By John O’Sullivan
The Connacht Eagle’s made it 4 wins from 5 in this season’s Celtic Cup with a hard fought victory over Scarlets A at Corinthian Park.
Tries from Peter Sullivan, Cormac Daly and Diarmuid Kilgannen, as well a Luke Carty penalty and conversion sealed the win for the Westerner’s
The sunny weather of the game’s opening minutes facilitated open, expansive Rugby. Both teams’ were content to attack from deep and test the opposition’s defence.
The Scarlets opened the scoring on the night as Connacht’s overzealous line speed yielded a penalty for the visitors and fly half Ioan Hughes split the posts with a well taken penalty.
Connacht reacted well to going behind and opened their try scoring account not long after with a try forged by the pack. Rory Burke, who scrummaged excellently throughout, applied the pressure on the tighthead side of the scrum on a Scarlets feed and the hosts pack drove the Welsh team backwards.
From the resultant scramble, centre Shane Jenning’s opportunistically hacked the ball through a crowd of players and Sullivan, showing sharp awareness, benefited by racing through to touch down. Carty slotted the conversion to make the score 7-3 in an increasingly entertaining match.
Despite the concession of a try, Scarlets soon rallied and scored a try of their own. Centre Osian Knott made significant headway with a break. The ball was then recycled wide with number 8 Lewys Millin deftly finding winger Harry Doel to touch down in the corner.
Doel’s try was the last significant action of the half as the Scarlets went into the interval holding a 10-7 lead; a scoreline which accurately reflected the closeness of the sides.
Such is the changeable nature of Galway weather, the sun that shone throughout the first half was replaced by gusty, swirling winds and this informed both sides style of play. A more risk averse, forward oriented game was preferred in the second half.
Hughes had added another penalty to stretch the Welshmen’s lead to 13-7 before Connacht replied strongly with their second try of the evening.
Loosehead Conor Maguire, who had impressed in the loose and in the scrum, burst through would be tackles in the Scarlets 22 before being taken down. From the next phase, lock Cormac Daly powered over from close range with a try crafted by the pack. With the wind increasingly swirling, Carty’s conversion was narrowly wide and Scarlets still held their lead at 13-12. The try was all the more impressive given that Connacht were a man in arrears after Sean Masterson was sinbinned for a high tackle.
The tit for tat nature of the scoring continued with Hughes scoring another penalty for the Scarlets to take the score for 16-12. It would be the visitors last score however, as Connacht upped the tempo and sealed the win.
Carty, whose game management in tough conditions proved vital, found substitute Kilgannen with a pass and the winger showed evasion and pace in spades to touch down in the right hand corner. Carty missed the subsequent conversion narrowly, but Connacht nevertheless lead 17-16 with ten minutes remaining.
Scarlets began to chase the game, but Connacht’s defensive line speed -- lead by captain Sean O’Brien and backrow Masterson -- and the probing kicks of Luke Carty kept them pinned in their own half.
Fittingly, Carty, who impressed throughout, sealed the 20-16 win with a late penalty.
Connacht Eagles team(Replacements in brackets)
(15-9)Conor Hayes; Oran McNulty(Diarmuid Kilgannen), Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien(C), Peter Sullivan; Luke Carty, Stephen Kerins(Aran Hehir); (8-1) Mikey Wilson, Lucas Culliton(Donnacha Byrne), Sean Masterson; Niall Murray, Cormac Daly; Rory Burke, Dylan Tierney-Martin(Declan Adamson), Conor Maguire(Adam Coyle).
Scarlets A: K.Evans; T.Lewis, R.Davies, O.Knott, H.Doel; I.Hughes, D.Land; L.Millin, J.Morgan(C), G.Davies; L.Ellis-Jones, C.Long; J.Sebastien, S.Evans, D.Evans.