Leinster never gave up on this, although it looked hopeless three scores behind with little more than ten minutes to play.
Leinster 33 - 29 Connacht
Somehow they turned the tables. A brace of tries, both converted, started the belief. The crowd, lazy and quiet after too many years of success, woke up. The team delivered.
I’m not sure how this got so out of hand so quickly. Leinster took the lead after allowing Connacht in for the first score of the game, but did not regain it until the final play of the game.
Wait. Was it because Connacht give their season best performance every time the play Leinster?
They used better tactics also. Rather than try to penetrate an impenetrable blue wall that Leinster pride themselves on, even without many of the leading players, they still posed a serious defensive challenge, they went around it.
Their first score was a perfect example of how to bypass an obstacle. Precision kicks and quick, accurate passes to the wings exposed Leinster.
Both teams made a lot of mistakes in the first quarter of the match. Knock-ons infringements at the scrum, passes into touch and passes behind the player blighted a bright opening.
The tries were excellent, Leinster scoring under the posts to answer the westerner’s try out wide. Game on.
Connacht cleaned up their act sooner, however, and there was a determination behind their precision. They were not going to lose this game like the equivalent fixture twelve months ago. They wanted to win more than we didn’t want to lose.
As we went in at halftime, two scores down, I wondered was this some sort of nefarious, evil plot on the part of Leo Cullen. Was he trying to make this the worst Christmas possible for our closest rivals, Munster?
A win here today for Connacht would see them close in on Munster, and with Leinster’s internationals sure to come back next week we would have been confident of bringing home a result from Thomond. Opportunity, Connacht. They could have faced Munster in the third game of the series in possession of second place in the conference.
That was before the substitutes came on. Cronin in particular came on like a firework. We didn’t get to see too much of his line out darts, but his physicality around the pitch was inspiring.
Max Deegan also made an impact with huge carries and clear outs. Noel Reid deserves a mention. He made a few looping passes out wide that made it, spreading the play and giving Leinster space, but my heart was in my mouth for each of them, with the likes of Bundee Aki lurking.
The Irish international started the game; I’m not sure what happened to Farrel, presumably a late injury. Aki played like a man possessed; possessed with a desire to win in the RDS for the first time.
Let’s face it. We were lucky. Again. How many more scares at Christmas do we have to take from these mad men from the West? I really love the derby games. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The home fans needed this wake up call. We are too used to winning without much effort, and certainly no crowd involvement. The team does all the work. Isn’t that what we paid our season ticket fee for?
No. Tonight the team showed up, then the crowd came in. It was an electric final ten minutes. Almost like a European atmosphere.
So the team can probably relax and enjoy their Christmas dinner. There is bound to be a shift change for the trip down south. Job done and plenty of work to be done in the video room after the break.
After Connacht had finished going around us they began to go through us. There were a few too many missed tackles in the second half to balance the number of knock-ons in the first.
We got away lightly. Connacht will be sore and annoyed. A two-point haul for getting both bonus points is small consolation for a game they should have won.