The Connacht management team have made six changes to their starting XV, as the province aims to secure at home knockout tie in tomorrow’s EPCR Challenge Cup clash with Newcastle Falcons (k/o 5.30pm).
 
There are starts for Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Leva Fifita, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Conor Fitzgerald and the fit-again Adam Byrne.
 
Fresh off his Ireland inclusion in the Six Nations, Finlay Bealham forms the front row with Buckley and Delahunt, while Josh Murphy keeps his place in the second row. The back row is completed by captain Jarrad Butler at number 8, and openside flanker Conor Oliver.
 
Colm Reilly is retained at scrum-half, while the Cathal Forde-Byron Ralston combo at centre continues after impressive performances last weekend. Byrne is named on the right wing, with Alex Wootton on the left and Mack Hansen again named at full-back.
 
A losing bonus point ensures a home tie in the Round of 16, but a bonus point win could also mean potential home games further in the knockout stages.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
 
“It’s been a good Challenge Cup campaign for us so far, but tomorrow’s game is very important in mapping out our potential route in the knockout stages. We want to play as many games as possible at our home so we travel to England knowing every point matters.
 
Newcastle brought huge amounts of physicality to The Sportsground last month so it’s up to us to match that at their home turf, and as always away from home we then need to take our chances when the opportunities arise.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS NEWCASTLE FALCONS
Saturday 21st January, 17:30 @ Kingston Park

Number/Name/Caps
15. Mack Hansen (23)
14. Adam Byrne (4)
13. Byron Ralston (11)
12. Cathal Forde (6)
11. Alex Wootton (39)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (62)
9. Colm Reilly (16)
1. Denis Buckley (221)
2. Shane Delahunt (123)
3. Finlay Bealham (184)
4. Leva Fifita (21)
5. Josh Murphy (10)
6. Shamus Hurley-Langton (11)
7. Conor Oliver (53)
8. Jarrad Butler (106) (C)

Replacements
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (14)
17. Jordan Duggan (33)
18. Jack Aungier (42)
19. Darragh Murray (4)
20. Ciaran Booth (4)
21. Caolin Blade (160)
22. Tom Daly (70)
23. Tom Farrell (89)

Captain Jack Carty will make his first appearance of the season in tomorrow’s historic BKT United Rugby Championship interpro against Munster at The Sportsground (k/o 19:35).
 
The fly-half has recovered from wrist surgery to take his place in the starting team, with five changes in total from the side that faced the Vodacom Bulls last week.
 
Shamus Hurley-Langton is handed his first start, while Gavin Thornbury, Byron Ralston and Conor Fitzgerald also return to the starting XV.
 
Fitzgerald is handed the number #15 jersey while David Hawkshaw starts at inside-centre. Kieran Marmion, Mack Hansen and John Porch make up the rest of the backs.
 
The experienced front row of Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham is unchanged, while Oisín Dowling partners Thornbury in the second row. Flanker Conor Oliver and number 8 Jarrad Butler complete the starting XV.
 
The management team have opted for a 6:2 split on the bench with back rowers Josh Murphy and Paul Boyle both among the replacements.
 
The fixture is set to be a momentous occasion with the new state-of-the-art synthetic surface playing host to its first fixture. Limited tickets remain on sale at connachtrugby.ie.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
 
“We won’t hide from the fact our performances and results haven’t been good enough. We’ve been guilty of too many unforced errors, and at this level you’re going to be punished. As is always the case against Munster, the team who brings the greater level of physicality, linked with superior discipline and minimal error count is that team that usually comes out on top, so those three things are a key focus for us this week.
 
With the new pitch and our friends, family and supporters behind us, we’ll be doing everything in our power to get that first win of the season.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY SQUAD VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Friday 7th October 2022, 19:35 @ The Sportsground
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. Conor Fitzgerald (55)
14. John Porch (62)
13. Byron Ralston (3)
12. David Hawkshaw (3)
11. Mack Hansen (16)
10. Jack Carty (180) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (212)
1. Denis Buckley (211)
2. Dave Heffernan (168)
3. Finlay Bealham (176)
4. Gavin Thornbury (65)
5. Oisín Dowling (27)
6. Shamus Hurley-Langton (3)
7. Conor Oliver (43)
8. Jarrad Butler (97)

16. Grant Stewart (1)
17. Peter Dooley (3)
18. Jack Aungier (34)
19. Niall Murray (37)
20. Josh Murphy (3)
21. Colm Reilly (10)
22. Tom Daly (63)
23. Paul Boyle (75)

 

By John O’Sullivan

Connacht were defeated 41-21 by the Cell C Sharks in an entertaining United Rugby Championship clash in Durban today.

 

Despite scoring two tries via Gavin Thornbury and Caolin Blade – one of which Conor Fitzgerald, who also added three penalties, converted – on his 150th appearance for the province and leading 21-10 at halftime, Connacht couldn’t hang on to make it two wins on their South African tour, after their win against the Lions last weekend.

 

The hosts added five tries of their own with an especially strong second half making it four league wins in a row for the South African side.

 

Connacht were intent to attack early and it paid dividends when Fitzgerald made no mistake from the penalty tee. With their line out an efficient attack launch pad, the Irish team went through phases from the set-piece – with Tom Daly and Jarrad Butler carrying hard – and they earned the penalty that brought them the lead.

 

The away team had the better of the opening ten minutes, but, from that point, the Sharks worked their way back into the contest and they opened their account for the afternoon when their fly-half, Curwin Bosch, kicked a penalty to level up the scores in what had been an open and entertaining opening fifteen minutes.

 

Connacht were making headway with big carries – where both centres, Daly and Tom Farrell – and threatening the Sharks’ defence and, with the first half at its halfway point, this is how they retook the lead. A big carry saw the Irish team establish field position in the opposition 22 and when the hosts attempted to stop that momentum with hands in the ruck, Fitzgerald punished them with his second penalty to take the score to 6-3 in favour of the visitors.

 

The opening half was an even affair and the Sharks were the next team to establish themselves in the ascendancy, especially after John Porch’s yellow card reduced Connacht to 14 men, and they scored the game’s first try when Gerbrandt Grobler, formerly of Munster, squeezed over the line from close range. Bosch kicked the extras and the South Africans lead 10-6.

 

Connacht’s reaction was instantaneous. Thornbury, who had been threatening to block down several of the Sharks clearing kicks and coming close on a few occasions, using his huge frame to good effect, charged down an attempted box kick and showed the dexterity to catch the bouncing ball and the pace to run in the score. Despite being a man in arrears, Andy Friend’s men lead 11-10 and, on the balance of play, it wasn’t undeserved as the game reached the half-hour mark.

 

Defensively, Connacht were resolute, both in terms of tackling and at the breakdown, and it was through their excellent jackal threat over the ball – an area where Conor Oliver characteristically showed his class – that they extended their lead. This time, it was Cian Prendergast who applied the vice grip over the ball and earned the penalty that Fitzgerald slotted to put the away team 14-10 to the good, with the Porch’s sin bin soon to elapse.

 

With their allocation of players back, the visitors packed even more punch in attack and, only moments after Porch’s return from the naughty step, Connacht had their second try. On a momentous day on his 150th cap for the province, Blade made a searing break through the guts of the Sharks defence. The Monivea man then played a give and go with Finlay Bealham, with the tight-heads beautiful pass landing flush in the scrum half’s hands for him to run in the try. Fitzgerald added the extras and the Irish province were eleven points up at 21-10.

 

Blade showed his use on the other side of the ball only seconds later. Winning their own kickoff, the Sharks attacked, but the scrum-half showed brilliant breakdown acumen and strength to superbly position himself over the ball and World Cup-winning Springbok Makazole Mapimpi to win the penalty and see out the half 21-10 in front.

 

The Sharks began the second half with intensity and it yielded a try only five minutes in when centre Marius Louw burst over for a try. Connacht’s initial defence was very impressive, holding the home team at bay, but eventually, the pressure told and Louw was at hand to provide the finishing touch. Bosch converted and the Irish team’s lead was cut to four points at 17-21.

 

Gaining confidence from their try, the Sharks pressed for more and their pressure told when Bongi Mbonambi, the South African international hooker, muscled over from minimal distance and Bosch kicked the conversion to give the hosts a 24-21 lead and crown a hugely profitable opening ten minutes to the half.

 

The momentum was with the home team and they added their third try in quick succession when second-row Grobler showed good strength and opportunism and pick and go over the line from close range. Bosch made no mistake from the tee and Connacht trailed by ten at 31-21.

