Connacht 20-26 Ospreys


By John O’Sullivan


Connacht fell to a narrow defeat to the Ospreys in a bruising Guinness PRO14 clash at the Sportsground. 


Tries from Alex Wootton and Paul Boyle — as well as two conversion and two penalties from Conor Fitzgerald — was enough to earn the hosts a losing bonus point, but the Westerners couldn’t quite eke out the victory, despite a physical performance.


The Welshmen, meanwhile, scored four tries of their own to earn both the win and a try bonus point.


From the early moments, both teams were keen to test each other’s ability in the air. John Porch excelled here, making some big catches and bringing calm to the back-field.


The visitors put a lot of offensive pressure on the Connacht defence in the opening minutes and the home team — with Tom Daly especially prominent in defence — held firm until the 10th minute when the Ospreys pressure finally told. George North putting the finishing touches on a sweeping move and touched down in the right-hand corner. Stephen Myler’s conversion was wide, but the away team found themselves 5-0 to the good.


The home team reacted well to conceding a try and mounted attacks of their own. Wootton almost crossed in the left-hand corner after an incisive move including Daly and Porch freed him up in the 22. The winger looked poised to score, but he was bundled into touch by a last-ditch tackle. Connacht didn’t have to wait long for a score, though, as Fitzgerald slotted a penalty to open their scoring account for the day.


Buoyed by their score, the Westerners continued to up the pressure and it yielded a try on the half-hour mark. Aggressive line speed in defence from Connacht forced an Ospreys knock-on. The ball spilt just outside the 22 and Fitzgerald reacted first and picked it up before feeding Wootton a pass. The winger proceeded to run almost the entire length of the pitch to touch down for a try that Fitzgerald converted to give the hosts the lead for the first time, 10-5.


One try quickly became two as the home team began to move into the ascendancy in the scrum. Two scrum penalties in the Ospreys 22 saw them reduced to 14 men with Justin Tipuric sin-binned. From the third scrum, Kieran Marmion picked from the base and fed Boyle an against the grain pass. The number 8 then powered his way over the line — forcing his way through some would-be tackles — from close range. Fitzgerald slotted the conversion to see Connacht go into the break leading 17-5.


The Welshmen began the second period in a strong fashion and they registered their second try not long after the resumption. Mat Protherhoe collected North’s offload in the 22 and skipped in under the posts for a try which Myler converted to bring the visitors to 17-12 on the scoreboard.


Confident, the Ospreys notched their second try of the half shortly after their first. Peeling the ball off the back of a rolling maul, Welsh international Rhys Webb ran over a try from just inside the 22. Myler once again added the extras to regain the lead for the Welshmen, 17-19.


The lead changed hands once again soon after in what was becoming a tit for tat affair. Fitzgerald — whose game management and kicking were superb throughout — bisected the posts with a sweetly struck penalty to make the scoreboard read: 20-19.


The Ospreys, though, sealed their win and bonus point with ten minutes remaining. Webb, once again, was the benefactor of a rolling maul and the scrum-half touched down at the base. Myler converted and the visitors held their lead 26-20 lead until the final whistle.


Connacht team: 




15: John Porch 

14: Peter Sullivan 

13: Tom Daly 

12: Peter Robb

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Conor Fitzgerald 

9: Kieran Marmion 




8: Paul Boyle 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Jarrad Butler ©

5: Gavin Thornbury 

4: Ultan Dillane 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Denis Buckley 


Replacements: Shane Delahunt f0r Heffernan, Matthew Burke for Buckley, Conor Kenny for Bealham, Niall Murray for Dillane, Abraham Papali’i for Butler, Caolin Blade for Marmion, Bundee Aki for Robb, Matt Healy for Wootton.

