Gloucester 26

Connacht 17

A strong second half Gloucester performance turned around Connacht’s three point half time lead as the English side claimed the bonus point win in this Champions Cup Round 3 clash. After the first of the crucial back to back fixtures, the return leg in the Sportsground next Saturday now becomes a must win for Connacht.

Gloucester drew first blood just 4 minutes into the game when Tom Marshall raced onto a pass outside the 22 and ran in under the posts. Amazingly though, Cipriani’s conversion was to prove their final score of the opening half for Gloucester as Connacht mounted a massive defensive display.

Connacht responded with their opening try after 8 minutes when John Porch scored his third try in two games. Porch looked confident in his new full back position and looked an attacking threat throughout.

While Gloucester made a handful of visits inside the Connacht 22 throughout the first half, they couldn’t break down a resolute defence. Connacht had their chances too and their period of pressure was rewarded on 18 minutes when Carty converted a penalty to leave the visitors 3 points to the good – a lead they held to the break.

It was a different Gloucester side that emerged for the second half and within seven minutes of the restart, Louis Rees-Zammit was in for the home side’s second try.

Connacht to their credit tried to stay in touch, but the English Premiership side had found a new level of confidence matched by greater accuracy.

At the game hit the 60 minutes mark, Gloucester were in again just after Kyle Godwin was sent to the bin following a succession of Connacht penalties – the final quarter was always going to be an uphill challenge from here. The home side capitalised on that numerical advantage and in the 65th minute Jake Polledri claimed the bonus point try with Cipriani scoring the conversion to leave it 24 – 10 with 15 to go.

From here Connacht went in search of a losing bonus point but and were unlucky not to have a try with 5 minutes remaining. The try did eventually come though when Quinn Roux drove at the Gloucester line 2 minutes into injury time. Unfortunately though, even with Fitzgerald’s conversion success, Connacht left with nothing.

So Gloucester draw first blood in the back to back battle. Both sides have just six days to regroup for the return leg in the Sporstground next Saturday.

For tickets to the crucial Champions Cup clash clash – Click here

Connacht scorers

Tries: J Porch, Q Roux

Conversions: Jack Carty (1), Conor Fitzgerald (1)

Penalties: J Carty (1)

Gloucester: Tom Marshall,  Louis Rees-Zammit,  Chris Harris (B Twelvetrees),  Mark Atkinson,  Ollie Thorley,  Danny Cipriani (M Banahan), Joe Simpson (Callum Braley ) Val Rapava Ruskin (Josh Hohneck), Franco Marais (Todd Gleave), Fraser Balmain (Jamal Ford-Robinson) Gerbrandt Grobler,  Franco Mostert (Alex Craig), Ruan Ackermann (Lewis Ludlow), Jake Polledri,  Ben Morgan.

Connacht:  John Porch,  Niyi Adeolokun,  Bundee Aki, Peter Robb (Tom Daly,  Kyle Godwin,  Jack Carty (Conor Fitzgerald) , Caolin Blade (Stephen Kerins)  Denis Buckley (P McCabe), Tom McCartney (Jonny Murphy), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy) Joe Maksymiw (Ultan Dillane ), Quinn Roux,  Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a (Robin Copeland), Jarrad Butler.

 

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).
 

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that three players from the NUIG sponsored Connacht Academy have signed their first professional contracts. Matthew Burke, Conor Fitzgerald and Conor Kenny have signed contracts with the province for the 2019/20 season. These latest signings follow Paul Boyle’s graduation to the senior squad earlier this season.
 
Matthew Burke has made eight appearances for the senior team so far this season having made his debut away to Sale in the Challenge Cup back in October. The 22 year old prop is a native of Ballinrobe and plays his club rugby with Corinthians.
 
Having joined the Connacht Academy at the start of the season, Conor Fitzgerald is another player who has already made a significant contribution to the senior side. The out-half made four appearances in the European Challenge Cup and a further two in the PRO14.
 
