Connacht's homegrown heroes reach the promised land

The Westerners outscored Leinster three tries to one

Connacht's homegrown heroes reach the promised land

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan 

Connacht's stunning first half display provided them with the platform to win a first ever Pro12 final in their debut on the biggest stage of the domestic competition at Murrayfield.

None of the Westerners starting back three were selected for the tour to South Africa this summer and they showed Joe Schmidt what is missing out on as they each touched down for the new Pro12 champions.  

Full-back Tiernan O'Halloran and wingers Matt Healy and Niyi Adeolokun were in scintillating form with the ball in hand, constantly proving to be a threat with their dynamic running and clever lines. 

Both sides stated their intent early on, with running rugby the order of the day from the get-go.  

An entertaining opening 10 minutes yielded no scores, but we didn't have to wait much longer, with homegrown O'Halloran touching down for the Westerners first in the 12th minute.

Connacht's Tiernan OÕHalloran and Luke Fitzgerald of Leinster
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Healy started the move, slicing through the Leinster defense on a kick return before eventually being put to ground, but the ball was recycled quickly by Finlay Bealham at the base with Bundee Aki putting it through the hands to O'Halloran.

The full-back showed the Irish coaching staff what they're missing as with a swift shake of the hips, he left Rob Kearney for dead on his inside shoulder before speeding home to touch down.

It was a magnificent try from the final debutantes, and it was soon followed up with a breathtaking second.  

Outside the 22' on the right hand side of the pitch, Connacht showed everybody why they are talked about as the most exciting team to watch in Europe this year. 

O'Halloran and Aki were involved again, as was Kieran Marmion, with the trio showing beautiful hands before shipping the ball to Adeolokun on the right wing, with the Nigerian winger chipping ahead and outpacing Eoin Reddan to gather and touch down. 

The Westerners failed to take the foot off the pedal as again Adeolokun caused havoc down the right before Dillane smashed two Leinster players out of his way on the left as Connacht made their way into the 22' once more. 

This time it resulted in a penalty which AJ MacGinty, who was playing his final game for the province, converted and all of a sudden, Connacht were ahead by 15 points after 25 minutes. 

Even on the backfoot Connacht didn't let up, with Aki smashing Sexton into the ground and Dillane following that up with another monster hit on Rhys Ruddock as Leinster looked to build momentum, but if it wasn't Connacht's ferocious defense that halted them, it was themselves, as the unforced errors mounted. 

Connacht's Ultan Dillane with Dave Kearney and Richard Strauss of Leinster
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

As first half performance went, it was complete rugby from Pat Lam's men. 


 

Leinster finally got themselves on the board soon after the restart, as their dominant scrum was rewarded with a penalty which Sexton slotted, but their reprieve was short lived. 

Connacht began to stamp their authourity on the second half, although they faced a sterner defense than they did in the opening half.

Hooker Tom McCartney went close to a third try of the day, but after a beating three defenders on his charge for the line, he was hauled down by Sexton short of the line before being held up after his momentum pushed him over. 

The game's third try did arrive soon after, as after another sustained passage of play with Connacht in possession, MacGinty put a clever grubber in behind which Healy raced onto to collect and dive over the line ahead of the Leinster cover.   

Connacht’s Matt Healy celebrates scoring his sides third try
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

It all but assured Connacht of a first title, despite former player Sean Cronin ensuring a nervy finish for the neutral's favourite 15 minutes from time. 

However, Connacht were not to be denied a historic first ever major trophy, which left Man of the Match and captain John Muldoon in tears at the final whistle. 

 

Connacht’s John Muldoon lift the Guinness Pro12 Trophy
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland