Connacht: 36

Ulster: 11

 

Connacht lit up the Aviva Stadium in their 36-11 interprovincial win against Ulster in the United Rugby Championship tonight. 

 

A brace of tries from Mack Hansen, as well as touchdowns from John Porch, Diarmuid Kilgallen and Niall Murray sealed the win for the designated home team. The boot of Jack Carty also tacked eight points onto the score — via a penalty and four conversions — as the Westerners produced a superb performance of equal parts intensity and accuracy.

 

Ulster started the game with intensity and their efforts yielded a penalty which Doak made no mistake with to give the designated visitors a 3-0 lead. 

 

The away team kept the tempo high in search of a try, but Connacht — with Conor Oliver and Tom Daly defensively resolute — repelled them backwards and their defence gave them a platform to grow into the contest after ten minutes of pressure from Ulster. 

 

The Westerners made their presence felt on the scoreboard thereafter with a beautifully crafted try. Carty’s pass found Daly and the centre — attracting the attention of Ulster defenders — created a gap for Paul Boyle and the number 8 in turn offloaded to Murray. Running a cutting angle and showing brilliant pace, the second row powered into the gap and over the try line. His fellow Roscommon man, Carty, slotted the conversion to give the hosts a 7-3 lead.

 

The onus was on Ulster to find a way back into the game but their attempts to run out of their own 22 were stunted when Hansen — with fantastic awareness — snaffled an interception and sped away from the cover defence to touch down and give Connacht their second try. Once again, Carty — whose game management and placekicking were both superb — kicked the extras and the Westerners were 14-3 to the good. 

 

Both teams swapped penalties — with Doak and Carty both successful off the tee — and yellow cards, with Alan O’Connor and Ultane Dillane taking their turn on the naughty step, and Connacht went into the interval leading 17-6.

 

The Westerners started the second half in a similar, attacking manner, but it took them twenty minutes — thanks to sturdy Ulster defence — to make their dominance count on the scoreboard. 

 

An excellently crafted set-piece move from a scrum saw Jarrad Butler feed Kieran Marmion and the scrum-half found Carty with a pass. The out-half then released Hansen on an angle and the winger burst into space before passing to replacement Conor Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald — showing selflessness and spatial awareness — then assisted Porch, who sped into the corner to touch down. The score saw Connacht move into a 22-6 win.

 

One second-half try soon became two when Kilgallen — who earlier replaced the impressive Tiernan O’Halloran at full-back — sensed an opportunity at an intercept and, backing his initiative, plucked an Ulster pass to run in Connacht’s bonus point try. Carty made no error in slotting the conversion and the Westerners found themselves 29-6 ahead. 

 

Ulster responded in kind when their replacement, Roberts, touched down at the tail of a rolling maul to bring the score to 29-11.

 

But Connacht weren’t done there and they added their fifth try when Hansen — once again sensing a gap in the defence — sped away from the defence to touch down. Carty slotted the extras with the clock in red and the game ended 36-11 in favour of the Westerners. 

 

Connacht team: 

 

15-9

 

15: Tiernan O’Halloran 

14: John Porch

13: Sammy Arnold

12: Tom Daly 

11: Mack Hansen 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

8-1

 

8: Paul Boyle

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Eoghan Masterson 

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Matthew Burke

 

Replacements: Duggan for Burke, Delahunt for Heffernan, Aungier for Burke, Dowling for Dillane, Butler for Boyle, Blade for Marmion, Fitzgerald for Daly, Kilgallen for O’Halloran

Kieran Marmion, Tom Daly and Eoghan Masterson have come into the Connacht starting XV for tomorrow’s hugely anticipated URC interpro with Ulster at the Aviva Stadium (k/o 5.15pm).
 
Their inclusions are the only changes from the side that put in an impressive performance against Munster last week, with out-half Jack Carty again captaining the side.
 
Daly partners Sammy Arnold in the centre, with Bundee Aki being monitored for a knee injury. He is expected to return to full training next week with the National Team. The back three is again made up of wingers Mack Hansen and John Porch, and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran.
 
