A man-of-the-match performance from Paul Boyle helped Connacht to a deserved bonus point win over Benetton at The Sportsground this afternoon.

Tries from Niall Murray, Boyle, Finlay Bealham and Caolin Blade were enough to give Connacht the five points in what was the first game under the new Sportsground lights.

The cliché would be that Connacht needed a good start to justify the favourites tag, and that’s exactly what they did in the first 5 minutes. Following a good defensive set, a line break from Niall Murray on the half-way line brought Connacht deep into the 22, and the Roscommon man found an excellent turn of pace to touch down beside the posts. Carty added the extras and Connacht found themselves a converted try ahead.

Not for the first time this season Connacht’s try concession came out of nothing, as the ball squirted out of a ruck on the sideline and Benetton had a two on one which was capitalised by Marcus Watson to level the game.

The second quarter was dominated by the hosts as they added 10 more points to scoreboard, but they could’ve and arguably should’ve added more. Paul Boyle got Connacht’s second of the game with a lovely first phase move off a 5 metre lineout, and Carty added two more. Multiple more visits to the Benetton 22 followed for the rest of the half but Connacht were unable to capitalise, with a mixture of penalty concessions and the ball held up inside the Benetton line.

Eventually the captain decided to take the points on offer and Carty added a penalty to make it 17-7 at the break.

Whatever was said in the Connacht dressing room at half-time paid dividends as the squad came out all guns blazing. Some excellent attacking phases brought them a few metres short, and this time they didn’t repeat the mistakes of the first half as Finlay Bealham touched down under the sticks.

Unfortunately any momentum they were hoping to build from there didn’t materialise, and it was arguably the hosts who were on top for the rest of the quarter. A second try followed as a result of a line break deep inside the Connacht half along the Clan Stand side, and after some repeated penalties Marco Zonan added the five for the visitors.

Any hope of a Benetton comeback was effectively ended when Scott Scrafton received a red card for a high challenge on Dylan Tierney-Martin, and it didn’t take long for Connacht to make the extra man count as Caolin Blade crossed over for the vital fourth try.

The gloss was then added by Tierney-Martin for his first home try for the club, powering over past the 80th minute.

Mack Hansen has recovered from injury that he picked up on Ireland duty to line out for Connacht in tomorrow’s BKT URC meeting with Benetton at The Sportsground (k/o 3.15pm).
His return is one of six changes to the side that started against Munster last week, with Niall Murray, Oisín Dowling, Paul Boyle, Kieran Marmion and Diarmuid Kilgallen all coming into the squad.
The experienced front row of Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham is unchanged, while Murray and Dowling make up the lock pairing. Paul comes in at number 8 with Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver retained on the flanks.
Captain Jack Carty is named alongside Marmion while the centre pairing of Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell is unchanged. Hansen starts on the left wing, with John Porch at full-back and Kilgallen on the right wing for his first appearance of the season.
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“Last weekend was another frustrating performance for various reasons, and whilst our intent and attitude were excellent, the bottom line was that we didn’t deliver our best performance. That said, I was pleased with the way the players dug out a bonus point which could be crucial at the end of the season.
Tomorrow we’re back at the Sportsground against a very confident Benetton team. If we wish to be the victors at the end of 80 minutes, we must bring a level of energy and physicality that we know that we’re capable of for the full game. We are a team that is creating plenty of opportunities, we just need to be better at capitalising on those.”
Saturday 3rd December, 15:15 @ The Sportsground
15. John Porch (67)
14. Diarmuid Kilgallen (8)
13. Tom Farrell (84)
12. Bundee Aki (120)
11. Mack Hansen (19)
10. Jack Carty (185) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (216)
1. Denis Buckley (216)
2. Dave Heffernan (172)
3. Finlay Bealham (180)
4. Oisín Dowling (32)
5. Niall Murray (41)
6. Cian Prendergast (34)
7. Conor Oliver (48)
8. Paul Boyle (80)

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (10)
17. Peter Dooley (6)
18. Jack Aungier (39)
19. Gavin Thornbury (69)
20. Jarrad Butler (101)
21. Caolin Blade (155)
22. Tom Daly (65)
23. Tiernan O’Halloran (209)

