness. He's a very talented young man, and when he believes in himself, you will get that performance.

There was no shortage of Connacht performers on a night they bagged four tries and a bonus point. Bossing operations behind the scrum, Carty had help from his backline, notably through the hardworking midfield duo of Tom Daly, who scored a try and made 12 tackles, and Sammy Arnold, while John Porch continues to make the fullback berth his own in the absence of the injured Tiernan O'Halloran. Caolan Blade relished his role with his usual confidence. Led by captain Quinn Roux, the pack was solid as a rock, contesting every ruck, maul and Eoghan Masterson pilfering six opposition line-outs.

The first came against the run of play - Carty's anticipation and poaching skills securing the intercept and his pace to complete the lengthy dash to the line and convert. And with Sean Masterson making a nuisance of himself at the breakdown, Friend's side had all the momentum before Carty finished off the second try on 22 minutes with Quinn Roux's help to make it 0-12.

Connacht's defence was found wanting when Scott Penny found a gap to exploit to bag Leinster's opening try on 24 minutes, but when the same player was caught offside, Carty added another three points. Fullback John Porch and Conor Oliver were influential in providing Carty with another penalty as Connacht continued to hunt down their opponents with alacrity, and when centre Tom Daly forced a turnover, Connacht pounced for their third try - a long pass from Daly to Alex Wootton sealing a 25-5 half-time lead.

Leinster, as expected, started the second half with intent, reducing the arrears to 12-25 with a Luke McGrath try, but Connacht kept the scoreboard ticking with a Carty three-pointer. Leinster tried to overhaul Connacht in the next 10 minutes, and they almost came close. Ryan Baird was set up by replacement hooker Sean Cronin for a 57th minute try, but the game was over for Leo Cullen's men after a try minutes later was ruled out for blocking. It snuffed out Leinster's hopes as Connacht finished with a flourish, Daly's energy rewarded with an intercept try after 73 minutes.

Leinster: M O’Reilly, A Smith, J O’Brien ( O’Sullivan 63 ), R O’Loughlin (D Hawkshaw 56 ), D Kearney, J Sexton (L Turner 22 ), L McGrath (C ), P Dooley (E Byrne 51 ), J Tracy (S Cronin 53 ), M Bent, R Molony, D Toner (J Conan 53- W Connors 56 ), R Baird, S Penny, D Leavy (Conan 60 )

Connacht: J Porch, P Sullivan (B O’Donnell 60 ), S Arnold, T Daly, A Wootton (D Kilgallen 75 ), J Carty, C Blade (C Reilly 75 ), D Buckley (M Burke 68 ), S Delahunt (J Murphy 69 ), D Robertson-McCoy (C Kenny 62 ), G Thornbury (Q Roux 73 ), Q Roux (U Dillane 63 ), E Masterson (C Prendergast 68 ), C Oliver, S Masterson.

Referee : Chris Busby [IRFU].

 

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