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

Matthew Burke, Paul Boyle and Ben O’Donnell have been drafted into the starting XV for Saturday’s URC meeting with the Dragons at The Sportsground (k/o 5.15pm).
 
It’s a first appearance of the season for O’Donnell, who forms an exciting back three with winger Mack Hansen and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran.
 
The remaining backs are unchanged for the third straight game, with Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty at 9 and 10 respectively and Tom Daly and Tom Farrell pairing together at centre.
 
Ballinrobe man Matthew Burke comes into the front row with Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, while locks Oisin Dowling and Ultan Dillane also start together for the third week in a row.
 
The side is completed by flankers Cian Prendergast and captain Jarrad Butler, with Boyle wearing the number 8 shirt.
 
Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Last week was very pleasing not just because of the result, but the performance gave everyone the confidence that we’re heading in the right direction. We know more than anyone that we now need to replicate that level consistently. Dragons are a tough team to play against and showed that against Leinster last week, so we’ll need to be at the top of our game.”
 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS DRAGONS RUGBY
Saturday 9th October, The Sportsground @ 17:15
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (192)
14. Ben O’Donnell (6)
13. Tom Farrell (64)
12. Tom Daly (51)
11. Mack Hansen (2)
10. Jack Carty (161)
9. Kieran Marmion (189)
1. Matthew Burke (25)
2. Dave Heffernan (146)
3. Finlay Bealham (161)
4. Oisin Dowling (9)
5. Ultan Dillane (116)
6. Cian Prendergast (12)
7. Jarrad Butler (75) (C)
8. Paul Boyle (59)

16. Shane Delahunt (102)
17. Jordan Duggan (15)
18. Jack Aungier (15)
19. Leva Fifita (1)
20. Conor Oliver (22)
21. Caolin Blade (132)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (37)
23. Sammy Arnold (18)

Head coach Andy Friend praised his squad’s concentration levels and mentality after last weekend’s 34-7 victory over The Bulls at the Sportsground. 

 

Despite feeling 7-0 behind early on, the hosts stuck to their task and their systems and they eventually worked their way back into the game before producing an excellent performance to score the bonus-point win. 

 

The Australian said that Connacht will need to show a similar mentality when they face off against the Dragons at home this coming Saturday at 5:15 PM. 

 

“The thing that was most pleasing against The Bulls was that we were seven points down after two and half minutes, but we didn’t lose our heads and we stuck to our systems and stuck to the game plan that had been put in place,” Friend said. 

 

“I thought our performance was built upon really solid defence. Our defence was outstanding. Cullie Tucker is our defence coach and we asked for an emotional response and we really got that. We knew that they(The Bulls) had bigger men, but we knew that if we could bring our own physicality to that, that we would be able to stop their momentum going forward. 

 

“Then we just looked to play through them with our fast speed. A 34-7 victory over The Bulls was very pleasing. For us, just to get the win was great. We were happy with that and we certainly enjoyed it that night, but it means nothing if we can’t back it up on Saturday.”

 

Friend also warned that The Dragons — especially their physical back row — will present a new challenge to Connacht. The Welsh team, who are known for their solid kicking game and big pack, were narrowly defeated, 7-6, at home to Leinster last weekend.

 

“They are going to be a different team. They have a very good back row, as we know,” the former Australian sevens coach said about this coming weekend’s visitors. 

 

They have a very solid forward pack, but they play very much a territorial game. The kicking duel, staying in the kicking game is going to be very important to us. 

 

“Sam Davies is a major weapon of theirs, so we’ll have a focus on him and try to nullify both what he tries to do in attack and potentially have a look at how well he tackles in defence. We know they are a side itching for a win. They ran Leinster close, as we all saw. I know they talk about not beating an Irish province in a few years and we know they’ll be targeting us and that’s fine. 

 

“We have to be more about our game and it will be based on our ability to get line speed and double bangs, as we call them, and in attack we want to get that relentless and fast nature about our game and continue to play through them.”

 

Meanwhile, tight-head prop Finlay Bealham, who starred in the 34-7 win over The Bulls last weekend, said that the Connacht camp are in buoyant form ahead of welcoming The Dragons to the Sportsground. 

 

The Westerners victory against last weekend’s South African visitors was built on a foundation of defensive solidity, mixed with an expansive attacking game and efficient set-piece and Bealham, 29, said the squad enjoy games where their defensive mettle is tested. 

 

The forward also praised the returning Connacht supporters whose presence back in the stadium the academy graduate described as special. 