 

The game became broken as the game ticked on, with neither team really managing to assert themselves. Nevertheless, Bosch stretched the Sharks’ lead further – 34-21 – with a penalty with roughly five minutes remaining.

 

Le Roux Roets then sealed the win by showing great strength to burst over the line for a try that Bosch converted to take the score to 41-21 in favour of the Sharks, the score they held until the final whistle.

Connacht team:

(15-9)

15: Mack Hansen
14: John Porch
13: Tom Farrell
12: Tom Daly
11: Alex Wootton
10: Conor Fitzgerald
9: Caolin Blade

(8-1)

8: Jarrad Butler ©
7: Conor Oliver
6: Cian Prendergast
5: Leva Fifita
4: Gavin Thornbury
3: Finlay Bealham
2: Dave Heffernan
1: Denis Buckley

Replacements:

16: Dylan Tierney Martin for Heffernan
17: Jordan Duggan for Buckley
18: Jack Aungier for Bealham
19: Niall Murray for Fifita
20: Oisin Dowling for Butler
21: Kieran Marmion for Blade
22: Jack Carty for Fitzgerald
23: Tiernan O’Halloran for Wootton

Connacht 19

Stormers 17 

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht defeated the DHL Stormers in a physical encounter at the Sportsground in the United Rugby Championship today. 

 

Tries from Paul Boyle, Tom Daly and Peter Sullivan, as well as two conversions from the boot of Conor Fitzgerald sealed the win in front of a raucous home crowd. 

 

The visitors, through Sergeal Petersen, Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse, notched three tries of their own but it was the home team – through a mix of grit and skill – who deservedly took the victory.

 

Connacht, with Boyle and Cian Prendergast prominent in the ball-carrying stakes, were the aggressors early on but the visitors’ defence held firm in a scoreless opening ten minutes in a blustery Sportsground. 

 

The game featured regular set pieces in the opening half of the first period and Connacht – with their front row of Tietie Tuimauga, Shane Delahunt, and Denis Buckley also impressing in the loose – were more than a match for the South Africans whose pack featured Springbok internationals. 

 

The visitors grew more into the contest as we approached the mid part of the first half and they made it count when Petersen dove over for an unconverted try to open the scoring for the afternoon. 

 

Connacht, though, didn’t panic and they registered their first score of the afternoon after the half-hour mark. Electing to take a quick tap penalty close to the away team’s try line, the hosts kept the ball with their forwards and, after multiple phases, Boyle muscled his way over. Fitzgerald added the extras and the home team took the lead, much to the delight of their vocal supporters. 

 

The visitors recovered just in time to take the lead going into the break. A looping garryowen, which was caught in the wind, caused confusion in the home defence and Willemse benefitted by touching down after a hack through. The conversion was wide and the away team went into the interval leading 10-7.

 

The Stormers started the second half in a similar fashion and, after a fortunate bounce from a Connacht knock-on, they scored their third try when the ball fell sweetly for Libbok to run in. He added the conversion and the away team were 17-7 to the good. 

 

A raft of changes brought new impetus to Connacht and they worked their way back into proceedings near the hour mark. After try scorer Petersen was yellow carded for an intentional knock-on borne out of pressure the home team, Connacht worked their man advantage brilliantly. 

 

Replacement Caolin Blade made a searing break, which fellow sub Conor Oliver continued with a big carry. Oliver then brilliantly offloaded to Fitzgerald, whose line was clever. The out-half then carried close to the line before offloading to Daly to touch down. It was a beautiful try and it exhibited Connacht at their best. The conversion was added by conversion and the deficit was cut to three points, 17-14.

Connacht had the momentum behind them and, with the Stormers being reduced to fourteen men again – this time for a high tackle – they seized the initiative.

 

A sweeping move saw the ball worked left and Wootton brilliantly offloaded to Sullivan – who had replaced Fitzgerald, who was on the receiving end of the Stormers yellow card tackle, after initially going off – to touch down in the corner. The try gave Connacht a slender lead at 19-17 and it’s one they held to claim a big win. 

