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Connacht Rugby have the onerous task of overturning a five-point deficit at Leinster Rugby in the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 second leg on Friday night.
A try brace from James Lowe helped Leinster to 26-21 victory in the first leg at The Sportsground, leaving Connacht with a huge task on their hands at the Aviva Stadium.
Four-time champions Leinster have lost just once in their last 20 home games in the Heineken Champions Cup, winning each of their three home fixtures since the beginning of last season by an average margin of 41 points.
The game gets underway at 17:30 (UK & Irish time) and will be available to watch on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.
Your #HeinekenChampionsCup Try of the Round nominees, delivered by @DHLRugby 💪@UBBRugby’s Federico Mori @UlsterRugby’s Rob Baloucoune@ExeterChiefs' @StuartWHOGG_@MHR_Officiel’s @Mercer8Zach@ASMOfficiel’s Cheikh Tiberghien
Vote now ➡️ https://t.co/m9X9zTN5IN pic.twitter.com/bGePPKp3Jv
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 11, 2022
Other key stats:
- Each of Leinster’s last two games against fellow Irish sides in the Heineken Champions Cup have ended with a margin of victory of five points or fewer.
- Leinster have won seven of their last eight home matches in the knockout stage of the Heineken Champions Cup (L1); however, their sole defeat during that period came in their most recent such fixture (17-25v Saracens in the 2019/20 quarter-final).
- Connacht have lost their last four games in the Heineken Champions Cup, each by margins of fewer than seven points; only once before have they lost more consecutive games in the competition though, when they lost their first five games during their debut season in 2011/12.
- Connacht have lost their last eight matches away from home in the Heineken Champions Cup; this fixture will be the first time that they have played a Heineken Champions Cup knockout stage match away from home, as well as the first time that they have visited a fellow Irish team in the competition.
- Leinster (14) and Connacht (11) are the only teams to have scored more than 10 tries from possessions that started with a lineout in the Heineken Champions Cup this season.
- Connacht have conceded 22 scrum penalties in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, twice as many as any other club; meanwhile, only Leicester Tigers (17) have won more penalties from scrums than Leinster (12).
- Leinster duo Hugo Keenan and Jamison Gibson-Park have both assisted six tries in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, more than any other player; Keenan made two assists last weekend, as well as scoring one try, while Gibson-Park recorded one assist.
- Leinster’s Garry Ringrose has made six passes that have led directly to a line break in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, more than any other player, while only three players have made more offloads than him (7) this season; Gregory Alldritt (11) Thomas Ramos (10) and James Hume (9).
- Connacht’s Jack Carty has scored 54 points in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, the most of any player; he has also made the most kicks in play (70) and gained the most kicking metres (2549).
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: “For our guys it’s getting excited by playing in front of our home support on Friday and trying to put on a big performance in a knock-out game in Europe where we’re starting five points ahead.”
Connacht prop Finlay Bealham: “We’ve had a good look back at the game over the weekend and done our reviews and everyone is raring to go Friday and hopefully it will be another belter.”
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Wing James Lowe scored four tries as Leinster Rugby produced a commanding display to thrash Connacht Rugby 56-20 in the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 second leg at Aviva Stadium on Friday.
Leinster secured their place in the quarter-finals with an 82-41 aggregate victory as Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw (2) and Tadhg Furlong crossed in addition to Lowe’s quadruple.
Connacht were ultimately outclassed over the two legs, but managed to dot down through Tiernan O’Halloran, Sam Arnold and Abraham Papali’i.
Fly-half Jack Carty gave Connacht the lead inside two minutes, slotting a penalty from in front of the posts, but he wasn’t able to repeat the feat a few moments later as he dragged his effort wide.
Sexton is pulling the strings perfectly for @leinsterrugby today 👌#HeinekenChampionsCuppic.twitter.com/APh29b23Na
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 15, 2022
Connacht made a confident start, but Leinster would score the game’s first try as their first attack set scrum-half Gibson-Park clear down the right and over the whitewash.
Leinster began clicking through the gears after that, their dominant scrum setting the foundations for centre Henshaw, who spun out of several tackles to cross on 18 minutes.
Another score for the hosts came 10 minutes later as prop Tadhg Furlong powered over from close range, before Connacht suffered another setback as centre Bundee Aki was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
Leinster immediately punished their opponents, crossing for a fourth try as wing Lowe bundled over after a delightful pass from fly-half Johnny Sexton, who kicked six conversions over the course of the game.
The onslaught continued straight after the break, with Henshaw taking advantage of Leinster’s numerical advantage to go over for his second score of the evening.
Once back up to their full complement, Connacht grabbed their first try of the game, full-back O’Halloran crossing on 46 minutes after a smart pass from Carty.
The smile says it all 😁
A phenomenal 4️⃣ scores for @JamesLowe_03 as @leinsterrugby power to the next round 🔥#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/Dvx31FRKNf
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 15, 2022
But Connacht’s Jack Aungier was sin binned moments later, and Leinster continued to produce electric attacking rugby, sending Lowe over for his second try on 55 minutes.
Connacht would get over again through replacement Sam Arnold shortly after, but Lowe completed his hat-trick as he had the legs to cross in the corner after more slick Leinster hands, before a third Connacht try came through Papali’i.
Leinster had the final say as Lowe gathered replacement fly-half Ross Byrne’s kick through and dotted down for his fourth score in the final minute, typifying Leinster’s domination.
Leinster will play the winners of ASM Clermont Auvergne against Leicester Tigers in the quarter-finals.
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