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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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RaboDirect PRO12 Table
|Saturday 6th September|
|TBC||Munster vs Edinburgh|
|TBC||Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Glasgow vs Leinster|
|TBC||Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Scarlets vs Ulster|
|TBC||Zebre vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 13th September|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Munster|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Connacht|
|TBC||Ulster vs Zebre|
|TBC||Leinster vs Scarlets|
|TBC||Cardiff Blues vs Glasgow|
|TBC||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Ospreys|
|Saturday 20th September|
|TBC||Cardiff Blues vs Ulster|
|TBC||Zebre vs Munster|
|TBC||Ospreys vs Edinburgh|
|TBC||Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Connacht vs Leinster|
|TBC||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow|
|Saturday 27th September|
|TBC||Leinster vs Cardiff Blues|
|TBC||Munster vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Scarlets|
|TBC||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Zebre vs Ulster|
|TBC||Glasgow vs Connacht|
|Saturday 4th October|
|TBC||Leinster vs Munster|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com