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Published: 19:39 | 28/5/16

Connacht beat Leinster to take Guinness PRO12 crown

20-10 victory in Murrayfield

Connacht sealed their first Guinness PRO12 title after deservedly beating Leinster 20-10 in the final at Murrayfield.

Tries from Tiernan O'Halloran, Niyi Adeolokiun and Matt Healy added to five points from the boot of AJ MacGinty was enough to see off an out-of-sorts Leinster side who replied with a Sean Cronin try and a penalty and conversion from Jonathan Sexton.

Leinster were without influential second-row Devin Toner due to the death of his father Peter earlier in the week and the stadium observed a minute's silence in his memory prior to kick-off.

Leo Cullen's men started on the front foot and had the Connacht defence under pressure with wave after wave of phases early on, but the westerners' defence held firm and were almost rewarded following a smart break from deep inside their own 22 which ended with Luke Fitzgerald scrambling across to take Matt Healy's excellent kick ahead into touch ten metres from his own Leinster line.

The pace was relentless as both sides fought to establish a measure of dominance over the other and it was Connacht who made the breakthrough as full-back O'Halloran finished superbly after a good break from Healy.

AJ MacGinty converted to give Pat Lam's side a 7-0 advantage with just under a quarter of an hour on the clock.

Connacht were growing in confidence and only a last ditch tackle from Jack McGrath prevented winger Niyi Adeolokun from bursting through for a second try after great work from centre pairing Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki.

But they didn't have to wait long as, moments later, the winger finished off a slick passing move with a sublime kick over the top which he chased down to score close to the corner.

MacGinty was narrowly off target with the conversion attempt, but made amends shortly afterwards with a penalty after Leinster were pinged for a deliberate knock-on to leave fifteen points between the sides with just 28 minutes played.

Leinster slowly stemmed the green tide and began to assert themselves up front. However, they were unable to trouble the scoreboard as a series of handling errors at critical times ensured that Connacht took a healthy 15-0 advantage into the break.

Leo Cullen brought in Tadgh Furlong and Sean Cronin for Mike Ross and Richard Strauss soon after the restart in an attempt to cement Leinster's dominance in the forwards and it quickly paid dividends as, after Connacht were penalised in the scrum, Jonathan Sexton was able to open the Blues' account with a kick from the ten-metre line.

MacGinty was short with a penalty attempt soon after as Connacht spurned the chance to restore their 15-point advantage.

But they were almost over for their third try on 52 minutes after a superb break from Tom McCartney, with Sexton just managing to prevent the hooker from touching down.

However, victory was all but sealed on 57 minutes when Healy collected Kieran Marmion's deft grubber kick for another five-pointer.

MacGinty was unable to add the extras, but the writing looked on the wall for Leinster.

Substitute Zane Kirchner looked to given Leinster a tiny bit of hope when he dummied superbly before crossing in the corner, only for referee Nigel Owens to harshly call play back for a forwards pass.

However, Leinster continued to press and Cronin finished a good passing move to touch down ten yards from the corner flag.

Sexton added the conversion to a chorus of boos as Connacht fans felt referee Owens should have stopped play after O'Halloran was floored following a collision with Dave Kearney but it was 20-10 with 12 minutes remaining.

Leinster piled on the pressure but were unable to breach a resolute Connacht defence as the PRO12 trophy heads to Galway for the first time.

By: Kieran O'Daly

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