A Conor Fitzgerald try which he duly converted 10 minutes from time gave Connacht a hard-earned win away to Oyonnax in the squad’s opening pre-season game of the 2019/20 season.
 
With all 30 players of the travelling party seeing at least 20 minutes of action, it was clear this was a game in which the focus was on giving players an opportunity to impress after the first month of pre-season.
 
Connacht found chances had to come by in the 1st half against a physical French outfit who are just one week out from the start of their league campaign. They led 7-0 at the break after a converted try after 23 minutes, and that could have been more after they saw two of their penalties hit the post.
 
Mass changes took place at the break with almost an entirely new team taking the field – among them Connacht Academy player Seán O’Brien and summer signing John Porch. The intensity increased almost immediately from the restart and the pressure eventually told after 45 minutes when Colby Fainga’a ran a great line inside the 22 to touch down underneath the posts.
 
Oyonnax responded well to that try and almost immediately regained the lead from a penalty, and that was then stretched to 6 points after a further shot at goal 15 minutes later.
 
However Andy Friend’s side found an extra gear when needed, as a well-worked play released Kyle Godwin out wide who showed good pace before finding Conor Fitzgerald on his inside to score their second try.
 
Fitzgerald’s resulting conversion was no gimme, but he made no mistake to give Connacht the slenderest of leads which they never relinquished.
 
1st half team:
15. Darragh Leader, 14. Niyi Adeolokun, 13. Kyle Godwin, 12. Peter Robb, 11. Matt Healy, 10. David Horwitz, 9. Caolin Blade.
1. Matthew Burke, 2. Tom McCartney, 3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 4. Joe Maksymiw, 5. Ultan Dillane, 6. Seán Masterson, 7. Paul Boyle, 8. Robin Copeland.

2nd half team:
15. Tiernan O’Halloran 14. Niyi Adeolokun / Kyle Godwin, 13. Seán O’Brien, 12. Tom Daly, 11. John Porch, 10. Conor Fitzgerald, 9. Angus Lloyd.
1. Denis Buckley, 2. Dave Heffernan, 3. Finlay Bealham / Rory Burke, 4. Cillian Gallagher, 5. Gavin Thornbury, 6. Eoghan Masterson, 7. Colby Fainga’a, 8. Jarrad Butler (c).
 

he Guinness PRO14 Dream Team for the 2018/19 season was revealed on Premier Sports and eir sport after a media vote determined the best performing players from the current campaign.
 
In total, 11 clubs are represented in a XV where competition in the voting was incredibly close, and only a handful of positions were selected with a clear majority.
 
Edinburgh, Munster, Connacht and Ulster were the only teams with more than one player in the Dream Team which includes the Guinness Players’ Player of the Season – Bill Mata of Edinburgh.
 
Rabz Maxwane of the Toyota Cheetahs is another award winner included, the Toyota Cheetahs winger scored a record-equalling 14 tries in the Guinness PRO14 season – nine of them scored away from home – and was voted in as the left wing.
 
Only three players from last season’s Guinness PRO14 Dream Team have been selected with the second row pairing of Tadhg Beirne (Munster) and Scott Vardy (Leinster) getting the nod while John Cooney’s impressive performances at Ulster have kept him in the No 9 shirt.
 
The team was revealed on a TV Special aired by Premier Sports and eir sport on Thursday night (May 23) where Rory Lawson, Sean Holley, Luke Fitzgerald and Murray Kinsella dissected and debated about who deserved their places and who was unlucky to miss out.
 
Guinness PRO14 Dream Team 2018/19
 
1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets)
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors)
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
5. Scott Fardy (Leinster)
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster)
7. Colby Fainga’a (Connacht)
8. Bill Mata (Edinburgh)
9. John Cooney (Ulster)
10. Jack Carty (Connacht)
11. Rabz Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs)
12. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster)
13. Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues),
14. Monty Ioane (Benetton Rugby)
15. Dan Evans (Ospreys)

The Guinness PRO14 Dream Team will be revealed tomorrow night in a TV special broadcast on Premier Sports 1 and eir sport 1.
 
A panel of over 75 media members were invited to take part in the voting. A group that included many former players and coaches alongside some of the most trusted and respected writers involved in covering rugby from across the UK, Ireland, Italy and South Africa.
 
The voting has now closed and three nominees have been identified at every position for the Guinness PRO14 Dream Team with 12 teams represented across all five participating countries.
 
The voting has been closer than ever thanks to the rich form of the near 300 internationals who compete in the Championship each season. The 2018/19 season has seen heightened levels of competitiveness across the Guinness PRO14 with Benetton Rugby becoming the first Italian team to reach the knock-out stages which saw Kieran Crowley voted as the Coach of the Season by his peers while the club also have seven nominations.
 
Benetton received the highest nominations, followed by Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh (both six), Ulser, Munster and Connacht (all with five).
 