 

“It was great, firstly, to come out — it was the first game back with supporters in a long time — and get a win against a very tough Bulls side. It was really special and everyone is in good form and we’re ready to tackle the Dragons’ this week. It’s a good camp at the moment,” the Irish international said. 

 

“Yeah, it was a tough slog, that game. They came out fast and got that early score. There was some huge tackle stats from the forwards, like Jordan Duggan making 20 tackles which is pretty outrageous for a sixty-minute shift. The boys really dug in deep and I suppose when you’re in back to back defensive sets and everyone is in the trenches together and you’re celebrating those little victories, that feeling is something we really love. 

 

“We love that feeling where we’re under the pump and we’re defending like our lives depend on it. We came out with a penalty before halftime and that gave everyone a buzz and energy, even though you have just defended for 20 sets or something ridiculous. It was a good place to be. “

 

Dewald Senekal, Connacht’s new forward’s coach, has employed methods that the Westerners’ pack have enjoyed and improved from and Bealham is excited by the further progress they can make under the South African’s watch. 

 

Bealham is keen for the Sportsground men to build on last Friday’s win over The Bulls when The Dragons visit Galway, but warned they will need to be at their best to ensure the level of consistency required.

 

“Dewald is a legend,” the sixteen times capped Irish international said. 

 

“I have really enjoyed working under him thus far and everything he has brought. Everyone, all the players, have enjoyed what he has brought and there’s a real hard edge to what we’re doing. Maul defence was an issue last season, but if we’re in the trenches — like I mentioned with the defence — and we do a really good job, that just picks up the mood and you get a hunger for it and you want to do it again. 

 

“The big thing now is we had a good performance on Friday, but it’s about consistency for us and we had a tough mauling session this morning, so we’re definitely not resting on our laurels at all. We’re looking to improve everywhere we can and every little tidy up we can make we will look to make it and keep improving on the things we have done well.”

Following the success of last weekends game against the Vodacom Bulls, Connacht look ahead to their next home game. We welcome the Dragons to the Sportsground this Saturday at 17:15.

Check out the gallery below of this weeks training in preparation for the game.

To purchase tickets please go to this link connachtrugby.ie

Eoin Griffin is poised to make his 100th appearance in a Connacht jersey as he is named on the bench for the Guinness PRO14 clash with the Dragons in the Sportsground on Saturday (kick-off 5:15pm).

The Galway man made his Connacht debut in 2010 and is on his second term with the province having spent two campaigns with London Irish from 2014 to 2016. He returned to the Sportsground ahead of the 2016/17 season.

With Bundee Aki, Quinn Roux and Finlay Bealham all away on international duty in Chicago, Head Coach Andy Friend is forced to make a number of changes to his starting team. He is however boosted by the availability of Kieran Marmion who starts at scrum-half as he prepares for the upcoming home November internationals.

Marmion has a new half-back partner with David Horwitz set to make his first start for the province at out-half. Kyle Godwin also comes into the midfield where he partners Tom Farrell.

In the back three there is a start for Colm De Buitléar on the wing, with Cian Kelleher on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full-back.

In the forwards, Conor Carey steps in for Finlay Bealham while James Cannon comes into the second row for Quinn Roux.

The only other change is in the back row where captain Jarrad Butler starts at number 8 with Colby Fainga’a slotting in at openside.

Eoin Griffin is joined on the bench by academy player Matthew Burke and summer arrival Joe Maksymiw who are both in line to make their Guinness PRO14 debuts for the province.

Commenting ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend feels his players need to be capable of adapting to whatever is thrown at them; “We’ve got to be a team that can adapt. If we’re allowed to get the quick ball and play the way we want, we will threaten any side. If we can’t, whether that’s because of our ball carrying not being strong enough, or the ball not coming out because tacklers aren’t being removed, then we need to trust our defensive system. Our attack is potent enough if we get the ball we want, but if we can’t we have got to adapt”, Friend said ahead of the game.

Friend also praised experienced centre Eoin Griffin as he prepares his landmark achievement of 100thappearance with his home province, “Eoin Griffin is the ultimate professional rugby player, who is an example to every up and coming player in the province. It is fitting that he is making his 100th appearance in front of his home crowd. It is a significant milestone for him and his family and everyone in Connacht Rugby”, Friend said.  

 

Tickets for tomorrow’s game are still available and the best prices can be found online HERE

 

#CONvDRA

Kick-off 5:15pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Colm De Buitléar, David Horwitz, Kieran Marmion, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Conán O’Donnell, Joe Maksymiw, James Connolly, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Eoin Griffin.

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