A number of key players have made a welcome return to the Connacht squad for tomorrow’s rescheduled Guinness PRO14 clash with Ospreys at The Sportsground (k/o 3.00pm).
In all there are seven changes to the side that narrowly lost to Munster last time out, with Andy Friend able to recall captain Jarrad Butler and a number of other experienced players.
Butler lines out in a back row which includes Paul Boyle at number 8 and Conor Oliver on the opposite flank. The in-form duo of locks Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux continue to pair up, while Dave Heffernan comes into the starting XV in a front row that includes Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham.
There’s a new look half-back partnership with Irish international Kieran Marmion named alongside Conor Fitzgerald, while Peter Robb has been handed his first start of the season at number 12 after recovering from a long-term groin issue. John Porch continues at full-back with Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan on the wings.
The bench includes the returning Bundee Aki who has recovered from a knee injury, and Abraham Papali’i following a recent suspension.
Commenting on his selected team, Andy Friend says:
“It says a lot about the depth we have built here in Connacht that we can make seven changes from an interpro and still field a really strong side. A number of players are getting their first starts in a month so will be eager to impress, and with the likes of Bundee and Abraham on the bench we’ll have some physicality to call on when needed.”
Regarding the fixture itself, Friend added:
“I’ve spoken this week about the importance of bringing the same energy for every game, regardless of whether it’s an interpro fixture or not. We’ll put that to the test tomorrow, and after a few disappointing results at home we’re really keen to get back to winning ways here.”
Sunday 24th January, 3pm, The Sportsground
15. John Porch (29)
14. Peter Sullivan (7)
13. Tom Daly (36)
12. Peter Robb (45)
11. Alex Wootton (11)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (28)
9. Kieran Marmion (174)
1. Denis Buckley (190)
2. Dave Heffernan (136)
3. Finlay Bealham (148)
4. Ultan Dillane (106)
5. Quinn Roux (106)
6. Jarrad Butler (65) (c)
7. Conor Oliver (12)
8. Paul Boyle (48)

16. Shane Delahunt (88)
17. Matthew Burke (18)
18. Conor Kenny (9)
19. Gavin Thornbury (48)
20. Abraham Papali’i (4)
21. Caolin Blade (120)
22. Bundee Aki (105)
23. Matt Healy (142)

NOTE: This week’s round of PCR testing returning 0 positive results from the Professional squad and management.

By John O’Sullivan 


Connacht’s Beibhinn Parson’s has been named the Guinness Irish Rugby Writers Women’s Player of The Year for the 2019/2020 season. 


The Ballinasloe native starred in Ireland’s Six Nations victories over Scotland and Wales before the coronavirus pandemic forced the curtailment of the tournament. 


The 18-year-old’s achievement is especially impressive, given she balanced representing Connacht and Ireland with studying for the Leaving Certificate examination. 


Connacht women’s U18 coach Fraser Gow said Parson’s — who he coached at that level — award came as no surprise to him, given her dedication to her sport and natural athletic abilities. 


“It was an amazing achievement for someone so young,” the Glaswegian said. 


“The performances that she put in and the tries that she scored meant she was absolutely deserving of that award.


“You could tell immediately the talent she had, in terms of her speed and acceleration and how she can switch the gears so quickly and in terms of her evasion and awareness of exploiting space. 


“I think Beibhinn has the absolute spot-on attitude. She wants to improve and she wants to get better every day. This recognition that she has got is another step forward for her, but she has the motivation and drive and she wants to do more. She wants to be part of a winning Ireland squad and to help that squad and help Ireland get to the World Cup. 


“She knows herself that you have to put the hard work in and be dedicated to your craft. If you’re not — even if you have the talent — you won’t go on to achieve these things and get the recognition.”


Meanwhile, Wendy Hickey — women’s rugby development officer at Connacht Rugby — praised the role played by Ballinasloe RFC in the Irish international’s development, highlighting the importance of the club game in the province. 


“The coaches in Ballinasloe RFC deserve recognition for helping her get to where she is now,” Hickey said. 


“Every coach from mini to youth rugby had their part to play in her achievement. It all starts with club rugby.”