 

Connacht team:

 

(15-9)

 

15: John Porch 

14: Peter Sullivan(Tom Farrell)

13: Sammy Arnold 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Conor Fitzgerald (Peter Sullivan)

9: Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade)

 

(8-1)

 

8: Paul Boyle 

7: Jarrad Butler (Conor Oliver)

6: Cian Prendergast (Abraham Papali’i)

5: Leva Fifita 

4: Niall Murray (Oisin Dowling)

3: Tietie Tuimauga (Jack Aungier)

2: Shane Delahunt (Jonny Murphy)

1: Denis Buckley (Jordan Duggan)

 

Replacements: 

16: Jonny Murphy 

17: Jordan Duggan 

18: Jack Aungier 

19: Oisin Dowling 

20: Conor Oliver 

21: Caolin Blade 

22: Tom Farrell 

23: Abraham Papali’i

The Connacht matchday squad has been named for tomorrow’s crucial URC meeting with DHL Stormers at The Sportsground (k/o 1pm).
 
There are four changes in all from the historic win over Scarlets last weekend. With Dave Heffernan and Jack Carty returning to Ireland duty, they’ve been replaced in the starting team by Shane Delahunt and Conor Fitzgerald respectively.
 
The other changes sees the return of Denis Buckley to the front row, while Alex Wootton comes onto the wing with John Porch moving to full-back.
 
The rest of the squad is unchanged, so Tietie Tuimauga, Niall Murray and Leva Fifita complete the tight five, while the back row consists of Cian Prendergast, captain Jarrad Butler and Paul Boyle.
 
Kieran Marmion remains at scrum-half, as do Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold in the centre. Peter Sullivan completes the side from the right wing.
 
The coaches have opted for a 6:2 split on the bench, with Abraham Papali’i wearing the number 23 jersey.
 
Commenting on the team announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“We are close to must-win territory for all our remaining games in the URC, so that’s why last week’s win was so important for us. We have done our scout on the Stormers and are very aware of the threats that they bring. We know that we will have to front up physically as they’re a big team.
 
We’re in a strong position in terms of available players outside the Irish contingent, so it’s a 23 I know are capable of a winning performance in front of our home fans.”
 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS DHL STORMERS
Saturday 26th February, 13:00 @ The Sportsground
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. John Porch (50)
14. Peter Sullivan (19)
13. Sammy Arnold (31)
12. Tom Daly (55)
11. Alex Wootton (23)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (46)
9. Kieran Marmion (200)
1. Denis Buckley (202)
2. Shane Delahunt (115)
3. Tietie Tuimauga (6)
4. Niall Murray (28)
5. Leva Fifita (8)
6. Cian Prendergast (22)
7. Jarrad Butler (88) (C)
8. Paul Boyle (68)

Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (18)
17. Jordan Duggan (24)
18. Jack Aungier (24)
19. Oisin Dowling (18)
20. Conor Oliver (33)
21. Caolin Blade (142)
22. Tom Farrell (71)
23. Abraham Papali’i (19)

Tom Daly is one of a number of players returning to the Connacht starting team for tomorrow’s URC interpro against Ulster in Belfast (k/o 8.15pm).
 
Daly has missed the last three months with a knee injury he sustained against Ulster at the Aviva Stadium, but now makes a welcome return to inside-centre alongside Sammy Arnold.
 
The starting XV also includes Denis Buckley for the first time since June, Conor Fitzgerald & John Porch who were unavailable last week, and Cian Prendergast who has returned from a stint with Ireland as a development player.
 
In all there are 11 changes to the side that disappointingly lost to Glasgow last weekend. Buckley is named in a new-look tight five with Shane Delahunt at hooker and Tietie Tuimauga who’s named at tighthead, while Niall Murray and Oisín Dowling are paired together in the second row. Jarrad Butler captains the side from number 8, with Prendergast and Conor Oliver on the flanks.
 
In the backs, out-half Conor Fitzgerald is handed his first start of the season with Kieran Marmion alongside him, while a new-look back three features Porch at full-back with Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan on the wings.
 
Commenting on the team announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“We’ve had an honest week with difficult conversations about what happened last weekend. The performance wasn’t nearly good enough and we need to see a major improvement tomorrow against a strong Ulster team who are on a good run of form.
 