Prop Conor Kenny has come up through the underage structures in Buccaneers before going on to represent the senior side in the All Ireland League. He also represented Garbally College in Ballinasloe prior to joining the Connacht Academy three years ago.
 
Announcing the contract signings, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “I have been very impressed with the talent I have seen coming through the club and academy structures in the province. Earlier in the season, Paul Boyle signed his first professional contract and we are delighted to announce that Conor Fitzgerald, Matthew Burke and Conor Kenny will be added to our professional squad for next season. We have used Academy players throughout the season and my message to the next crop of players is that there will be opportunities for them to show what they can do. Our announcement today is great news for the players involved but the door is still open for others to make that step up. The recent Grand Slam success for the Ireland U20s, and the involvement of Connacht representatives Dylan Tierney-Martin, Niall Murray, Colm Reilly, and Ryan Lomas, is a further example of the further depth in our academy ranks.

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has named Academy players Conor Fitzgerald and Kieran Joyce in his starting team and Matthew Burke on the bench for the trip to Perpignan in the European Challenge Cup on Friday (k/o 7pm Irish time).
 
Joyce is retained in the midfield following his debut in the win over Perpignan last weekend while Fitzgerald is also set for his second start having been previously handed the number 10 jersey against Sale Sharks in October.
Joyce and Fitzgerald come into a back line that shows a blend of youth and experience. Joyce will partner David Horwitz in the midfield as the Australian makes a positional switch from out-half where he played last week.
 
In the back three, Darragh Leader is retained at full back, as are wingers Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher.
 
In the pack, hooker Dave Heffernan captains the side again with the Ballina native joined by props Peter McCabe and Dominic Robertson-McCoy in the front row. In the second row, James Cannon comes into the side as does the impressive Gavin Thornbury
In the back row, Robin Copeland returns from injury to start at number 8, alongside Sean O’Brien and James Connolly who played the full 80 minutes in the win in the Sportsground last week.
 
Connacht go into the game against Perpignan with four wins in a row in all competitions, and Head Coach Andy Friend says it is important to keep that momentum as Connacht face into the Christmas interpro series; “We have gained some real momentum with four wins in a row that included our back to back victories in South Africa. It was important to get the win over Perpignan last weekend to keep our interest alive in this competition, but we know that the return fixture will be a completely different game. Perpignan are in search of a win and the longer they go without that win, the more dangerous they are. They are a different proposition when they are playing at home and we will need a huge performance to challenge them”, Friend said.
 
Commenting on his team selection Friend added: “We have selected a blend of youth and experience in our side. We are seeing strong competition within the squad and that is hugely important as we head into the second half of the season. There are a few academy players in our match day squad again this weekend and that has been a feature of our selections this season. Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Joyce and Matthew Burke have performed well when called on so far and that is why we have selected them again”.
 
#PERvCON
 
Kick-off 7pm (Irish Time):
(15-9) Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher, Kieran Joyce, David Horwitz, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, James Mitchell, (1-8) Peter McCabe, Dave Heffernan (Capt), Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Gavin Thornbury, Sean O’Brien, James Connolly, Robin Copeland.
Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Matthew Burke, Conor Carey, Joe Maksymiw, Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Kyle Godwin.

Scrum-half Caolin Blade is set to captain Connacht for the first time as his side take on Sale in the European Challenge Cup on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

 

With Jack Carty rested after playing seven games in a row, Blade will form a half back partnership with Academy player Conor Fitzgerald who made his debut off the bench in the win over Bordeaux-Begles last weekend. Connemara man Colm De Buitléar is named on the wing in what will also be his first competitive start for his province.

 

The back line is also boosted by the return of centre Tom Farrell who forms a midfield partnership with Kyle Godwin. The versatile Godwin scored two tries in a Man of the Match performance on the wing in the opening round.

 

Tiernan O’Halloran also returns from injury to take his place at full back. He is part of a back three that includes twenty year old De Buitlear and Niyi Adeolokun on the opposite wing.