By John O’Sullivan


Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will need to bring an aggressive line speed and accurate kicking game in order to beat the Ospreys this coming Sunday in the Guinness PRO14.


Originally scheduled for November, the clash with the Welshmen will now take place at 3 pM on Sunday at the Sportsground, and Friend, whose team sit second in conference B,  is wary of the offensive threat of the Welsh region.


Praising the impact the Ospreys’ coach, Toby Booth, has had on their attack, the Australian believes that the Westerners will have to counteract their potent attacking game with strong defensive line speed.


”That line speed for us is really important,” Friend said.


“They do have a, with Toby Booth coming in this year, healthy attack. Toby comes from Quins(Harlequins) and London Irish and Bath and I have worked against Toby many years ago and you know he wants to throw that ball around. They’re trying to play, so that line speed is important to us.


The head coach also confirmed that Connacht will be looking to get the upper hand at the set-piece, highlighting the excellent work forwards coach Jimmy Duffy has done with the pack and, in particular, the defensive line out and how the Westerners can use it as an attacking weapon.


“The other important part to us is the way we kick,” the former Australian sevens coach said.


“They have got a pretty dangerous back three, so we reckon an area we’ll be able to get an advantage over them is our line out. Our line out defence has been superb this year, so we won’t be afraid to put the ball off the field,  rather than give it to their back three, and try to challenge their line out from there.”


Friend, meanwhile, said that the Connacht squad have benefited from a week off. After narrowly falling to a defeat to Munster two weekends ago, the Sportsgrond team didn’t have a game last weekend and the head coach is optimistic that they can utilize this freshness in the clash with the Ospreys.


“I said to a few of the boys that I saw this morning, ‘as much as I like you blokes, it was nice not seeing you for a week’,” the Canberra native joked.


”It was the break we probably all needed. I’m not going to say we had a break because there’s still a lot going on, but a change in routine. People bounced back in this morning and there’s a spring in the step and we’re looking forward to what this weekend brings us.”


Elsewhere, second row Ultan Dillane says he is enjoying his rugby and he is concentrating on a strong end to the season with Connacht.


The 27-year-old has performed consistently for the Westerners’ this season and has been part of the Irish international squad, where he brought his cap total up to 17.


But the Kerry native isn’t focusing on the upcoming Six Nations squad and is keeping his mind on playing as well as he can for the western province, which, he is confident, will lead to him being included in more national squads.


“I’m trying to keep my head with Connacht and I think the way it is is if you play well enough then you’ll get your merit after that,” the Connacht academy graduate said.


“You can’t be thinking too far ahead, cause that’s what will really wreck you if things don’t go well. I am kinda more focused on what’s in front of me right now and that’s the Ospreys this weekend.”


Dillane also praised the leadership qualities of the squad and said that he has been impressed with how the players have dealt with the adversity brought on by covid, especially with the rescheduling of games.


Several players, including Eoghan Masterson, Quinn Roux and Paul Boyle, have lead the Westerners out as captain this season and the Irish international feels that the squad, as a whole, have learned from this.


“We’ve had numerous different captains this year and everyone has learned a little bit from that. Everyone has had a similar message like that it’s just being moment focused. There are so many leaders in this squad and I feel we don’t panic over anything anymore, because of how weird the year has been and it is kinda refreshing as well.”



By John O’Sullivan


Connacht Rugby’s Learn To Perform webinar series, in association with Official Partner GMIT, will return next Monday, January 25th, with a Tackle Your Feelings webinar at 7 PM. 


In line with the current governmental COVID restrictions, Connacht Rugby is bringing the presentations to participants’ homes, via a series of online webinars. Previously,  groups would have been brought to the Sportsground for the Learn to Perform talks, but — adapting to the ongoing restrictions — the informational sessions have and will now take place online.


Presented by Hannah McCormack from Rugby Players Ireland with guest appearances from Jack Carty and Edel McMahon — players from the men’s and women’s senior teams, respectively — the webinar will focus on 13 to 17-year-old rugby players and showing them the positive sides of mental health and teaching the youngsters techniques such as positive self-talk. The parents of participants are encouraged to join in the talk.