We’re welcoming back a number of players for various reasons which is always a plus, and we can take confidence from a good record up in Belfast the last few years.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS ULSTER RUGBY
Friday 4th February, 20:15 @ Kingspan Stadium
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. John Porch (48)
14. Peter Sullivan (17)
13. Sammy Arnold (29)
12. Tom Daly (53)
11. Alex Wootton (28)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (45)
9. Kieran Marmion (198)
1. Denis Buckley (201)
2. Shane Delahunt (113)
3. Tietie Tuimauga (4)
4. Niall Murray (26)
5. Oisín Dowling (17)
6. Cian Prendergast (20)
7. Conor Oliver (32)
8. Jarrad Butler (86) (C)
 
Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (17)
17. Jordan Duggan (22)
18. Greg McGrath (3)
19. Leva Fifita (6)
20. Paul Boyle (66)
21. Colm Reilly (8)
22. Cathal Forde (1)
23. Oran McNulty (6)

Connacht 22
Dragons 35

Connacht were defeated 35-22 by the Dragons at the Sportsground in the United Rugby Championship tonight.

 

Despite four penalties from Jack Carty and tries from Mack Hansen and Conor Fitzgerald, it was the visitors who left Galway with the bonus point win.

 

Tries from Jonah Holmes(2), Jordan Williams and Maseke Doge, as well as the boot of Sam Davies adding fifteen points — via three penalties and three conversions — paved the way for the away team to seal the win in an enthralling game.

 

Connacht started the game with an attacking ambition and their approach yielded points after only two minutes. The Dragons were adjudged to be offside just inside their own half and the hosts were awarded a penalty. Making no mistake, Carty confidently slotted the long range kick to open the scoring at 3-0.

 

The Roscommon native soon after added a second penalty, accurately slotting the kick from just inside the Dragons’ half. The 6-0 lead was a worthy reward for Connacht who were the dominant team in the opening fifteen minutes.

 

The Welsh team, however, opened their scoring account not long after when Davies slotted a penalty with aplomb. With their tails up, the visitors grew into the game and they showed their attacking strengths near the half hour mark with a well constructed try.

 

Full back Williams’ kick over the blitzing defence of the hosts bounced back to the full-back and he then showed vision to pass to Holmes to touch down. The conversion was wide, but Connacht found themselves behind for the first time at 8-6.

 

The Westerners were only behind for a matter of moments and retook their lead when Carty confidently stroked a penalty between the sticks and in a double whammy, the away team were reduced to 14 men after a yellow card to Rhodri Williams

 

Connacht seized on the man advantage and stretched their lead to four points when Carty notched his fourth penalty of the half and they held that 12-8 lead going into the interval.

 

The Dragons started the second half with renewed vigour and their efforts were rewarded when full-back Williams — with a sharp slight of foot — skipped in to touch down for a try that Davies converted to see the visitors edge 15-12 in front after ten minutes of the second period.

 

The away team went from strength to strength and they had their second try in a profitable second half period when Mesake Doge — the Fijian — barged over from close range. Once again, Davies — who continued his 100% record off the tee — made no error and the Dragons were 22-12 to the good.

 

With fresh impetus from replacements Conor Oliver, Shane Delahunt and Jordan Duggan, The Westerners upped the tempo in search of their opening try and they had it close to the hour from a familiar source. Carty’s slicing looping pass found Hansen and the winger sold two dummies to skip in for the try and Connacht brought the score back to 22-17.

 

The Dragons, though, were proving themselves adept from the kicking tee and Davies continued his fine form with the boot with a long range penalty to give the Welsh team an eight point lead at 25-17.

 

With their confidence up, the Welsh team flexed their attacking muscles and completed their bonus point when Holmes — pouncing on a bouncing ball — touched down for his second try. Davies made no mistake from the tee and the scoreline read 32-17 to the away team.

 

Connacht knew they had to go in search for tries to attempt to mount a comeback in the remaining ten minutes and they started that period well when Fitzgerald fielded Sammy Arnold’s beautiful offload to touch down to take the score to 22-32

 

However, the Dragons soon extinguished that hope with a Davies penalty and they stretched their lead further to 22-35 and that’s how the game finished.

 

 

Connacht team:

15-9

15: Tiernan O’Halloran
14: Ben O’Donnell
13: Tom Farrell
12: Tom Daly.
11: Mack Hansen
10: Jack Carty
9: Caolin Blade

8-1

8: Paul Boyle
7: Jarad Butler
6: Cian Prendergast
5: Ultan Dillane
4: Oisin Dowling
3: Finlay Bealham
2: Dave Heffernan
1: Matthew Burke

Replacements: Duggan for Burke, Delahunt for Heffernan, Aungier for Bealham, Oliver for Butler, Fifita for Dowling, Fitzgerald for Farrell, Arnold for Daly

Munster 20

Connacht 24

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht completed the clean sweep of away interprovincial victories this season after a 24-20 win against Munster in the Rainbow Cup at Thomond Park. 