The tight five is unchanged – with a front row of Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, and locks Niall Murray and Ultan Dillane.
 
Eoghan Masterson is a direct replacement for injury absentee Cian Prendergast on the flank, with Conor Oliver and number 8 Paul Boyle alongside them.
 
The Connacht coaching team have gone back to a 4-3 split on the bench, with Conor Fitzgerald coming back into the matchday squad.
 
Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“We’ve been looking forward to tomorrow for a long time. The opportunity to return to the Aviva Stadium, but this time with thousands of Connacht supporters behind us, is something we’re all incredibly excited about. The importance of this fixture is not lost on us either. So far this season the performances have been good but the results haven’t matched up to that, so now we have to give absolutely everything to make sure we end this block of fixtures on a winning note.”
 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS ULSTER RUGBY
Saturday 23rd October, Aviva Stadium @ 17:15

Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (194)
14. John Porch (43)
13. Sammy Arnold (20)
12. Tom Daly (52)
11. Mack Hansen (4)
10. Jack Carty (163) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (190)
1. Matthew Burke (27)
2. Dave Heffernan (148)
3. Finlay Bealham (163)
4. Niall Murray (20)
5. Ultan Dillane (118)
6. Eoghan Masterson (112)
7. Conor Oliver (24)
8. Paul Boyle (61)

16. Shane Delahunt (104)
17. Jordan Duggan (16)
18. Jack Aungier (17)
19. Oisín Dowling (10)
20. Jarrad Butler (77)
21. Caolin Blade (134)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (38)
23. Diarmuid Kilgallen (2)

Would you like to become part of Connacht Rugby?

Refereeing is a great way to get or stay involved in the game of Rugby as it puts you in the thick of the action. Whether you want to referee age grade games in your own area or aspire to refereeing at higher levels around the province and beyond, there is a place for you within the Association of Referees Connacht Branch. If keeping fit, meeting new people, being part of a club, personal development, contributing to the game of rugby in the province and having access to provincial and international tickets is for you then don’t hesitate. Contact us today.

The training and education involved in becoming a referee is a two-step process. First you must complete and an IRFU online module then attend an ARCB induction course. The induction course for new referees in Connacht will take place over two evenings on Monday 8th and Monday 15th of November. Please contact the referee development manager in your province to find out more and to register for the course.

 

Contact details and more information can be found on the IRFU website here https://www.irishrugby.ie/playing-the-game/refereeing/becoming-a-referee/

 

and on the Connacht Rugby website here https://www.connachtrugby.ie/community/becoming-a-referee/ .

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht assistant attack and skills coach Mossy Lawler says that working with the Westerners’ technically skillful squad of players has been an exciting element of his opening months of coaching with the senior squad. 

 

After six years in a role in the academy, Lawler — a native of Limerick and a former Munster and Wasps player — was promoted into the senior coaching ticket by head coach Andy Friend this past summer. 

 

Given Connacht’s preference for a quick, attacking game plan, Lawler says that his ideas on rugby and those of fellow coaches, Friend, Peter Wilkins, Dewald Senekal, and Cullie Tucker, are aligned and it has led to a highly productive coaching environment at the Sportsground. 

 

“It comes down to the identity that’s here,” the former UL Bohemians coach said. 

 

“That’s how we want to play the game here. That’s how the three past coaches and their vision of the game ties into that identity. From that point of view, it streams down from the top and there’s great alignment to how we want to play the game and execute those skills of the game over and over again in the heat of battle.”

 

The Westerners’ playing personnel all possess a strong skill base and polished technique and having this basis to work from, Lawler says, is exciting. An added benefit is their willingness to learn and push themselves to improve, which he describes as absolute. 

 

“When Andy approached me last year to potentially step up and work with the pro and work side by side with Pete(Wilkins), you’d be a fool to say no to that offer.