The following Monday, February 1st, another Tackle Your Feelings webinar will take place at 7 PM and will be aimed towards adult rugby players, from 18 years old upwards.


Tackle Your Feelings is a mental health and well-being campaign run by Rugby Players Ireland, which supports individuals proactively looking after their mental well-being, with a focus on covering happiness, optimism, and resilience. The campaign features some of Ireland’s Rugby Players leading from the front, breaking down stigma and encouraging people to become more proactive about looking after their mental well-being on a daily basis.



Tackle Your Feelings is the third installment of the Connacht Rugby and GMIT Learn To Perform series after webinars focusing on rugby specific nutrition  — lead by Connacht’s lead performance nutritionist Gavin Rackard — and online strength and conditioning courses for female rugby players — presented by Ann Caffrey, an athletic development coach with experience in elite level sports — took place at the end of last year.


Over 200 participants have taken part in the Learn to Perform series to date and Ross Mannion, Rugby Participation Officer (RPO) with Connacht Rugby, the organiser of the series, was delighted with the response and the number of interested parties logging on. The feedback received from both participants and parents, some of whom who have immediately taken on board the advice received during the webinar, was also positive


“We had over 200 players, parents, and coaches log in to Monday’s webinar and the interaction from the kids and parents on the nights was fantastic, plenty of questions and a desire to learn was clear to see,” the Sligo native said.


Interested parties can sign up via the following link


Connacht’s home Guinness PRO14 tie with Ospreys has been rescheduled for Sunday 24th January (k/o 3pm).

The game was due to be played on the weekend of the 13th February, but due to the postponement of the Heineken Champions Cup pool games, it has been brought forward given the availability in the calendar.

There will be live coverage on TG4 and Premier Sports with deferred coverage on eir Sport.


Connacht 10-16 Munster


By John O’Sullivan


Despite almost completing a sensational late turnaround, Connacht fell to a narrow, 10-16, defeat to Munster at the Sportsground in a keenly-contested Guinness PRO14 interprovincial clash.


A Peter Sullivan try and a penalty and a conversion from Jack Carty accounted for the hosts’ points after a strong team performance, in both attack and defence.


But Munster — who registered their sixteen points via a Chris Farrell try and eleven points from the boot of J.J. Hanrahan — held on and sealed their victory after weathering a late Connacht storm in their 22 while being down to 13 men.



The visitors, who started the game one place ahead of the Westerners in Conference A of the PRO14, started well and they had their first points when Hanrahan made no mistake in slotting a penalty from just outside the hosts 22. The home team, meanwhile, played with 14 men in the opening period after Shane Delahunt was yellow carded.


Connacht reacted well to the concession of the first score and went in search of scores of their own. Munster, though, were solid in defence — especially at the breakdown, where Tadgh Beirne was prominent — and weathered the home teams’ early attacks.


At the other end, the Southerners took advantage of their opportunities and they scored the first try of the evening when Farrell crashed over from close range after a line out gave Munster territory in Connacht’s 22. Hanrahan made no mistakes from the tee and the hosts found themselves 10-0 down.


An extremely physical encounter was mostly played between both teams’ 22’s and Connacht were giving as good as they got on and off the ball, with Sean Masterson, Tom Daly, and Sean O’Brien all making big hits and denting carries.


The home team’s scrum was functioning well and it was via that avenue that Connacht registered their first points of the night. A strong collective push from the pack yielded a scrum penalty and Carty — in the last action of the half — was composed from the kicking tee and the Westerners went into the break trailing 3-10.


Munster started the second period in a strong fashion and they stretched their lead even further when Hanrahan successfully kicked his second penalty of the evening.


The Connacht scrum — where Denis Buckley, Finlay Bealham, and Shane Delahunt were impressive — was a source of penalties for the home team. But Munster’s well-orchestrated defence kept the hosts’ attack at bay with the Westerners pushing hard for a try of their own.


