Conor Oliver was one of the late arrivals to South Africa, which meant, missing the game on Saturday against the DHL Stormers. Fit and ready to go the back-rower is available for selection ahead of Friday’s Round 3 BKT United Rugby Championship tie against the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria (k/o 5.30pm Irish time).

When on tours like this players know it’s two weeks of hard work in preparation for matches. Being with each other 24/7 this is the longest period of time the whole group will be in each others company, so what is it like to be on a tour like this?

“These tours to South Africa are tough but they are also really helpful for the team to bond more” said Oliver

“Lads get closer and learn a lot more about one another which you probably wouldn’t get in a week’s lead up to another match”

“For the new lads that have come in it gives them a real chance to get to know everyone better and I get the chance to know them better on and off the pitch which is great.

Loftus Versfeld is the venue on Friday, an iconic stadium and which Oliver and the rest of the Connacht players can’t wait to see.

“We discussed about how cool it will be to play there but we also said how cool it would be to get a win there”

“There’s real belief in the camp that we can come away with a win at Loftus and what a venue it would be to win after last weekend’s result”

“I’m buzzing and can’t wait for Friday, hopefully I’ll be named in the starting 15”

“I always want to be playing so missing last week was annoying”

Last weekend Connacht lost to the defending URC champions Stormers and will be hoping to bounce back and get their first win of the season.

“We’ve changed a lot of our attacking shapes with different principles in place compared to what we did last year”

“We know this takes a bit of time to gel but at the same time as players its up to us to put those wheels in motion quickly and get up to speed”

“From the opening two rounds we identified the amount of opportunities we’re creating especially last weekend but we didn’t take them and that’s something we need to change”

“We were a pass or two away from scoring a couple of tries, so that’s one of the main things we’ve noted as we know we’re almost there from what we are trying to do”

“Once we get past the teething stage of this its going to be very exciting”

Another man that joined Conor to South Africa late was club captain Jack Carty. The fly-half has missed the opening two games as he makes his way back to fitness, but, he may be available for Friday’s game in Pretoria.

Oliver spoke about his team mate and how he’s been around the squad since being announced captain.

“It’s his first season and its a bit of a pity that he hasn’t been involved in the first couple of games but he has been around the group for training and meetings making sure his presence is felt”

“Jack is a composed leader who is very calm in the way he delivers messages which I love from a captain”

“We have Jarrad Butler there who will guide Jack into the role and he’s another great man to have in the dressing room”

The Connacht team for Friday’s game against the Bulls will be named tomorrow at 12 midday.

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht fell to a 29-7 defeat to the Cardiff Blues in their first away game of the 2020-2021 Guinness PRO14 campaign. 

 

Despite Conor Oliver’s try bringing the scoreline back to 10-7 early in the second half, the hosts — thanks to a brace of tries from Hallam Amos, a penalty try, and a Kristian Dacey touchdown — ended the game strongly and sealed a bonus-point victory.

 

From the beginning of the game, it was clear the Blues, who won their opening game away to Zebre, were intent on attacking.

 

Connacht, though, with Gavin Thornbury, John Porch, and Alex Wootton especially impressive in their defensive duties, held firm and the Welshmen could not turn their territory and possession into a try.

 

The home team did manage to add points when Jarrod Evans slotted a penalty after some enterprising attack deep in the visitors half.

 

With a score to their name, Cardiff flexed their attacking muscles further when Amos — with the first of his two tries — showed a great turn of speed to touch down in the right-hand corner. Jarrod Evans expertly converted and the Blues held their 10-0 lead going into the half time break.

 

Connacht began the second half in strong fashion and launched wave after wave of attacks after a series of line outs deep in the Blues territory. The pressure finally paid dividends when Oliver — after collecting Sammy Arnold’s offload — powered his way over from five metres out. The conversion was a formality for Jack Carty and the visitors clawed the score back to 10-7.

 

 

With the wind in their sails, the visitors continued to attack, but the Blues defence — especially at the breakdown, an area attacks coach Nigel Carolan highlighted as being a crucial area of battle in the build-up to the game — remained steadfast and each Connacht attack was met with the same resistance.

 

Cardiff, with full-back Matthew Morgan a constant threat in broken play, showed their ability to counter when winger Josh Adams made significant headway with a break from deep in his own half. Porch, however, was once again sharp in defence and saved a certain try with a brilliant tackle.

 

The Irishmen couldn’t hold out on the next attack, however, when Amos — after brilliant work from Rey Lee-Lo — crossed for his second try in the left-hand corner. Evans’ conversion was wide but the hosts had a 15-7 lead with fifteen minutes remaining.

 

Connacht were brave and continued to attack in search of scores, but Cardiff — first through a penalty try and then, from close range after some hard carries, via a Dacey touchdown — went on to score two more tries, the second of which Jason Tovey converted, to take the bonus point win, 29-7.

 

Connacht team:(15-9)

15: John Porch

14: Peter Sullivan

13: Bundee Aki

12: Sammy Arnold

11: Alex Wootton

10: Jack Carty

9: Kieran Marmion

(8-1)

8: Jarrad Butler

7: Conor Oliver

6: Eoghan Masterson

5: Quinn Roux

4: Gavin Thornbury

3: Finlay Bealham

2: Dave Heffernan

1: Denis Buckley

Replacements: Jordan Duggan for Buckley, Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Jack Aungier for Bealham, Ultane Dillane for Thornbury, Paul Boyle for Oliver, Conor Fitzgerald for Carty.

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