Andy Friend has named his side to face Benetton in the Guinness PRO14 tomorrow night, with the Head Coach making just one change to the team that was originally due to play Ospreys last week.
That game was postponed due to a COVID-19 case in the Welsh club, and the management have opted to stick with most of that same matchday 23, with some players looking to pick up some game time before a hectic period of Heineken Champions Cup and Christmas interpros.
The one change is at scrum-half where Caolin Blade has recovered from a recent hamstring injury to start his first game since late October, with Colm Reilly named among the replacements.
Paul Boyle is named as captain and will again get an opportunity to lead out the side for the first time – he’s at number 8 with flankers Sean O’Brien and Conor Oliver alongside him in the back row.
Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt and Jack Aungier make up the front row, while locks Eoghan Masterson and Gavin Thornbury complete the pack.
Conor Fitzgerald partners Blade at half-back, with Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold named at centre and Alex Wootton, Peter Sullivan and John Porch completing the side as the back three.
Among the replacements are Ultan Dillane who has been released from international duty, and Academy player Sean O’Brien who’ll get another chance to make his debut.
Commenting on his team selection, Andy Friend says:
“Last week’s late postponement was very disappointing and put us in a tricky position regarding our selection for this week. In the end we believe it’s only right that the squad selected last week will get another chance to impress. We’ve got 7 weeks of European games and interpros ahead of us, so we’d like to get minutes under the belts of as many players as possible.”
Regarding this week’s game, Friend added:
“Home games in the PRO14 are where we need to build up our points tally and tomorrow will be no different. It’s important we build on the Zebre win two weeks ago by showing that same level of physicality and taking our changes when they come. If we do that I know that’ll put us in a good place.”
Friday 4th December, The Sportsground, Kick-Off 7.35pm

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. John Porch (23)
14. Peter Sullivan (4)
13. Sammy Arnold (6)
12. Tom Daly (30)
11. Alex Wootton (6)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (27)
9. Caolin Blade (114)
1. Denis Buckley (184)
2. Shane Delahunt (82)
3. Jack Aungier (6)
4. Eoghan Masterson (96)
5. Gavin Thornbury (44)
6. Sean O’Brien (58)
7. Conor Oliver (6)
8. Paul Boyle (C) (44)

16. Jonny Murphy (9)
17. Paddy McAllister (14)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (56)
19. Ultan Dillane (100)
20. Jarrad Butler (61)
21. Colm Reilly (3)
22. Sean O’Brien (Acad) *
23. Matt Healy (138)
NOTE: All players and management produced negative results in this week’s round of PCR testing.

PRO14 Rugby have confirmed the dates and kick-off times for Connacht’s Christmas interpros, as well as the rescheduled clash with Benetton.
Andy Friend’s side welcome Benetton to The Sportsground on Friday 4th December, the first of three home games during the month.
Then at Christmas, Ulster make the trip to The Sportsground on Sunday 27th December, before we head to the RDS to face Leinster on Saturday 2nd January. The festive fixtures are completed on Saturday 9th January when we host Munster.
All games kick-off at 7.35pm.

The Round 4 Guinness PRO14 fixture between Connacht Rugby and Benetton Rugby has been postponed.
The game was due to take place on Sunday, November 1 in Galway, however, Benetton will not be able to travel due to a small number of isolated positive cases of Covid-19. Public health guidelines in Italy currently prevent the Benetton squad from resuming rugby activities and as a result the fixture cannot take place as planned.
PRO14 Rugby can also confirm that Scarlets, who Benetton played in Round 3, have returned negative results from their PCR testing this week.
PRO14 Rugby will examine potential dates in early 2021 to reschedule the game.

Connacht 41
Benetton 5
Connacht secured a bonus point win over Italian side Benetton in their first home game of the Pro14 season. In a game that the home side dominated in all areas, they never looked like losing when they Kyle Godwin races into the corner to score the opening try after seven minutes.
That opening try was preceded by a penalty after three minutes from the boot of Conor Fitzgerald who controlled the game throughout with the aid of a powerful Connacht pack. That early lead gave Connacht huge confidence and after twenty minutes the attack was in full flow as the home side delivered another killer blow with Caolin Blade’s first of two tries.
By now the Connacht pack was completely dominant and the rolling maul was used to great effect resulting in a  Tom McCartney try. With 15 minutes to half time Connacht went in search of the bonus point try but Benetton did manage to hold them out by forcing a turnover on the stroke of half time albeit after giving away a succession of penalties.
With a 22 – 0 lead at half time, the result was never in question and it seemed inevitable that Connacht would drive on.
The home side didn’t have long to wait long in the second half as Caolin Blade picked up the ball at the base of a ruck on the Benetton 22. He showed a clean pair of heals to round three Italian defenders and touch down with the best try of the game.
Three minutes later Tom McCartney added his second and it was one way traffic from there. Kieran Marmion wrapped up the win with Connacht’s sixth try of the evening with four minutes remaining.
Next up for Connacht is an away trip to Dragons next weekend.
Connacht Scorers:
Tries: Caolin Blade x 2, Tom McCartney x 2, Kyle Godwin 1, Kieran Marmion 1.
Penalties Conor Fitzgerald 1
Conversions – Conor Fitzgerald x 3 Kyle Godwin 1
Connacht Team:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Stephen Fitzgerald (John Porch), Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald (Tom Farrell), Caolin Blade (Kieran Marmion), (1-8) Paddy McAllister (Denis Buckley), Tom McCartney (Shane Delahunt) Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson McCoy), Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux (Ultan Dillane), Eoghan Masterson (Sean Masterson), Jarrad Butler (Capt), Paul Boyle.

