Leinster continue winning streak
By Daire Walsh
SUNCROFT’S Fergus McFadden played the full 80 minutes at the RDS on Saturday evening as Leinster maintained their extraordinary winning run in a 54-7 demolition of interprovincial rivals Connacht.
The 33-year-old was making just his fourth appearance of the season (his third start), lining up alongside Jordan Larmour and a rejuvenated Dave Kearney in the back-three. Though he has endured an injury-plagued campaign to date, he can expect to play a pivotal role as blues head coach Leo Cullen seek to challenge for silverware on all fronts.
This latest result represents Leinster’s 10th consecutive victory in the Guinness PRO14 this term.
They also have a perfect record after four rounds of the Heineken Cup and, since losing out to Saracens in last May’s European decider in Newcastle, they have recorded 16 wins on the bounce.
While they were marked absent for the visit of Connacht, Kill duo James Tracy and Adam Byrne featured prominently for Leinster over the festive period.
Tracy was handed his fourth start of 2019/20 for the impressive triumph over Munster at Thomond Park on December 28 – bringing the reds’ two-year unbeaten run in Limerick to a halt in the process.
The combative hooker made his presence felt during his 52 minutes on the field, while Byrne produced an accomplished display on the right-wing in the same game.
Jimmy O’Brien (Eadestown) and Will Connors (Donadea) ensured it was a Lilywhite quartet in the Leinster starting-line up against their arch nemesis, with the latter once again impressing at openside flanker.
The former Clongowes Wood College student kept his place for last Saturday’s encounter, having made Andy Farrell’s first squad as Ireland head coach just before Christmas. By the time he made way for Caelan Doris during the half-time break, Leinster had already sown up a bonus point.
Courtesy of tries from Max Deegan (two), Kearney, Ciaran Frawley, Joe Tomane and Luke McGrath, they established an unassailable 40-0 cushion at the interval. Garry Ringrose also got in on the scoring act after the resumption and although Connacht eventually responded with a converted Tom McCartney effort, the in-form Ringrose ensured the hosts had the final say in the contest.
They now move forward to back-to-back European games against Lyon and Benetton – the former taking place in Ballsbridge on Sunday.
Given their spot in the knockout rounds is already assured, it is anticipated that Cullen will rotate his squad over the course of the next two weekends.
Meanwhile, Athy duo Joey Carbery and Jeremy Loughman featured from the start in Munster’s comprehensive 38-17 reversal at the hands of Ulster at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast last Friday evening.
Even though the tie began in fine spirits for the southern province – Carbery supplying the extras to Shane Daly’s breakthrough try – they were gradually worn down by Dan McFarland’s physically-imposing northerners.
Carbery finished with seven points to his name, but is still searching for match sharpness ahead of Sunday’s crunch European date with Racing 92.