 

In the forwards, the experienced Denis Buckley returns at loosehead alongside hooker Shane Delahunt and Conor Carey at tighthead. Behind them will be Irish international Ultan Dillane and James Cannon.

 

In the back row, Paul Boyle moves to blindside while openside Colby Fainga’a and Robin Copeland at number 8 are both retained.

 

Two more players are in line to make their Connacht debuts off the bench. Academy prop Matthew Burke is included in the matchday 23 while summer arrival David Horwitz is also in the squad for the first time, after the out-half made an appearance for the Connacht Eagles last weekend. The bench also includes scrum-half former Sale player James Mitchell, who could make an appearance against his former club.

 

 

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend feels he has picked the right blend of youth and experience to challenge Sale: “Sale are an impressive side and they are top of the pool after the bonus point win away to Perpignan last weekend. We have picked a strong side. We have a few new players coming in who are there on merit and then we have a few more experienced guys coming back from injury. We have picked a side that we think can win the game and that is our intention going over to Sale”, Friend said.

 

“With ourselves and Sale both winning in the opening round, this game will have a big say in the final standings”, he added.

 

#SALvCON

 

Kick-off 3:00pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Kyle Godwin, Colm De Buitléar, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Capt), (1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Robin Copeland.

Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Matthew Burke, Conan O’Donnell, Joe Maksymiw, James Connolly, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Eoin Griffin.

 

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has named two Academy players on the bench for his side’s opening Challenge Cup game of the season against Bordeaux Bégles at the Sportsground on Saturday (kick off 3pm).

 

Out half Conor Fitzgerald and Connemara man Colm de Buitlear, who has featured across the back three, are named among the Connacht replacements.

 

In the starting XV the front row of props Peter McCabe and Conor Carey along with hooker Shane Delahunt are all set for their first starts of the season. In the second row there is one change from the side that defeated Ulster last weekend, with James Cannon starting alongside Quinn Roux. Captain Jarrad Butler at blindside, Colby Fainga’a at openside and number 8 Robin Copeland complete the pack.

 

Caolin Blade comes back in at scrum-half for the injured Kieran Marmion where he partners Jack Carty, who has been in outstanding form this season. Elsewhere in the back line the experienced Eoin Griffin joins Bundee Aki in midfield. Kyle Godwin is named on the wing with Niyi Adeolokun on the opposite wing, and Cian Kelleher at full-back making up the back three.

 

On the bench lock Joe Maksymiw looks set to make his Connacht debut while there is also plenty of experience to draw on with Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham also included in the match day 23.

 

Speaking ahead of the first European fixture of the season, Head Coach Andy Friend says he went for a blend of youth and experience in his selection; “We are really looking forward to our opening game of our Challenge Cup campaign. This is a competition that Connacht have a proud tradition in and we hope to make a big impact in this season. We are coming off six tough PRO14 games, so it is only natural that there is some rotation of the squad, but we are have a good blend of youth and experience among the squad. We have included Conor Fitzgerald and Colm De Buitléar, two promising Academy players, among our replacements. We hope that they will get a chance to make their debuts at some stage during the eighty minutes. It is a big opportunity to be involved in a European fixture especially in front of the home fans in the Sportsground. We also have plenty of experience on that bench to call on if needed,” Friend said.

 

“It has been a big week for the club with the announcement of our stadium plans all coming off a good win against Ulster last weekend. We know that Bordeaux will come with a big physical side and we are expecting a massive challenge. But it will be a big occasion in the Sportsground. Our fans have been huge for us this season and they will be on a high again tomorrow I’m sure”, Friend added.

 

#CONvBOR

 

Kick-off 3:00pm:

(15-9) Cian Kelleher, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Peter McCabe, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Quinn Roux, Jarrad Butler (c), Colby Fainga’a, Robin Copeland.

Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Conán O’Donnell, Finlay Bealham, Joe Maksymiw, James Connolly, Conor McKeon, Conor Fitzgerald, Colm De Buitléar.

 

 

 

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