By John O’Sullivan Connacht began their 2020/2021 Guinness PRO14 campaign with a 28-24 win over Glasgow
Warriors at the Sportsground.
Two tries from Bundee Aki, a try from Quinn Roux and thirteen points from the boot of Jack
Carty accounted for the Westerners points in a hugely physical affair.
Glasgow, meanwhile, through Nick Grigg, Huw Jones and Tommy Seymour added three tries of
their own, but the steely defence and attacking efficiency of the hosts saw them claim a
Buoyed on by the 200 socially distanced fans in the Sportsground, Connacht started brightly
and opened the scoring when strong defence from Tom Farrell -- which would become a
recurring feature -- won a penalty in the Glasgow 22. Carty, showing all the calm in the world,
slotted the kick for Andy Friend’s men’s first points of the season.
The visitors reacted well to the concession of the penalty and piled the pressure on Connacht,
but -- despite their best efforts, with Hasting prominent in attack -- the hosts held firm to deny
them a score in a physically ferocious opening half hour.
However, the Scotsmen -- who enjoyed a man advantage for ten minutes after Roux was sin
binned -- eventually made their pressure count on the stroke of half time. Hastings deft offload
found Grigg’s arching angled run and the centre skipped over for a try. Hastings added the
extras and Glasgow went into the break 7-3 to the good.
The visitors started the second period in a similar vein and extended their lead further when
Hastings made no mistake off the tee to take the score to 10-3.
Connacht grew into the game thereafter and a beautifully worked move saw them opening their
try scoring account for the season in the most brilliant of fashion.
An acrobatic offload close to the line from Peter Sullivan kept the move alive and, after a few
phases, Farrell broke through a would be tackle to feed Aki an offload and the Irish international
powered his way over from short range. Carty slotted the conversion to level things up at 10-10.
With the wind in their sails, the Westerners -- with Alex Wootton and Aki central to their
attacking plans -- continued to probe and their persistence was rewarded when Roux, after
collecting a Kieran Marmion pass, smashed his way over for a try. Once again, Carty was
successful with the boot and Connacht found themselves in a deserved 17-10 lead.
The game was beginning to have a tit for tat flow and Glasgow were next to cross the white
wash when Scottish international full-back Huw Jones’s sharp line saw him touch down for a try
that Hastings converted to tie the scoreline at 17-17.
The lead would change hands once again when Carty, benefitting from a Glasgow offside,
bisected the posts with an excellently struck penalty to set up a gripping final 15 minutes with
Connacht leading 20-17.
Defensively, the Westerners back-three were solid throughout but didn’t have much opportunity
to stretch their legs and express themselves in attack. John Porch, however, on a rare foray
forward, started a brilliant move that resulted in Aki dotting down for a try.
The former Australian Sevens player fielded a long kick and showed his pace by flying up the
pitch and offloading accurately to Wootton. The winger exploded into space and his clever kick
through was chased by Aki, who -- showing a brilliant turn of speed -- picked up to go over for
the try. The conversion was narrowly wide, but the try set up a tense finale at 25-17 to the home
Glasgow, who Connacht were winless against in their previous six games, responded strongly
and they made it a one point game with their third try. Seymour, the 2017 British and Irish Lions
tourist, showed strong footwork to dive over in the right corner for a try that Hastings converted
to take the score to 25-24.
Deservingly, Carty -- whose intelligent territorial kicking and accurate place kicking were key
throughout for the hosts -- had the final say when he drilled a long range penalty between the
posts to seal Connacht’s win and start their season off on a winning start, 28-24.
15: John Porch
14: Peter Sullivan
13: Tom Farrell
12: Bundee Aki
11: Alex Wootton
10: Jack Carty
9: Kieran Marmion
8: Paul Boyle
7: Conor Oliver
6: Jarrad Butler(C)
5: Quinn Roux
4: Gavin Thornbury
3: Finlay Bealham
2: Dave Heffernan
1: Denis Buckley
Replacements; Blade for Marmion, Duggan for Buckley, Aungier for Bealham, Murray for
Thornbury, Masterson for Oliver, Arnold for Aki.