A cold but dry Sportsground proved to be a perfect setting for Leinster’s young guns to show their mettle on Friday evening as they secured a comfortable 31-9 victory over a spirited Connacht Eagles side, building on a seven-point half-time lead and pulling clear in the final quarter…

Leinster ‘A’ weathered an early storm from Connacht Eagles in Galway and then struck for the first try after nine minutes.

The move started near halfway with a shortened lineout where number 8 Jack Conan was used as the strike runner in the centre and burst clean through, making 30 metres.

Two phases later, Connacht were deemed offside under the posts, the ever alert Luke McGrath took a quick tap and popped the ball to the powerful Tadhg Beirne who drove over from close range. Cathal Marsh struck the conversion and Leinster ‘A’ were up and running.

At the midway point of the first half, the visitors upped the tempo once more with McGrath’s energy and vision again key as he spotted a gap at the fringe and made 20 metres into Connacht territory.

Leinster ‘A’ camped out on the home line and looked to be lining up a second score but Marsh dropped possession when the ball went to the back-line and Brian Murphy hacked downfield. He tackled Adam Byrne, who had scrambled back, and forced a penalty which Matthew Jarvis slotted for 7-3.

Five minutes later, Connacht Eagles narrowed the gap to one point with a long range effort from their full-back Jarvis.

But two well-struck penalties from Marsh underlined a much improved close to the half by the visitors and put them 13-6 in front at the break.

On the resumption, Marsh stretched the lead to nine before Connacht Eagles raised hope with some bright play from Eoghan Grace, Aaron Conneely and Paul O’Donohoe, leading to Jarvis’ third penalty to bring them back within seven.

But that was as close as it got for the home side, as Colin McEntee’s charges put the result beyond doubt in a productive closing 20 minutes.

Leinster ‘A’ had built the platform and used the final quarter to cut loose, scoring two tries borne out of hard graft from the pack.

Captain Conor Gilsenan had been denied a try on 54 minutes when referee Paul Haycock deemed he had knocked on, but he managed to touch down successfully on the hour mark to all but put the game beyond the westerners’ reach.

Gilsenan’s score came after his pack drove over the line, the chance was sparked by some typically alert play by the now dominant McGrath. Marsh’s conversion drove home the advantage and all but sealed the win.

On 67 minutes, Andrew Boyle added a third try by scoring in the corner after Leinster had turned over possession inside the Connacht 22. Just before full-time, replacement out-half Steve Crosbie rounded off the scoring with a penalty.

CONNACHT EAGLES SCORERS: M. Jarvis (3 penalties)

LEINSTER ‘A’ SCORERS: T. Beirne (1 try), C. Gilsenan (1 try), A. Boyle (1 try), C. Marsh (2 conversions and 3 penalties), S. Crosbie (1 penalty)

CONNACHT ‘A’: M Jarvis; M McCrea, C Finn, B Murphy, S Macauley; J Carty, P O’Donohoe; B Wilkinson, K O’Byrne, JP Cooney, U Dillane, J Gardiner, D Heffernan, E Grace (capt), A Conneely.

REPLACEMENTS USED: K Haupt for O’Byrne (58 mins), C Lilly for O’Donohoe (58-64, blood sub), T Leader for Finn (70), P Maxwell for Conneely (76), B McClearn for Dillane (78), C Boland for McCrea, Dillane for Grace (both 80)


15: Adam Byrne
14: Andrew Boyle
13: Rory O’Loughlin (Eoghan Quinn, 76)
12: Jordan Coghlan
11: Max McFarland
10: Cathal Marsh (Steve Crosbie, 70)
9: Luke McGrath

1: James Tracy
2: Bryan Byrne
3: Tadhg Furlong (Jamie Lawless, 75)
4: Tadhg Beirne
5: Tom Denton (Josh van der Flier, 76)
6: Ben Marshall
7: Conor Gilsenan CAPTAIN
8: Jack Conan (Eoghan Masterson, 76)

REPLACEMENTS NOT USED: Tyrone Moran, Shane Delahunt, Jerry Sexton, David Shanahan, Tom Daly

Referee: Paul Haycock (IRFU)