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RaboDirect Pro12: Late penalty try sees Leinster beat Connacht 16-13 at the RDS
Reigning RaboDirect Pro12 champions Leinster notched a late penalty try to deny Connacht a famous interprovincial derby victory at the RDS.
Pat Lam's rock-bottom side were just three minutes away from victory after shooting into an early 13-3 lead.
But, having lost Ronan Loughney (70 minutes) and Kieran Marmion (76) to the sin-bin, Connacht's wilting scrum was unable to keep the hosts at bay and Matt O'Connor's men escaped with a fortunate 16-13 win.
The rock-bottom westerners - winless in Dublin since September 2002 - went 10 points up with scrum half Marmion poaching a 13th-minute try and Dan Parks kicking the rest of the points.
Ian Madigan's third successful penalty closed the gap to four points right on half-time, but Leinster had to bide their time against an aggressive Connacht defence.
The scoreline remained at 13-9 until the dying minutes when Connacht's penalty count took its toll - 18 in all - and Leinster's forward power, aided by replacement Martin Moore, edged it for them.
There were only two minutes on the clock when Parks drilled over a right-sided penalty from inside the 10-metre line.
Connacht's solid start continued as they tackled tigerishly to chop down both Fergus McFadden and David Kearney, and Parks drove home a penalty from halfway for 6-0.
The returning Madigan punished a scrum infringement from Jake Heenan to get Leinster on the scoreboard, splitting the posts with a confident strike from the right.
Connacht failed to take advantage of a five-metre scrum after a Madigan kick was charged down by Craig Ronaldson, but Leinster then blundered on their own scrum ball to gift Marmion the opening try.
The alert Connacht scrum half reached out to score after the visitors got the push on in the set piece, with Jamie Heaslip and Eoin Reddan both unable to control the loose ball and Noel Reid beaten to it on the line by Marmion.
After Parks converted from close range, a promising Leinster attack was foiled by a Luke Fitzgerald knock-on and there was some concern for a prone Madigan, who was hit hard by Robbie Henshaw, before he got back on his feet.
Slashing runs from Mata Fifita and McFadden saw both sides attack with vigour in an open, exciting encounter, the hosts picking up the pace noticeably as Madigan landed his second penalty following a Henshaw offside.
Leinster pressed for more approaching the interval and while Connacht defended heroically, they did leak a late penalty - Craig Clarke was pinged for not rolling away and Madigan mopped up with an important three points.
Clarke, Heenan and Brett Wilkinson were all having big shifts for Connacht, who signalled their intent on the restart when turning down a kickable penalty.
Lam's charges worked a lineout maul and Wilkinson went close before Kevin McLaughlin infringed near the whitewash, but Parks' poor penalty attempt came back off an upright and Leinster had a real let-off.
Madigan was just short with his own penalty attempt from halfway, and with man-of-the-match George Naoupu getting on the ball Connacht doggedly held onto their slim advantage.
Although handling errors from Gavin Duffy and Matt Healy invited Leinster forward, Connacht somehow survived a spell of scrum pressure near their line.
The proceedings were decidedly stop-start entering the final quarter as a succession of penalties broke up play. Leinster's hopes were boosted when replacement prop Loughney was sin-binned with 10 minutes left.
Leinster shunned a shot at the posts as they looked for their set piece to decide the game. Marmion duly saw yellow for interfering with Isaac Boss at the base of a scrum and a couple of collapses led to the vital penalty try which Madigan converted.
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Friday 6th March|
|19:35||Cardiff Blues vs Connacht|
|19:35||Glasgow Warriors vs Zebre|
|Saturday 7th March|
|14:40||Ospreys vs Munster|
|17:15||Scarlets vs Leinster|
|18:00||Treviso vs Edinburgh|
|Sunday 8th March|
|16:00||Dragons vs Ulster|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:35||Leinster vs Glasgow|
|19:35||Ulster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 28th March|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Ospreys vs Zebre|
|14:40||Scarlets vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Munster vs Connacht|
|Friday 10th April|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Cardiff Blues|
|19:35||Benetton Treviso vs Ospreys|
|Saturday 11th April|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Munster|
|TBC||Zebre vs Scarlets|
|14:40||Connacht vs Ulster|
|Sunday 12th April|
|16:00||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Leinster|
|Friday 24th April|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Zebre|
|19:35||Ulster vs Leinster|
|Saturday 25th April|
|TBC||Munster vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Cardiff Blues vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Scarlets|
|TBC||Connacht vs Glasgow|
|Saturday 9th May|
|15:00||Ulster vs Munster|
|Sunday 1st March|
|Connacht 53 - 5 Treviso|
|Zebre 23 - 17 Dragons|
|Cardiff Blues 21 - 15 Edinburgh|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Munster 22 - 10 Glasgow Warriors|
|Friday 27th February|
|Ospreys 9 - 9 Leinster|
|Ulster 25 - 20 Scarlets|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|Dragons 25 - 30 Connacht|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Glasgow 19 - 16 Ospreys|
|Scarlets 25 - 25 Munster|
|Friday 20th February|
|Edinburgh 17 - 20 Ulster|
|Leinster 29 - 8 Zebre|
|Benetton Treviso 40 - 24 Cardiff Blues|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Leinster 14 - 16 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Zebre 10 - 54 Glasgow|
|Scarlets 32 - 14 Connacht|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Munster 33 - 16 Cardiff Blues|
|Friday 13th February|
|Edinburgh 24 - 16 Ospreys|
|Ulster 43 - 3 Benetton Treviso|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com