The best talent from eir sport and Premier Sport will break down the Dream Team selections and discuss who has rightly won their spot, and who was unlucky to miss out. Murray Kinsella, Rory Lawson, Sean Holley and Luke Fitzgerald, who were all part of the 75-plus voting panel, will come together for this TV special to voice their opinions on the best performers in the Guinness PRO14.
 
Please note: The show will be broadcast on Premier Sports 1 at 20:00 in the UK and on eir sport 1 at 19:00 in the Rep of Ireland.
 
Nominations (listed by alphabetical order):
 
Loosehead Prop
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster); Eric O’Sullivan (Ulster); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh)
 
Hooker
Epalahame Faiva (Benetton Rugby); Rob Herring (Ulster); Ken Owens (Scarlets)
 
Tighthead Prop
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), WP Nel (Edinburgh), Marco Riccioni (Benetton Rugby)
 
Second Row
Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Federico Ruzza (Benetton Rugby)
 
Second Row
Scott Fardy (Leinster); Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors); Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
 
Blindside Flanker
Max Deegan (Leinster); Peter O’Mahony (Munster); Josh Turnbull (Cardiff Blues)
 
Openside Flanker
Colby Fainga’a (Connacht), Braam Steyn (Benetton); Hamish Watson (Edinburgh)
 
No 8
Marcel Coetzee (Ulster), Bill Mata (Edinburgh), CJ Stander (Munster)
 
Scrum-Half
Caolin Blade (Connacht); John Cooney (Ulster); Dewaldt Duvenage (Benetton)
 
Out-half
Jack Carty (Connacht); Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors); Jaco van der Walt (Edinburgh)
 
Left Wing
Darcy Graham (Edinburgh); James Lowe (Leinster); Rabz Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs)
 
Inside Centre
Bundee Aki (Connacht); Willis Halaholo (Cardiff Blues); Stuart McCloskey (Ulster)
 
Outside Centre
Tom Farrell (Connacht); Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues); Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors)
 
Right Wing
Monty Ioane (Benetton Rugby); Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets); Ratuva Tavuyara (Benetton Rugby)
 
Full Back
Dan Evans (Ospreys); Mike Haley (Munster); Matthew Morgan (Cardiff Blues)

Mayo native Dave Heffernan is set to captain Connacht as they host Leinster in the first interpro of the season in the Sportsground on Saturday (Kick off 5:15pm).

Heffernan takes over the captaincy from Jarrad Butler who is ruled out through injury. Heffernan’s inclusion at hooker sees him continue as part of a front trio that includes props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham.

Butler’s replacement at openside Colby Fainga’a makes his first start for Connacht who, along with lock Ultan Dillane, are the only changes to the team that beat Scarlets last weekend. Fainga’a comes into a back row alongside blindside Sean O’Brien and Robin Copeland at number 8.

In the second row Dillane’s inclusion sees him form a familiar partnership with Quinn Roux.

Among the backs, Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty continue the half-back partnership, as do Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell in midfield.

Wingers Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher are also retained, as is Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.

Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We were really happy with the win against Scarlets last weekend and that needs to become our baseline and the standard that we have to meet consistently. Leinster are an outstanding side and deserving European and PRO14 champions so it’s a huge challenge. We will need to raise our standards another notch if we are to compete with them. So that’s the challenge and we are really looking forward to it”, Friend said.

“This is obviously a massive occasion for our supporters. They have been fantastic so far this season and the players have really responded to their support. The Sportsground will be packed and even with our additional terracing it will be a sell-out. That is hugely encouraging. The people of the province are behind us and we want to deliver a performance for them on Saturday”, he added.

 

#CONvLEI

Kick-off 5:15pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8)Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan (C), Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Robin Copeland.

Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.

 

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce the signing of back row Colby Fainga’a from Australian Super Rugby side the Melbourne Rebels. The 27-year-old made his Super Rugby debut playing for the Brumbies when Andy Friend was their Head Coach in 2010 and went on to play every game for the club in the 2011 season.

In 2014 Fainga’a joined the Rebels and in his first season was awarded the highest honour in the club when he was named the Players’ Player of the year.  This achievement was followed by his appointment as co-captain of the Melbourne Rising side in 2015.

The versatile back row has gone on to make 100 Super Rugby appearances, the latest coming in the Rebels clash with the Reds last weekend.

At international level, Fainga’a captained the Australian Under 20s side in 2011 and made 7 appearances that season.

Commenting on Connacht’s latest signing, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We are delighted to announce the signing of Colby Fainga’a ahead of the new season. When I was Head Coach at the Brumbies, Colby signed his first professional contract with the club, so I have an in-depth knowledge of the qualities he brings. With 100 Super Rugby appearances under his belt, Colby brings massive experience. In addition to his versatility on the field he has a fantastic attitude off it and will be a big addition to Connacht in the seasons ahead.”

Fainga’a will join up with the squad on the conclusion of the Rebels Super Rugby Season.

 

 

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