Against the run of territory and possession, Munster stretched their lead further when Hanrahan continued his 100% kicking rate for the evening with another successfully struck penalty.


With 20 minutes remaining, the hosts kept their intensity high and continued to probe. Enjoying the lion’s share of territory and possession, the pressure eventually told.


Munster were reduced to 14 men when Rory Scannell was yellow carded with Connacht — with Sammy Arnold and Tom Daly regular and effective ball carriers —  upping the ante. With a man advantage, the hosts spun the ball wide in the visitors 22, and John Porch’s pass fed Sullivan to dive in. Carty, despite the difficulty of the angle of the conversion, slotted the extras to set up a tense finale.


The visitors’ task was made even harder when substitute Nick McCarthy was yellow-carded, but Munster withstood Connacht’s late pressure and forced a knock-on to end the game.


Connacht team:



15: John Porch

14: Ben O’Donnell

13: Sammy Arnold

12: Tom Daly

11: Alex Wootton

10: Jack Carty

9: Caolin Blade


8: Sean Masterson

7: Conor Oliver

6: Sean O’Brien

5: Quinn Roux(C)

4: Ultan Dillane.

3: Finlay Bealham

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Denis Buckley


Replacements: Matthew Burke for Buckley, Dave Heffernan for Delahunt, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Gavin Thornbury for Masterson, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Sullivan for O’Donnell.

Voting is now OPEN for the Connacht Women’s Try of the Season Award!
We’re missing our Women interpros these days, so we want to start 2021 on the right foot. We’ve launched this competition not just to highlight the brilliant scores during our last interpro series, but to also whet the appetite for when Connacht Women do return.
You can watch all the tries below, then scroll down to the bottom of the page to vote for your favourite! We’ll announce the winner on the week of Monday 18th January.










The Connacht management team have made four changes to their starting XV for Saturday’s crucial Guinness PRO14 interpro against Munster at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm).
After last week’s historic win at the RDS Arena, Andy Friend’s side have been further boosted by the return of a number of internationals and others after injury absences.
The first change comes in the front row where Finlay Bealham is restored to tighthead prop – he lines out alongside Denis Buckley and Shane Delahunt.
After coming off the bench last week, Ultan Dillane now comes into the starting side where he partners Quinn Roux in the second row, with Roux remaining as captain.
The pack is completed by Conor Oliver, Sean Masterson, and Sean O’Brien who has recovered from injury which has kept him out for the last six weeks.
Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue at 9 and 10 respectively, as do Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold in the centre after brilliant performances last weekend.
The final change comes in the back three where Ben O’Donnell comes in for his first start in a Connacht jersey – forming an exciting trio with Alex Wootton and John Porch.
Among the replacements include the returning Paul Boyle and Irish international Dave Heffernan.
Connacht Rugby can also confirm that all Pro players and management returned negative results in this week’s round of PCR testing. A number of players who have spent the last period in self-isolation will return to training next week.
Commenting on the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
“Last week’s win was a testament to the belief and determination that was still present in our squad despite a challenging few weeks. Now it’s all about backing that up and finding another win that will bring us right into contention for a Guinness PRO14 final spot.
We’ve had a very positive week with no news COVID cases and a few players available to us again, but we will still have to be at our best to overcome a Munster side that is full of quality.”

Saturday 9th January, The Sportsground, k/o 7.35pm

15. John Porch (28)
14. Ben O’Donnell (1)
13. Sammy Arnold (11)
12. Tom Daly (35)
11. Alex Wootton (10)
10. Jack Carty (148)
9. Caolin Blade (119)
1. Denis Buckley (189)
2. Shane Delahunt (87)
3. Finlay Bealham (147)
4. Ultan Dillane (105)
5. Quinn Roux (105) (C)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (11)
8. Sean Masterson (8)

16. Dave Heffernan (135
17. Matthew Burke (17)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (59)
19. Gavin Thornbury (47)
20. Paul Boyle (47)
21. Kieran Marmion (173)
22. Diarmuid Kilgallen (2)
23. Peter Sullivan (6)

By John O’Sullivan


Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will need to replicate the level of performance shown in their victory over Leinster when they entertain Munster in the Guinness PRO14 this Saturday at 7:35 PM. 