 

“When you look at the talent in the group and the backline in the group and the players that we have there, it is really, really exciting. And getting to implement what you want, in relation to patterns and maps, and knowing that these players can deliver that for you on a Saturday is exciting. 

 

“Working with Pete Wilkins, side by side, and putting those plans into place, irrespective of opposition or in occurrence with the opposition to see what weaknesses or strengths they have, it’s a great job.”

 

Alongside Lawler, Connacht freshened up their coaching ticket last summer by promoting Cullie Tucker — also from the academy — and hiring Dewald Senekal from the French Top14. 

 

Despite the newness of their working relationship, Lawler says they work seamlessly together — a factor which is helped by their similar views of the game — and that the fruits of their labour are already clear and will continue to grow over the course of the season. 

 

“That’s the environment that Andy and Pete provide. Andy isn’t a boss that stands over you and tells you what to do, he lets you get on with your job and for me as a young coach coming in that’s absolutely brilliant and Pete just puts everything together. 

 

“We all have similar thoughts on how the game should be played and what and how, and that current alignment is great. Dewald has come in and has fit in seamlessly in relation to his role and Cullie and I have always worked together. 

 

“It comes from the top, the environment that Andy and Pete have created is excellent and it makes it easier for that alignment to happen.”

 

Having worked in both the academy and with the first team, Lawler is well-positioned to judge Connacht’s present prospects and indeed their future aspirations. 

 

Thanks to the club’s commitment to development — which comes from the CEO Willie Ruane down the playing and coaching side of the club — the Limerick man, who highlighted the brilliant role played by the club scene and its volunteers in the province, is confident that the Westerners will continue to grow and improve. 

 

“There’s a great crop coming through,” the assistant attack and skills coach said of the young talent in Connacht’s academy. 

 

“You could see in last summer’s U20 Six Nations how exceptional some of the guys are. You have the likes of Cathal Forde, the likes of Shane Jennings, Donnacha Byrne, and Oisin McCormack. Darragh Murray, Niall’s brother, didn’t make the squad through injury but, again, a really, really exciting prospect and all indigenous as well which is a big positive. 

 

“From that point of view, it will be really exciting to get them up to training soon and to see where they go from there and it would be great to see these guys fulfill their potential. 

 

“It’s the people,” Lawler says of the driving force behind Connacht Rugby — from the amateur clubs all the way to the professional set up — and their collective hunger to grow the game in the province.

 

“The first time that I moved up here, I was blown away by the people and when you have those individuals who are willing to work hard — through thick and thin — no matter what’s thrown at them, you get your results and that, for me, is the most pleasing part of all.”

 

Irish international Kieran Marmion says that Connacht have drawn a line under last Saturday’s defeat to Munster and are keen to return to winning ways in this upcoming weekend’s interprovincial clash against Ulster at the Aviva Stadium. 

 

After a strong performance from the Westerners — which included tries from Jack Carty, who also kicked a conversion and two penalties and Paul Boyle — their southern neighbours eked out a win with a late try in a physical encounter that finished 20-18 in favour of the hosts at Thomond Park. 

 

While it was frustrating to lose, Marmion is confident the squad will take the lessons and positives from it and move their focus to their face-off against Ulster. 

 

“We parked it Monday,’’ the scrum-half said. 

 

“What happened happened. We felt we put in a much better performance than the week before. Obviously, we were a bit disappointed not getting a result, but I think we can take away how we showed up and how we ran them close. We obviously wanted to win, but we can take confidence going into this weekend.”

 

“I think it was a typical InterPro performance. We spoke among ourselves about how we can do that every week. Just the emotions of the occasion, I think it brings the best out of everyone, but we need to deliver every week if we want to be finishing at the top of the table.”

 

Conor Oliver, meanwhile, who excelled in the Munster game paid tribute to the impact made by new forwards coach Dewald Senekal. 

 

The South African coach — who acquired extensive experience both playing and coaching in France — joined Connacht in the summer and Oliver says the pack as a whole are already seeing the benefit. 