 

The visitors registered three tries via Sammy Arnold, Conor Fitzgerald, and Kieran Marmion with Fitzgerald tagging on a further nine points via three conversions and a penalty. 

 

The hosts scored two tries and two penalties, but it was Connacht — with their defence solid, especially the line out maul — who sealed a deserved victory.

 

The away team started brightly and after their pressure earned them a shot at goal,  Fitzgerald nudged them ahead with a sweetly struck penalty.

 

Munster responded well and they powered over for the first try of the night when James Cronin barrelled over from close range. With the conversion successful, the home team lead 7-3 in an entertaining opening to the game.

 

Connacht responded brilliantly, however, and from the subsequent restart they opened their try-scoring account. A high restart from Fitzgerald caused confusion in the home team’s ranks and after the ball was spilled, Arnold showed sharpness of mind to claim the ball. The Ireland international, who started the game on the wing, powered through would-be tackles and touched down. Making no mistake,  Fitzgerald slotted a difficult conversion from the corner and the Westerners lead 10-7. 

 

Showing confidence in the attack, the pressure being applied by the Westerners forced Munster into conceding penalties and it culminated in Shane Daily being yellow carded for an intentional knock-on. 

 

With the man advantage and Fitzgerald and captain Tom Daly managing the game superbly with sharp territorial kicking, Connacht were establishing field position deep in the hosts’ half. The away team kicked a penalty to the line and — after an intricate move — the ball was worked to Daly and the centre found Fitzgerald on a loop move. The fly half ran an angled line then stepped and sped into space for a try which he converted to give the visitors a 17-7 lead. 

 

Munster were next to score and they decreased the margin to three points when Rhys Marshall crossed the line from close range and Ben Healy converted. The teams went into the break with Connacht leading 17-14 after an enthralling half of rugby.

 

The Westerners began the second half in blistering fashion and they had a try scarcely a minute in. Strong defence forced a Munster knock-on and from the loose ball Cian Prendergast kicked through. The ball fell to Marmion and the scrum-half pinned his ears back and ran in the try. Fitzgerald kept his 100% success rate off the tee up and Connacht established a 24-14 lead.

 

The scoring was going tit for tat and Munster were next to trouble the scoreboard when Healy drove a long-range penalty between the sticks to reduce the deficit to 24-17.

 

With their tails up, the home side cranked up the pressure and laid siege to the visitors’ 22, but Connacht were stout and committed in defence. Replacement Denis Buckley completed the defensive set when he brilliantly turned over the ball with Munster pushing for a try with fewer than ten minutes remaining. 

 

The hosts weren’t disheartened, though, and they registered a score when replacement Joey Carbery shortened the gap with a penalty to bring the score to 24-20.

 

Munster continued to push and probe, but the Connacht defence — with centre Sean O’Brien and lock Ultan Dillane particularly impressive — held firm to seal the win and complete the sweep of away victories for the Westerners in interpro’s this season. 

 

Connacht team:

(15-9)

15: John Porch 

14: Sammy Arnold 

13: Sean O’Brien

12: Tom Daly (C)

11: Alex Wootton

10: Conor Fitzgerald 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

(8-1)

8: Abraham Papali’i 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Dominic Robertson McCoy

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Paddy McAllister 

 

Replacements: Denis Buckley for McAllister, Finlay Bealham for Robertson McCoy, Dave Heffernan for Delahunt, Sean Masterson for Oliver. Jack Carty for Fitzgerald.  Caolin Blade for Marmion. Peter Sullivan for Arnold. Eoghan Masterson for Papali’i 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht 21

Leinster 50

 

Connacht fell to a 21-50 defeat to Leinster in a GuinnessPRO14 Rainbow Cup clash at The Sportsground.

 

Despite the hosts leading 16-0 early in the first half, the away team recovered to score eight tries in an impressive performance. Caolin Blade and Peter Sullivan touched down for tries for the home team and the boot of Conor Fitzgerald tacked on eleven points through three penalties and a conversion.

 

The home team began with a physical and attacking intent and their ambition yielded early points through two Fitzgerald penalties, both of which were slotted home with conviction. 

