Connacht U19s 23-21 Irish Exiles U19s

After last week’s defeat to Leinster, a win will feel important to the Connacht U19s after a promising outing. Both sides will be able to take something positive from this while still coming away with areas to work on. Aside from two costly periods of no concentration, Connacht gave as good as they got, and were largely impressive.

One of those periods came in the first ten minutes, after the former Garbally outhalf Simon Keller opened the scoring with a penalty from out in front. Poor midfield defence was largely the cause for two quickfire Exile tries, one coming from a scything attack from a lineout, the other from a fortituious richotet of the ball landing in the Exile midfielders hands for an easy run in to the line.

Credit to Connacht though, as they never let their heads drop. They looked threatening with ball in hand, and seemed to draw in the Exile defense. This lead to their response after fifteen minutes, with lovely hands from loosehead prop Niall Farrelly setting winger Ruairi Greene down the flank to score in the corner. Keller was unlucky with the conversion from wide-out.

It was then that a change was made, with Green moving into inside centre, and Paddy Griffin coming onto the right wing. This change helped the flow of the game swing in Connacht’s favour, as the midfield defense looked more secure, and the backline took on a more threatening look.

The Exiles were unable to cope with the Connacht attack, and began to give away several penalties in a row. Referee Peter Fitzgibbon gave them a final warning, but Keller was unsuccessful with the penalty attempt. It took just another attack from Connacht, with the game now minutes old, for the referee to lose patience and use his yellow card. This time, fullback Kevin Burke took over the kicking duties with success.

Connacht were growing into the game, and with only three points in arrears, started to show their skills. A clever 8-9-10 move of a centre field scrum released Griffin down the wing to make significant yardage. The Exile defense was starting to show weaknesses in their armour, especially giving up a lot of space out wide, which Keller was exploiting with clever kicks in behind their wingers.

One such pinpoint kick across the pitch fell nicely into the hands of Burke who was able to stride over unopposed. The conversion was unsuccessful, and the halftime score was 16-14.

The weather began to act up in the second half, leading to more handling errors, and contributing to what was becoming a very stop-start affair with a new influx of replacements not helping either team. Connacht’s defense was being tested, and a number of tackles were missed. The Exiles were unable to register any scores though, and would pay dearly when another yellow card was brandished to them, this time for a stamp. Connacht were unable to use this to their advantage although they did come close, when they stole an Exile lineout. Quick hands across the field lead to some space for Griffin, but the Connacht support was lacking, and the chance was foiled. 

With not long left, the impressive replacement backrow Dan Trayers reacted quickest to another dropped ball to gain thirty metres before a wonderful offload in the tackle kept the defense scrambling. From the next phase, a nice shimmy from Keller created space for the short pop to Burke who cut through the line to score his second try, and surely win the game for Connacht.

This was not the last play however, as after fielding a long clearance kick, the Exiles inside centre Bradley Greer went on a long arching run, beating five or six tacklers, before offloading to fullback Ben O’Ryan who beat another two defenders. The ball was offloaded to replacement wing Brenton Bird who managed to stretch out and finish impressively in the corner. The kick was good, but there wasn’t enough time for the Exiles to overcome the narrow deficit, and the game finished 23-21 in Connacht’s favour.


U18 and U19 matchday squads named for Interpro openers vs Ulster