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Connacht back row Eoin McKeon says the province's Pro12 win over Leinster on Saturday evening "shows how far we have come".
Connacht defended superbly in the second half at the Sportsground to secure a 7-6 win over Leo Cullen's side and move four points clear at the top of the Pro 12 table.
McKeon was named man-of-the-match for an incredible defensive display, making 23 tackles including the decisive turnaround in the final minute as Leinster strived for a match-winning score following a a 25-phase move and two scrums within five yards of the Connacht try line
"In previous years we may have rolled over and died in the last 20 minutes," McKeon, 24, told Sky Sports.
"But we spoke in the week about how we were not afraid of Leinster, and how it is them chasing us.
"We have worked hard all season it is nothing new to us as we have beaten Leinster before. But it is onward and upwards for us."
Kieran Marmion's first half try, Connacht's 50th of the season, proved the difference as Pat Lam's side moved four points clear of Leinster in second place and six points ahead of third-placed Scarlets.
"Since Pat has come in as coach, he has tried to bring in a brand of rugby that is enjoyable for the viewers and enjoyable for us to play in," McKeon continued.
"We are obviously the top try scorers this season, and we have been working on our defence all season and coming off the line.
"We spoke this week about how we would have to dig deep to get the win. After that first half we knew that they would come out guns blazing. It just came down to who was willing to work harder and I think we just about came out on top."
McKeon says the victory shows Connacht deserve to be at the top of the table and their success is not a fluke built on early season wins when Leinster and Munster were missing a number of players to international commitments.
"This match shows how far we have come, and that we are not a bunch of phoneys," he concluded.
"We can really put it up to the big boys, and he have proved that we belong in the top six and the Champions Cup next year."