 

If Connacht’s beginning to the game was marked by aggression in attack, they were equally hungry to impose themselves on the other side of the ball. 

 

With their defensive line keen to blitz, the hosts forced an interception and Blade — showing an intelligent reading of the game — plucked a Leinster pass and ran in for the try. Fitzgerald once again showed composure with the boot and the Westerners lead 13-0.

 

With their tails up, Connacht continued to push and probe for more scores. A puncturing run from Sean O’Brien blasted through the visitor’s defence and established field position for the hosts in the 22. From there, they earned a penalty and Fitzgerald kept his 100% rate off the tee up with a kick that nudged the home team into a 16-0 lead. 

 

To their credit, though, Leinster recovered and began to exert themselves into the game after a powerful opening 15 minutes from Connacht. The Eastern province ran in five tries in a twenty-five-minute period with Irish international Hugo Keenan(2), and James Treacy touching down while Ross Molony and Cian Kelleher also crossed the whitewash. Ross Byrne was accurate with four of his five conversions and the away team went into the halftime break leading 33-16.

 

The away team began the second half in a similar manner and they had their sixth try when recently selected Lion Andrew Porter touched down at the tail of a rolling maul and — with Byrne adding the extras — Leinster broke the forty-point mark.

 

With all the momentum behind them, the away team added their seventh score of the evening when Scott Fardy touched down after a rolling maul surged towards the line. 

 

Connacht — with replacement Abraham Papali’i prominent in the ball carrying stakes — improved thereafter and they dotted down their second try after Fitzgerald’s looping pass found Sullivan and the winger showed both pace and strength to burst through the defence and touch down to take the score to 21-45.

 

Leinster had the last say when Keenan completed his hattrick and capped the win for the Eastern province at 21-50.

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: John Porch 

14: Peter Sullivan 

13: Sean O’Brien

12: Tom Daly 

11: Matt Healy 

10: Conor Fitzgerald

9: Caolin Blade

 

(8-1)

 

8: Jarrad Butler(C)

7: Conor Oliver

6: Eoghan Masterson

5: Gavin Thornbury 

4: Niall Murray

3: Finlay Bealham

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Denis Buckley 

 

Replacements: Jonny Murphy for Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke for Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson McCoy for Finlay Bealham, Cian Prendergast for Conor Oliver, Abraham Papali’i for Jarrad Butler, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Sammy Arnold for John Porch, Oran McNulty for Matt Healy.

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that 21 players have re-signed for the province ahead of the 2021-22 season.

In all 19 players from the existing Professional squad have renewed deals for next season while a further two players, Oran McNulty and Cian Prendergast, have been promoted from the Connacht Academy.

Today’s announcement includes four Irish internationals – Finlay Bealham, Jack Carty, Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan – while joint-leading Guinness PRO14 try scorer Alex Wootton has signed on a permanent contract having joined on loan from Munster last summer.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:

“I am delighted to see so many of our current crop of players sign on for another season. This is still a very challenging time for everyone in Irish Rugby so to have them commit to Connacht Rugby again says it all about the belief we have as a group to continue the progress we’re making.

17 of the 21 players were once part of the Connacht Academy, and in that group we have a mix of established Irish internationals, experienced players within the province and plenty of young players still in the early stages of their careers.

I have been very impressed by Cian Prendergast and Oran McNulty, and their first Professional contracts is the culmination of years of work from grassroots level to where they are now. Congratulations not just to them but their parents, coaches and all the other volunteers who helped them along the way.

We are continuing to shape the squad for next season, with further discussions ongoing, and supporters should expect more positive news in the weeks and months ahead.”

Connacht Rugby’s retention and recruitment remains ongoing and further announcements will be made in due course.

CONFIRMED NEW CONTRACTS FOR 2021-22

Finlay BEALHAM
Paul BOYLE
Denis BUCKLEY
Matthew BURKE
Jack CARTY
Shane DELAHUNT
Ultan DILLANE
Jordan DUGGAN
Conor FITZGERALD
Dave HEFFERNAN
Eoghan MASTERSON
Sean MASTERSON
Oran MCNULTY
Niall MURRAY
Conor OLIVER
John PORCH
Cian PRENDERGAST
Colm REILLY
Peter SULLIVAN
Gavin THORNBURY
Alex WOOTTON

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