Connacht Eagles recorded their first British & Irish Cup victory of the season as they pipped London Scottish 30-27 in a dramatic finish at the Sportsground.

Two late converted tries from Shane O’Leary (78 minutes) and Stephen McVeigh (80) steered Connacht Eagles past Scottish, who are third in the current Greene King IPA Championship table.

In blustery conditions in Galway, Ireland Under-20 international Conor McKeon, who started at out-half, gave the Connacht youngsters the lead with a well-struck fifth minute penalty.

Peter Lydon, the ex-Lansdowne, Seapoint and Stade Francais back, replied for Scottish with a long range kick in the 12th minute.

The place-kicking duel continued as McKeon and Lydon exchanged further penalties by the 26th minute and although McKeon hit the post with his third attempt, he was soon back on target to give the hosts a 9-6 advantage.

Nigel Carolan’s charges were having the better of the exchanges until a late lapse allowed Scottish captain Mark Bright crash over for a try on the stroke of half-time. Full-back Lydon converted for a 13-9 scoreline.

The Eagles flew out of the traps on the resumption with a succession of attacks, with scrum half John Cooney (pictured below) using quick ball intelligently behind a determined pack led by skipper Eoghan Masterson.

Their collective efforts were rewarded in the 55th minute when Galwegians winger Jerome Harimate touched down. He was played in by Cooney, who did well to get the ball away despite a strong Scottish shove at a Connacht scrum five metres out.

McKeon’s pinpoint conversion gave the Eagles a 16-13 lead, but it was a shortlived one as a big maul from the Connacht 22-metre line, involving 11 Scottish players, led to flanker Chris Walker scoring in the 70th minute.

The game looked to be beyond Connacht’s reach as Lydon converted and also added the extras to winger Miles Mantella’s 74th-minute try, which came from replacement Lee Millar’s initial break.

Now 27-16 adrift, the Eagles had to respond swiftly and they did thanks to O’Leary’s try from a cross-field kick. McKeon’s conversion closed the gap back to four points.

And Scottish slipped up in the final play as Ireland Under-19 international McVeigh swept through a brittle defence to score a terrific match-winning try. McKeon converted to complete his own 15-point haul.

This comeback victory will certainly boost Carolan’s side for their remainder of the pool stages. They visit London Scottish and Pontypridd before hosting Pool 1 leaders Bristol at the Sportsground on Saturday, December 13.

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)

Connacht Eagles:  Ciaran Gaffney, David Panter, Shane O’Leary, Peter Robb, Jerome Harimate, Conor McKeon, John Cooney
Jacob Walshe, Pat O’Toole, JP Cooney, Cian Romaine, Ultan Dillane, Stephen McVeigh, Rory Moloney, Eoghan Masterson (captain)

Replacements: Paul O’Donnell, Saba Meunargia, Aaron McCloskey,   Marc Kelly, Conor Lowndes, Aidan Moynihan, Dwayne Corcoran

 

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