 

“Look, it’s brilliant for us”, the openside flanker said of Dewald’s influence. 

 

“We’re really enjoying having him here. It’s very technical with him. All the one-percenters that not a lot people will see, even things like the lift quality in the line out and stuff like that. 

 

“I would say the amount of work he does on his laptop when he’s outside of the Sportsground is nuts. He has all the sessions coded down, of even every game and every lift that someone has done, so the work he’s put in has really filtered down to us as a pack and we’re really buying into that and we’re really enjoying having him here so far.”

 

Elsewhere, head coach Andy Friend is confident that Connacht can secure a win against the in-form Ulster if they stick to their principles. 

 

The Northern province have won all of their opening four games — winning each with a try bonus point — and play a balanced game that incorporates strong running, an efficient maul, and an accurate kicking game. 

 

However, while acknowledging the Ulster strengths, Friend is keen for his team to impose their style of play on the designated visitors for Saturday’s Aviva Stadium clash of provinces. 

 

“First and foremost, they’re the number one team in the competition at the moment: four wins and four bonus-point victories in their four games, maximum points. They’re scoring lots of tries and not conceding too many,” the Australian said. 

 

“They’re a good football side, we know that. They appear to put a big focus on their maul, which will test us. As well as their running game and their kicking game, they like to move the ball up the field through those two methods. 

 

“Listen, we’re gonna have to be on our best performance to knock them off, but we’re comfortable with the game style that we have got and the way that our game is improving. If we can keep that intensity that we showed at Thomond Park last weekend, it will be a very interesting contest.”

 

Jack Carty produced an excellent performance for Connacht in the Munster game — tacking thirteen points onto the scoreboard via a try, two penalties and conversion — and Friend believes his consistency should secure him a berth in the upcoming Irish squad. 

 

There are other players in the Westerners’ playing staff who deserve international recognition, the former Australia sevens coach believes. 

 

Ireland name their squad for their November series tests against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina this evening. 

 

“I thought he was really brilliant, I really did. I think Jack has played some lovely rugby this year and I think he played some great rugby last year too. I would certainly have him there or thereabouts, but it’s not up to me to pick the team, so we’ll wait to see what Andy(Farrell) and his selectors do tomorrow.” 

Connacht Rugby battle training in the rain today ahead of their clash against Ulster Rugby this weekend in the Aviva Stadium. Check out the gallery below.

Have you bought your tickets yet? Join us at the Aviva this Saturday 23rd at 17:15

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 Munster 20

Connacht 18

 

Connacht were narrowly defeated by Munster in the United Rugby Championship tonight in a keenly fought contest at Thomond Park. 

 

Despite a converted try and two penalties from Jack Carty and a Paul Boyle touchdown, the visitors were ultimately pipped by the hosts who had two Joey Carbery penalties and conversions and tries from Chris Cloete and Diarmuid Barron to thank for their points. 

 

Connacht started the game with breakneck tempo and they had a score to show for their efforts after barely a minute of play. 

 

A well-orchestrated set-piece routine saw Mack Hansen speed through a gap and offload to Bundee Aki, who, in turn, found Conor Oliver with a pass. Munster infringed and the away team were awarded a penalty that Carty slotted with ease to open the scoring at 3-0.

 

After absorbing pressure from the hosts, the Westerners launched an attack of their own and this yielded a penalty which Carty — showing composure — slotted to make it 6-0 for the away team in what was proving to be a profitable opening ten minutes. 

 

Munster were in the ascendancy, in terms of possession and territory, but Connacht — with Aki, Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver especially prominent — were resolute in defence, be it at the breakdown, maul or in open play. 

 

The Westerners — who were reduced to 14 men temporarily when Sammy Arnold was unfortunate to slip into a high tackle — held the hosts at bay until the stroke of half time but Cloete, diving on a deflected kick through, pounced on a ball in the 22 to score the games first try. Carbery converted and Connacht went into the interval trailing by a point at 7-6. 

