British & Irish Cup action in Athlone

RUGBY — MICHAEL SILKE

CONNACHT EAGLES TACKLE CROSS KEYS ON SATURDAY

CONNACHT EAGLES tackle Cross Keys in the British & Irish Cup at Dubarry Park, on Saturday afternoon in a Pool 4 rematch. The Welsh club, runners-up last season to Munster, pipped the developing Connacht squad 17-12 in South Wales last weekend but the host province will be optimistic of avenging that narrow loss at the Athlone venue. Kick off time is 2 p.m. which will enable supporters to then watch the Heineken Cup action on the big screens at The Bounty afterwards.

EaglesLeainster350Cross Keys were the surprise package in the B&I Cup last season. A feeder club for Newport Gwent Dragons, they are doing reasonably well in the Principality Premiership this year, currently lying in fifth position and have had a good Welsh Cup run to date too. The small town club will be formidable opposition for the Eagles. Wings Marcus Johnstone and Nathan Trowbridge have scored over 60 tries between them so their exploits must be curbed. Centre Leon Andrews is another regular try scorer although it was lock Ollie Hodge, who forms a second row partnership with his brother Danny, who notched the only (and decisive) try last Saturday. Stefan Jones ability from placekicks means that Connacht must be disciplined.

The Eagles will field a primarily youthful squad. Buccaneers stalwart Eoghan Grace skippers the team with Buccs duo Mark McCrea and David Gannon giving strength and experience to the side. David Heffernan, Jack Carty and Peter Reilly are three other young Buccs likely to feature while other rising Connacht starlets such as Aaron Conneely and Tadhg Leader will surely be involved as should T.J.Anderson and James Loxton. 

Connacht have flair and potential aplenty in this fledgling side. If they match that with workrate, commitment and focus, they can account for Cross Keys. It is likely to be a physical battle but if the Eagles take heart from their Seniors exploits against Biarritz and dare to be the more expansive outfit, then they can fly.

(Note:- Connacht season ticket holders will be admitted free to this match). 

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