Connacht opened up their European Champions Cup campaign with a richly-deserved 36-9 bonus-point win over Stade Francais at the Sportsground.

 

The Westerners scored six tries in total, with Caolin Blade, John Porch, Alex Wootton, Eoghan Masterson, Diarmuid Kilgallen and Cian Prendergast all touching down, with the boot of Jack Carty also adding three conversions.

 

Connacht started as the aggressors and their approach was rewarded when scrum-half Blade burrowed his way over the line from close distance after a line out maul. Carty slotted the extras and the hosts had a deserved 7-0 lead.

 

Stade responded well to the concession of the try and added two penalties – one of which was from inside his own half – through the boot of Sanchez to make the score 7-6 after an entertaining opening seventeen minutes.

 

The Westerners’ were confident in their line out and kept turning down kicks at goal and instead opted to go to the line. This bore try-scoring fruit again when Blade’s burst of the back off a maul gave the hosts possession deep in the Stade 22.

 

From there, Carty’s beautiful looping pass found Porch in acres of space and the Australian showed great pace to touch down and give Connacht a 12-6 lead.

 

With the line out once proving again to be a bountiful source of tries, the Westerners’ added their third try of the half on the stroke of halftime. Connacht once again opted to go to the line and, after their initial surge was stopped by the visitors, break from the back of their maul.

 

The ball was worked to Carty and – for the second time – his cutting, looping pass found a winger, this time Wootton, unmarked to touch down. The Roscommon native added the conversion and Connacht went into the interval deservedly leading 19-6.

 

The visitors opened the second half well and they had the first score when – for the third time – Sanchez slotted a penalty to cut the deficit to 19-9.

 

The game became broken in the second half with the away team providing more of an attacking threat, but the Connacht defence was sturdy and they used it as a platform to notch two more tries.

 

 

First replacement Masterson – after Carty’s third assist of the day – dove over in the corner for the bonus point try after the Westerners’ blitz defence forced a turnover deep in the Stade half. Carty then expertly added the conversion to make the score 26-9 in the host’s favour.

 

Another replacement also got in on the scoring act moments later when Kilgallen showed great pace to evade tackles and dive over in the corner. The fifth try of the afternoon saw Connacht lead 31-9.

 

Putting the cherry atop the cake, Prendergast, after a series of carries close to the line from the Connacht pack, powered over from close range just before the final whistle sounded to rapturous scenes at the Sportsground.

 

Connacht team

(15-9)

15: Oran McNulty
14: Alex Wootton
13: Shayne Bolton
12: Sammy Arnold
11: John Porch
10: Jack Carty
9: Caolin Blade

(8-1)
8: Jarrad Butler
7: Conor Oliver
6: Cian Prendergast
5: Niall Murray
4: Oisin Dowling
3: Dominic Robertson McCoy
2: Shane Delahunt
1: Matthew Burke

 

 

Replacements: Dave Heffernan for Delahunt, Jordan Duggan for Burke, Jack Aungier for Robertson McCoy, Eoghan Masterson for Dowling, Sean Masterson, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Conor Fitzgerald for Carty, Diarmuid Kilgallen for Bolton.

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