 

The home team began the second half in a similar manner to the way they ended the first and they capitalised on this when Carbery scored the first points of the second period with a penalty to take the score to 10-6 in favour of Munster. 

 

Connacht weren’t deterred, however, and they wrestled their way back into the game and earned a number of penalties deep in the Munster 22 with enterprising attacks. Showing quick thinking, number eight Boyle chose to take a quick tap penalty and he dove in for the Westerners’ first try of the evening and the away team took the lead at 11-10.

 

The leads swapped hands again when Carbery kicked Munster back into the lead with a penalty to set up a tense final twenty-minutes. 

 

Connacht kept in the fight, however, and they were rewarded for their doggedness when Carty — showing determination — charged down a kick from Carbery before collecting the ricochet to touch down for a try that he converted to give the away team an 18-13 lead. 

 

In what was a topsy turvy encounter, Munster were next to take the lead when Barron barged over from short range for a try that Carbery converted to take the score to 20-18 to the home team.

 

That’s the way the contest ended and the home team narrowly took the intepro, 20-18.

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: Tiernan O’Halloran 

14: John Porch 

13: Sammy Arnold 

12: Bundee Aki 

11: Mack Hansen 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Caolin Blade

 

(8-1)

 

8: Paul Boyle 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Cian Prendergast

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Matthew Burke.

 

Replacements: 

 

Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Greg McGrath for Matthew Burke, Jack Aungier for Finlay Bealhan, Eoghan Masterson for Ultan Dillane, Abraham Papali’i for Boyle, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Jarrad Butler for Prendergast, Tom Daly.

British & Irish Lion Bundee Aki will make his first appearance for Connacht Rugby since the summer tour of South Africa tomorrow night.
 
He comes straight into the starting XV for the URC interpro derby with Munster Rugby at Thomond Park (k/o 7.35pm), and his inclusion is one of five changes from last week’s side that faced the Dragons.
 
Aki forms a new-look partnership with Sammy Arnold at centre, while John Porch is drafted into the back three alongside fellow winger Mack Hansen and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran. Caolin Blade and Jack Carty are retained, with Carty named as captain for the game.
 
The front-row of Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham is unchanged, while Niall Murray comes into the second row alongside Ultan Dillane. The final switch sees Conor Oliver start at openside flanker, with Cian Prendergast on the opposite flank and Paul Boyle at number 8.
 
The Connacht management team have opted for a 6:2 split on the bench, with back rowers Abraham Papali’i and Jarrad Butler both included as well as Kieran Marmion. Summer arrival Greg McGrath is also in line for his Connacht debut after he was named as replacement loosehead prop.
 
Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“There’s no getting away from the fact last week wasn’t good enough, so now it’s up to us all to put in the type of performance we know they’re capable of. Training this week has been good & Bundee’s return is a boost as he’ll give us his typical energy that is needed for an interpro.
 
Both games in Limerick last season ended with a single score between the two sides, so we know it’ll be a tight game. The team that is most consistent for the full 80 minutes and is clinical with the chances they create will be the team that wins it.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Saturday 16th October, Thomond Park @ 19:35

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (193)
14. John Porch (42)
13. Sammy Arnold (19)
12. Bundee Aki (111)
11. Mack Hansen (3)
10. Jack Carty (162) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (133)
1. Matthew Burke (26)
2. Dave Heffernan (147)
3. Finlay Bealham (162)
4. Niall Murray (19)
5. Ultan Dillane (117)
6. Cian Prendergast (13)
7. Conor Oliver (23)
8. Paul Boyle (60)

16. Shane Delahunt (103)
17. Greg McGrath *
18. Jack Aungier (16)
19. Eoghan Masterson (111)
20. Abraham Papali’i (15)
21. Kieran Marmion (189)
22. Jarrad Butler (76)
23. Tom Daly (52)

It may be October but the finals are already coming thick and fast on the Club & Community scene.

The Womens Invitational Cup and Plate finals will take place on Sunday, with Tuam RFC and Ballinasloe RFC playing host to the two fixtures.

