CONNACHT 36-14 SCARLETS
Two tries from Mack Hansen and a Player of the Match performance from Conor Oliver helped Connacht to a deserved bonus point win over Scarlets at The Sportsground this evening.
The story of the first half could be summarised by excellent Connacht play to get themselves on the scoreboard, but almost immediately followed by scores for the visitors that were easier to come by.
The home side couldn’t have asked for a better start as they crossed the whitewash within the first 60 seconds. With Scarlets attempting to kick from the base of a ruck, Niall Murray used every inch of his frame to get the charge down and cross for his third try for Connacht and first of the season. Within minutes the visitors were on the scoreboard with a penalty as conditions worsened, and for the remainder of the first quarter it came down to who handled the weather better. Despite the wind and rain, Connacht and their captain Jack Carty were more than happy to take the three points when the opportunity arose, and it was the number 10 who landed a difficult penalty to stretch the lead back to 5 points.
Scarlets’ first try of the came after a sustained period of kick-tennis when MacNicholl spotted a gap out wide to release Steff Evans.
Connacht’s lead was stored on 28 minutes after another difficult penalty was slotted over by Carty, but again barely 2 minutes later the Scarlets were level after they were awarded a penalty in front of the Connacht posts. However Connacht’s second try was to follow as the clocked ticked towards the 40, as a lovely pass out wide from Carty to Hansen – almost a carbon copy of the try against Munster – brought the gap to 5 points and that’s how it remained at the break.
Unlike the first half, the second half took a while to get going, but the Connacht Clan were in full voice on 56 minutes when Jack Aungier powered over for this third try of the season, despite a yellow card to Paul Boyle. A further Scarlets penalty reduced the gap to 7 points, but the 10 point lead was restored when David Hawkshaw took over kicking duties and slotted over his first penalty of the day.
The deserved bonus point came with 7 minutes to go when the excellent Connacht forward pack got the maul going metres from the Scarlets line, and after persistent penalties the referee ran to the sticks and awarded a penalty try.
The fifth and final try of the day was Connacht at their attacking best, as they used the extra man to their advantage to play it wide and Carty released Hansen with an excellent kick towards the Scarlets tryline and the winger used his pace to send the crowd into raptures.