The Westerners sealed their 35-24 win at the RDS last weekend — which was their first win away to Leinster since 2002 — through a performance built on intensity on both sides of the ball. The attack yielded four tries, while the defence was organised and aggressive.


Friend believes that Connacht will need to produce a similar showing against a Munster team coming to the Sportsground looking to make amends for losing away to Ulster in their last interprovincial clash.


“It’s a  crucial game for both”, the Australian said of the upcoming Interpro derby.


“I think we’ll get what you always going to get from Munster. They’re going to be physical. When they get a penalty, they’re going to kick to the corner and maul you or they’ll kick three points.  That’s how they get their points, so we’ll have to make sure we’re squeaky clean with our discipline and make sure we don’t give them easy access.


“When they do get in(Connacht territory) which they will, no doubt, we’ve gotta make sure that we’re as brave as we were on Saturday, which was really impressive. We know we’re going to have to bring that for 80 minutes. We know exactly what’s coming from Munster. They’re a quality outfit and they’ll have a point to prove.”


Friend, meanwhile, praised the leadership characteristics of his squad and that of the several Connacht players who have lead the team out as captains already this season and in the recent past.


Quinn Roux — who skippered the team versus Leinster — Paul Boyle, and Jarrad Butler have all captained the team this season and Friend said that their different methods of leadership have helped the squad as a whole.


“It’s one of the things we have been trying to build, is our leadership group,” the Australian said.


“You will have seen Jarrad’s been our captain, but we’ve also had Caolin Blade, Dave Heffernan, and Paul Boyle as captain and they all bring something different. Eoghan Masterson has stepped in there, too. All those blokes are in our leadership group and they all have a different way of doing it.


“It’s just about trying to get a blend of the best bits of their respective leadership qualities and using it at the time. Quinn certainly the way he speaks is, ‘I demand this from you and I want you to deliver for me’, whereas some of the other leaders are ‘follow me, watch what I do and see if you can emulate that.”


Elsewhere, centre Tom Daly complimented the culture that Friend and his coaching staff have created at Connacht and says that is has helped him  — and indeed other players — play to the best of their abilities.


The 27-year-old continued his impressive run of form with a try versus Leinster — which capped a strong all-round performance against his former club — and he said that the opportunity for game time with the Westerners, coupled with the team spirit at the Sportsground, has helped him acclimatize after his move to the province in December 2018.


“The culture is obviously brilliant here,” the Carlow native said.


“I think the main thing is getting minutes on the pitch. I’m just really enjoying my time here. I love Galway and I love the lads in the squad. I get on really well with Friendy as well. I think he’s such a good head coach and he’s built such a good culture at this club. I think if you ask anyone in this squad are they happy, they’re all pretty happy whether they’re playing or not.”


Daly said that he has enjoyed forming a midfield pairing with Sammy Arnold and that the Irish international’s work rate is helping the team, both in attack and defence. The pair have been regular partners in the centre this season and the former Irish Sevens player said that Arnold’s defensive work has allowed him to express himself in an attacking sense.


“I’m enjoying playing with Sammy, to be honest,” the former Lansdowne player said of his centre partner.


“He’s a bit of a dog on the pitch and I think and some of the work he does goes unnoticed. He brings really good line speed outside me and that gives me confidence. He does a lot of the unseen work that frees me up to carry a little bit more.


“We share the load quite well and we’re kinda building a bit of a combination now. He’s really easy to play with and he talks loads outside me and I’m really enjoying it and I think the move has worked out well for him coming down from Munster. I think he’s played every game this year and he’s covered a few positions, so he’s a real valuable member of that squad and he’s playing very well.”


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