In the Cup final OLBC RFC take on Westport RFC, with kick-off in Tuam at 1pm on Sunday. 30 minutes earlier the Plate final in Ballinasloe sees Buccaneers RFC face Galwegians RFC, with kick-off there at 12.30pm.

Also in the pipeline is the Shield Final between Ballina RFC and Sligo RFC, with a date, venue and kick-off time to be confirmed.

Best of luck to all teams involved.

Fly-half Jack Carty says that Connacht will take learnings from last weekend’s home defeat to The Dragons and will apply them to the rest of their season, starting with Saturday’s United Rugby Championship Interpro versus Munster at Thomond Park. 

 

Despite leading at halftime, the Westerners eventually lost 35-22 to the Welshmen in last Saturday’s 5:15 PM kick-off at the Sportsground. 

 

However, the Irish international is confident that Connacht can bounce back at a venue where they won last season, but admits it will be an arduous task against their 100% winning record boasting southern rivals. 

 

“We spoke about backing up a big performance with another one after last week(The Bulls game), but unfortunately we didn’t do that,” the Roscommon native said. 

 

“It was bitterly disappointing and I think there was a couple of things there like if we scored Bladey’s try we go in at halftime with a bigger lead and I think it changes the dynamic a small bit. 

 

‘We were a bit flat throughout the game and it was a bit disappointing because we had a good week, and again we didn’t back it up how we wanted to.”

 

“It usually comes down to an error, or a piece of brilliance, if you think about the game last year,” Carty said of the generally tight encounters between Munster and Connacht. 

 

“Mike Haley, with a piece of brilliance from him, fielded a high ball and ended up scoring. We ended up getting a yellow card at a pivotal point and that was the turning of the game. 

 

“And down there in Thomond, we kind of grinded it out and held them out in the end. Usually, they’re one score games and it comes down to those finer things, like discipline, staying in the fight and sticking to what our game will be. When we play against Munster, it’s always a dog fight and always those one or two little pivotal things that are the making or the breaking of the game.”

 

Carty, 29, referenced Connacht’s win against The Bulls — a team with a similar size and athletic profile to Munster — as the kind of standard the Westerners will need to hit once again if they are to win the upcoming interprovincial. 

 

“Yeah, I think so. That’s the benchmark, defensively and in an attack sense, that everything from that point on would be that or more. Munster have totally changed the way they have played in certain facets of the game as well. 

 

“It will be a bit different from how they’ve been previously. They are obviously incredibly good in the air, and they have changed in how they look to shift the ball into the wider edges and in terms of where their players are going in terms of kick receipts. 

 

“It should be really interesting and it’s always a tight game when you go down there and it’s going to come down to the top two inches.”

 

Meanwhile, senior attack coach Pete Wilkins says Connacht are on track to improve, despite last weekend’s reversal to the Dragons. 

 

The Englishman, who moved from his defensive coaching berth to senior attack coach role this summer, said that there are positives for the Westerners to take — even in defeat — and that progress towards an enhanced style of play is clear for the coaching staff to see. 

 

And Wilkins is confident that squad will move forwards and adapt further to their new style of play and overall strategy. 

 

“I think that any time you’re going to change the way you play the game — particularly in an overall identity — it’s not going to be done in one pre-season, in one or two or three games,” Wilkins said. 

 

“If you can start to see a real semblance of that identity come together in the middle of that first season, I think that’s a good outcome. That said, you need to see key markers along the way. On a game-by-game basis, you want to see those aspects of your identity growing as you go, you don’t just wait six months and be patient, you need to see that building and then see that final product halfway through the season. 

 

“In that sense, I’m happy with how we’re tracking and every game gives us the opportunity to learn where we’re at and how we can fix things.”

 

“Unfortunately, sometimes you have to go through that pain and learn those lessons by reviewing it. But what you don’t want to see is that being repeated week by week, you want to see growth. We’re on track, we’re on the right track. There are some difficult lessons out of a defeat like that but we take the lessons and we will move forwards.”

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