A brace of tries each from Max Deegan and Garry Ringrose as well as further five-pointers from Dave Kearney, Ciaran Frawley, Joe Tomane and Luke McGrath helped the home side to a comfortable victory.
Leinster got off to a perfect quick-start as Connacht made a mess of an early line-out which led to Peter Dooley breaking through the defensive line before offloading to Deegan, who barged over for the opening try. Ciaran Frawley split the posts with the conversion to make it 7-0 after just two minutes.
The hosts had their second try just under ten minutes later as Connacht eventually collapsed under the pressure they were under. Leinster went through the phases in the Connacht 22 before unleashing their back-line as Garry Ringrose sent a looping pass out left to Kearney, who burst a couple of tackles to go over for the score. Frawley failed to convert this time around.
Leinster had number three two minutes later as they went from their own 22 all the way up the other end of the pitch. Frawley was on the end of the brilliant move by the home side, with Deegan darting through the Connacht defence before passing to his fly-half who ran under the posts. Frawley made no mistake this time around with the kick to push Leinster 19-0 ahead with less than a quarter of an hour on the clock.
They had the bonus-point wrapped up on 20 minutes as they fed the ball to Deegan from a line-out close to the Connacht try-line, he in turn sent it to Tomane who burst over for the fourth try of the game. Frawley kicked the extras to push the hosts further in front.
On 34 minutes the boys in blue were over for another five-pointer, as they went through the phases inside the opposition 22 before scrum-half McGrath had a quick pick and go from the back of a ruck close to the try-line and touched down for the try. Frawley converted once again to make it 33-0.
Three minutes on and Deegan scored his second of the evening and his team’s sixth after another break through the Connacht defence led to some phases in the 22 before the try. Frawley knocked over his fifth two-pointer of the night from the tee to leave it at 40-0 to the hosts come the half-time whistle.
It took a few minutes for the game to really get going in the second period, but Leinster hit top form once more eight minutes in as Deegan produced another sensational break through the defence before offloading to Ringrose, who raced over for the try. Frawley kicked the extras again to make it 47-0.
The visitors dominated possession and territory over the next 25 minutes or so and were rewarded with 10 minutes remaining as Tom McCartney barrelled over off the back of a line-out maul. Conor Fitzgerald knocked over the extras to cut ever so slightly into the lead.
However, Leinster came roaring back and from a cross-field kick by replacement Jamison Gibson-Park, Ringrose picked the ball out of the air and charged over the line in the right-hand corner. Harry Byrne converted the score to make it 54-7 and that was the result come the whistle.
The win means Leinster have a perfect 10 from 10 record in the PRO14 so far this season and head into next weekend’s Champions Cup game against Lyon full of confidence with a further four wins from four in Europe too. Meanwhile, it’s a disappointing result for Connacht who will need a much improved result if they are to cause any form of upset when they host Toulouse next weekend.
Jordan Larmour (7), Fergus McFadden (7), Garry Ringrose (8), Joe Tomane (8), Dave Kearney (7), Ciaran Frawley (8), Luke McGrath (9); Peter Dooley (7), Sean Cronin (7), Tadhg Furlong (7), Ross Molony (7), James Ryan (6), Rhys Ruddock (9), Will Connors (7), Max Deegan (9)
Munster confirm Zebo signing
This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries between 2010 and 2018.
In his third season with the Top 14 side, the 31-year-old has played 55 times and scored 21 tries to date.
Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “The opportunity to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish Rugby.
“Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrated by his willingness to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try-scorer back home, possible.”
Simon Zebo said, “I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster. My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough, I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories.
“However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentially Ireland again, so when this opportunity arose the lure of being close to home, family and friends and Munster fans, it outweighed all other options. I cannot wait to get back to the HPC with the team and hopefully a packed Thomond Park.”
Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early
Marcell Coetzee has played his last game for Ulster Rugby.
With back-row, Marcell Coetzee, currently side-lined with a hamstring injury, Ulster Rugby has agreed terms which will see the player released from the club at the end of this month, ahead of his planned departure at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.
Given the need for several weeks of rehabilitation following the injury sustained by Coetzee in last month’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Leinster, Ulster Rugby and the player have reached a mutual agreement to part ways on Friday 30 April.
Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment, Bryn Cunningham, said: “We have come to an agreement that will allow Marcell the time and space required to continue his rehab.
Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre
21-year-old, Cormac Izuchukwu will make his first start for the Ulster men as he is named in the second row alongside Kieran Treadwell. Marty Moore comes back into the starting front row at tighthead, with Eric O’Sullivan and John Andrew retaining their starting berths at loosehead and hooker. Jordi Murphy will captain the side at openside flanker, with Sean Reidy and David McCann being retained at blindside and Number Eight.
A youthful back line sees Ethan McIlroy coming into the back three at full-back, with Rob Lyttle on the left wing and Robert Baloucoune returning on the right. Stewart Moore and James Hume will make up the midfield pairing, while John Cooney and Michael Lowry are named at half-back.
Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Matty Rea are the forward reinforcements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing the back line options on the bench.
Ulster team to play Zebre Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 16, Friday 19 March at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordy Murphy (Capt.), David McCann.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.