CONNACHT 43 - 24 EMIRATES LIONS
Jack Carty became Connacht’s all-time leading points scorer on a night when the club claimed a bonus point win over the Emirates Lions.
Eric Elwood’s tally of 1152 almost seemed insurmountable for many years, but the Athlone man came into the game just six points behind that total and he duly needed just 26 minutes to pass the legendary out-half.
It was a fitting night to break the record as Connacht produced an excellent attacking display of six tries, with the bonus point wrapped up before half-time. Andy Friend’s side now head into the Six Nations break well in the hunt for a playoff spot come the end of the season.
The first try arrived after just three minutes with Diarmuid Kilgallen touching down as Connacht looked the stretch the Lions defence early on. The visitors responded almost immediately with a penalty in front of the posts, but Carty responded with three points of his own. Asenathi Ntabakanye then put the Lions in front for the first and only time of the game, spotting a gap under the posts which was converted by Jordan Hendrikse.
A frantic opening quarter continued to entertain the 4258 in attendance as Shane Delahunt regained the lead for the home side, breaking off the side of a maul in touch down. From there Connacht really began to stretch their legs, first through Caolin Blade for the first of his three tries, and then with Tiernan O’Halloran with the bonus point just before the break. Both were converted by Carty, with the first receiving a rapturous reception as Carty’s new record-points total was confirmed.
The South Africans refused to lie down however and they touched down for their second try through Henko van Wyk, leaving the score 29-17 to the hosts at the break.
Any fear that the Johannesburg side would mount a comeback arguably came to an end just minutes into the second half, when a block-down from Tiernan O’Halloran allowed Blade to gather the loose ball to make it try number five.
The second half petered out with the result beyond all doubt. Blade sealed his hat-trick – the third player to score a Connacht hat-trick in as many weeks, while the Lions scored the final try of the game in the closing stages.
Next up for the squad is a well-earned one week break after the 10 game block, and then it’s back into training before the trip to Zebre on Saturday February 18th.