Connacht U18s 10-15 Irish Exiles U18s

After what was a promising start, Connacht U18s managed to lose to their Exile counterparts at the Sportsground this afternoon. They showed some promise throughout, with some players putting up good performances, but this will ultimately be reflected on as a frustrating opening to their campaign.

In fact, it was a perfect start for the 18s, going 7-0 ahead in the first two minutes of the game. Ballinrobe’s No. 8 Matt Burke was standing at first receiver, managed to carry a trail of Exile defenders with him after getting the ball on the Exile 22 metre line. It was a bullocking run from the powerful backrower; one which none of the four would-be tacklers could stop. 

It was a sign of what was to come in the next ten minutes, with Sligo’s inside centre Darragh Cummins carrying strongly several times in the opening exchanges, ably assisted by Burke. Ryan Feehily was another who looked threatening when given the chance to counter attack, but Connacht were unable to turn this impressive play, possession and territory. 

The Exiles were able to weather the storm, and adjust their tactics after the first fifteen minutes; giving Feehily less opportunity to counter-attack. They did a much better job of holding onto possession. The Exiles outhalf Harry Collins made a break but Connacht’s defense did extremely well and held firm, denying a score.

Connacht were making inroads up the wings of the Exile defense, but on two occasions, a lack of support scupperred previous good work. In one instance, Westport wing Paul Prendergast got to within 5 metres of the line, but was isolated, and the Exiles managed a turnover.

It was to prove costly, as at the end of the half the Exiles struck back. A well worked maul just inside the Connacht half, gained some ground, before a lovely line from Kyle Brown cut through the Connacht midfield defense. Brown was able to offload to the supporting Dom Gorard to round the fullback, and the Exiles were back in the game at halftime, with the score at 7-5 to Connacht.

As is frequently the case after halftime, this early season game featured a number of replacements, which disjointed the game somewhat. The Exiles were able to gain control of the match, and as a consequence denied Connacht any meaningful possession. However, ten minutes into the second half, their possessional and territorial dominance only had a missed penalty to show for things.

Several Connacht players were working hard in defense, with second row Cillian Gallagher showing impressively, as was try scorer Burke. The Exiles weren’t letting up though, and rarely let Connacht out of their own half with the ball. They kept building phases and pressure until they were awarded a scrum 10 metres from the Connacht line. A simple short sided move drew the defending blindside winger to allow substitute Richard O’Carroll an easy run in in the corner. The conversion was missed, and the Exiles took a 10-7 lead with ten minutes to play.

It was the Exiles who looked the more likely to score next, as they kept the play in the Connacht half, and the Connacht defense began to look a little fragile in play. They managed to keep it together, and move the ball downfield, where TJ Forde converted a penalty to level the scores with a minute left to play.

There was plenty of action remaining however. From the restart, an excellent long clearance from Connacht gave the ball to Ollie Ansby in his own 22 by the touchline, facing 4 Connacht defenders who had chased up well. A great step from Ansby meant he danced up the touchline 80 metres before he was caught just before the line. However, the Exiles swept the play wide, and Otto Gray was the beneficiary on the opposite wing to seal the victory for the visitors.

15-10 was the final score.


U18 and U19 matchday squads named for Interpro openers vs Ulster