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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
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:40||Glasgow Warriors vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Ospreys vs Scarlets|
|Sunday 28th December|
|14:00||Zebre vs Treviso|
|Thursday 1st January|
|14:05||Dragons vs Cardiff Blues|
|17:00||Connacht vs Munster|
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Zebre|
|14:40||Leinster vs Ulster|
|17:05||Scarlets vs Ospreys|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:35||Connacht vs Edinburgh|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:40||Cardiff Blues vs Leinster|
|15:00||Zebre vs Munster|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Ulster|
|16:00||Ospreys vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Wednesday 14th January|
|TBC||Leinster vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Scarlets vs Connacht|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Ulster vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Zebre vs Glasgow|
|TBC||Munster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 21st February|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Cardiff Blues|
|TBC||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Connacht|
|TBC||Leinster vs Zebre|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Ulster|
|Friday 26th December|
|Ulster 13 - 10 Connacht|
|Munster 28 - 13 Leinster|
|Cardiff Blues 17 - 23 Dragons|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Dragons 25 - 11 Zebre|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Ospreys 31 - 20 Ulster|
|Glasgow Warriors 21 - 18 Munster|
|Friday 19th December|
|Cardiff Blues 21 - 9 Scarlets|
|Edinburgh 48 - 0 Treviso|
|Leinster 21 - 11 Connacht|
|Sunday 30th November|
|Glasgow Warriors 19 - 15 Dragons|
|Saturday 29th November|
|Connacht 14 - 8 Scarlets|
|Leinster 18 - 12 Ospreys|
|Zebre 18 - 10 Edinburgh|
|Friday 28th November|
|Cardiff Blues 36 - 25 Treviso|
|Munster 21 - 20 Ulster|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff Blues|
|Treviso 24 - 24 Leinster|
|Friday 21st November|
|Ulster 25 - 16 Ospreys|
|Connacht 43 - 3 Zebre|
|Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow Warriors|
|Dragons 12 - 38 Munster|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com