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend has made three changes to the Connacht starting team for the visit of Benetton to the Sportsground on Saturday (Kick Off 7:35pm).
Darragh Leader, Peter Robb and Paul Boyle all come into the side as Connacht hope to bounce back from a defeat away to Scarlets on the opening day of the season.
Leader’s inclusion on the wing sees him come into a back three with Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back, while Robb will form a midfield partnership with Kyle Godwin.
Conor Fitzgerald and Caolin Blade will continue their half-back partnership with Kieran Marmion named among the replacements.
Paul Boyle at number 8 is the only change among the forwards with Captain Jarrad Butler named at openside and Eoghan Masterson at blindside. Masterson’s brother Sean is named among the replacements, with the 21 year old Academy player set for his senior debut having impressed for the Connacht Eagles in their five wins so far in the Celtic Cup.
The front five remains unchanged with Paddy McAllister retained after his debut against Scarlets in a front row that includes hooker Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham at tighthead. The side is completed with locks Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux.
Speaking ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “While we were disappointed with the result last weekend, there is huge anticipation among the squad for our first home game of the season. We have set some really ambitious targets for the season ahead, particularly around our home form. A packed Sportsground is a very difficult place for away teams to come and I expect a great atmosphere when we face Benetton on Saturday evening”.
Commenting on his team selection, Friend added: “We have made three changes to our starting team from last weekend. Some of those were down to one or two injuries we picked up and some are down to the depth we have in the squad. We are prepared for a long season where we will need a large squad of players to compete in the Pro14 and European competitions. This week we have named Sean Masterson among the replacements. He is an excellent young back row who has impressed already for the Connacht Eagles side. I’m confident that he is ready for that step up to Pro14 rugby this weekend”.
Connacht Matchday Squad:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Sean Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Stephen Fitzgerald.

Connacht trained at The Sportsground this morning as they look to put last weekend’s defeat to Scarlets behind them when they face Benetton in Galway this weekend.
The game is Connacht’s first of 10 home ties in the Guinness PRO14 this season, and comes against the Italian outfit who are also rivals in Conference B.
Don’t forget Season Tickets are still on sale, but we recommend you buying one before the weekend to ensure you get best value for the ticket.
Check out some of the best pics from this morning’s session.


After five long months, Guinness PRO14 rugby returns to The Sportsground this Saturday when Connacht host Benetton in our first home game of the season.
Here’s everything you need to know about the game.
When’s the game?

Kick-off at the Sportsground is at 7.35pm this Saturday 5th October.
What’s the state of play so far?

With just one game gone not a lot has happened so far! Benetton, who are one of Connacht’s conference rivals this season, picked up a losing bonus point at home to Leinster last weekend, meaning they’re slightly ahead of Connacht after the loss to Scarlets last weekend.
How’s our recent record against them?

The two sides last met in March when Connacht recorded a 29-14 bonus point win, a result that turned out to be crucial in their qualification to the Guinness PRO14 playoffs.

In fact Connacht have won their last four games against the Italian outfit, with Benetton last coming out on top in the penultimate regular season game in 2015/16.
How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht management team will announce their squad at 12pm on Friday when it will be named on and the Connacht Rugby social channels.
Are tickets still available?

Yes tickets are available in the Main Stand and Bohermore & College Road Ends. 2019/20 Season Tickets are also available, so this is your last chance to get the full value of the ticket with access to all 13 Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup games at The Sportsground.

What if I can’t make the game?

There will be live TV coverage on TG4 with the build-up beginning at 7.15pm, while Galway Bay FM will also have live radio commentary.
How can I get there?

There is plenty of car parks within walking distance to The Sportsground, all of which are listed below. Please note that local restrictions will be in place so please respect our neighbours at all times.

Anything else I should know?

The 2020 Connacht Junior Cup draw will take place in the Heineken Rugby Clubhouse at 6.45pm prior to kick-off. Before the game will we also hear pitchside from Fergus ‘Gussie’ Farrell, a former Connacht underage player who is undertaking a major fundraising activity later in the month for the National Rehabilitation Centre. You can read Fergus’s incredible story HERE.

Connacht are another step closer to the Guinness PRO14 playoffs and with it a place in the Heineken Champions Cup after a second straight bonus point win at The Sportsground.
An impressive 29-14 win over in-form Benetton means they remain ahead of the Cardiff Blues on points difference in 3rd place with just three games to go.
One of those three games will see the two sides face off in the penultimate round on Saturday April 13th – arguably the biggest game to hit the Sportsground since the PRO12 victory in 2016.
For now check out some of the best pics from last night’s win.


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