Connacht Rugby have announced that four more current players have extended their contracts with the province. The four backs, Cian Kelleher, Craig Ronaldson, Eoin Griffin and Darragh Leader will all add to the strength of the squad in the 2018/19 season.

Kelleher joined Connacht from Leinster in 2016 and the winger has since made 32 appearances and scored 9 tries during his time at the Sportsground.

Craig Ronaldson signed for Connacht in 2013 and the former Lansdowne man has played 81 times for Connacht, winning a PRO12 Championship in 2016. The versatile back has featured in the midfield and at out-half, where he has made the majority of his 13 appearances this season scoring 50 points.

Eoin Griffin has made over 90 appearances in the Connacht jersey. Having made his debut for his home province in 2011 he joined London Irish in 2014 for two seasons and returned to Connacht in 2016.

Darragh Leader, another Connacht native, has scored 3 tries in his 15 appearances this season and was also part of the successful PRO12 squad in 2016.

Commenting on the latest contract extensions, Connacht Rugby CEO, Willie Ruane said: “We are delighted that Cian Kelleher, Craig Ronaldson, Eoin Griffin and Darragh Leader have all extended their contracts. They are four important backs that will further strengthen our options next season. They are also four ambitious young players who are determined to bring further success to Connacht.”

Welcoming the contract extensions, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane added: “Our squad list for the 2018/19 season is really taking shape now and it is great that these four important players have extended their contracts. I have been really impressed with what I have seen of all four players so far and they will be central to our ambitions next season.”

 

Ends

A resolute defensive display and tries from Eoghan Masterson and Tom Farrell gave Connacht a 26-15 win over their Conference A rivals Ospreys at the Sportsground on Friday night. The Welsh side enjoyed plenty of possession but Connacht stood firm in defence for the majority of the contest and converted their scoring opportunities when they came around.

“We’re thrilled with the result but it was a bit of a scratchy performance from us,” head coach Kieran Keane said after the game.

“Ospreys were really good in my eyes. They put us under a lot of heat. The try before half-time (from Masterson) was compelling and it buoyed us at the break.”

Connacht were forced to withstand long periods of Ospreys pressure and Keane was satisfied, for the most part, with his side’s defensive efforts.

“Some of our defence, for maybe three-quarters of the game, was really positive. There were only a couple of slip-ups. We just have to fix that,” he said.

Out-half Craig Ronaldson impressed on his way to the Man of the Match award and Keane agreed when it was put to him that the Dubliner had performed well.

“He did, and his goal-kicking was pretty good too, and his direction was good, and some of his defence was really good. He had a good day at the office.”

Next up for Connacht is a home clash with Zebre on Friday evening. This win is a shot in the arm for Connacht’s hopes in Conference A but Keane was reluctant to look too far ahead.

“I’m just taking everything one game at a time, trying to build us up. We’ll get what we deserve, in my opinion. If we keep building, who knows? We might be there when they’re turning for home,” he offered.

FULL TIME | Connacht 26 Ospreys 15

A try from Eoghan Masterson and an outstanding individual effort from Tom Farrell to get in under the posts was the main difference between the sides. Man of the Match Craig Ronaldson kicked 16 points and he spoke to us after the game.

 

 

 

 

Experienced lock Andrew Browne comes back into Kieran Keane’s Connacht line up for the Guinness PRO14 clash with in Ospreys in the Sportsground on Friday (Kick Off 7:35pm). Also back from injury and in the starting XV are lock James Cannon and out-half Craig Ronaldson.

With Bundee Aki away on international duty, Tom Farrell and Eoin Griffin form the centre pairing. Likewise, with Kieran Marmion’s absence, Caolin Blade starts at scrum half.

Having recently announced that he will retire at the end of this season, John Muldoon will captain the side from his number 8 position. He will be joined in the back row by Eoghan Masterson at blindside and openside Naulia Dawai.

The back three is made up of Tiernan O’Halloran at full back, with Cian Kelleher and Matt Healy on the two wings.

During the next block of four games, Connacht take on three of their Conference rivals, including a trip to South Africa to take on the Cheetahs. Head Coach Kieran Keane is well aware of the importance of the upcoming fixtures and the need to get off to a good start against the Ospreys. “We are up for this game, we know the importance of it”, he told reporters at the pre-game press conference. “This is a really important block of games for us and will have a big bearing on our PRO14 season. We have a Quarter Final in the Challenge Cup to look forward to later in the season but there is a lot of rugby to play before that, so our focus is firmly on the league at the moment”.

 

#CONvOSP

Kick-off 7.35pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Craig Ronaldson, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Coulson, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Andrew Browne, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Naulia Dawai, John Muldoon (Capt).

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, James Connolly, James Mitchell, Jack Carty, Pita Ahki.

 

 

 

Ahead of our clash with Ospreys in the Sporstground on Friday (K.O. at 7:35pm), our Medical Team have issued the following Squad Update.

General Report:

A number of players have integrated into team training this week following short and long-term injuries and are likely to be available for selection this weekend versus Ospreys. This includes Finlay Bealham (knee), James Cannon (shoulder), Andrew Browne (achilles), Sean O’Brien (shoulder), Craig Ronaldson (hip), Steve Crosbie (knee) and Cormac Brennan (shoulder).

 

Prop:
Denis Buckley is continuing his rehabilitation from ankle surgery and will be out of action until later this month.

JP Cooney is recovering from hamstring surgery and will be out of action until April.

Hooker:
Pat O’Toole is continuing his rehabilitation for his hamstring injury under the supervision of the medical and performance team and will return to action in mid-February.

Back Row:
Jarrad Butler is recovering from his hand injury and will be out of action until mid-February.

Eoin McKeon is progressing well in his rehabilitation from a calf injury and will return to team training in the coming weeks.

Jake Heenan is continuing his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery and will be out of action until April.

Centre:
Peter Robb is continuing his rehabilitation from his recent hamstring injury and will return to training in the coming weeks.

 

Back Three:

Niyi Adeolokun is progressing well in his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury sustained in the Oyonnax game and will return to team training later this month.

 

Tickets for the game are available here

 

Report:

There were no significant new injuries from the two games versus Brive and Richmond (Eagles) last weekend for the Connacht Senior Squad.

 

Prop:

Dominic Robertson McCoy is continuing his rehabilitation from thumb surgery and will be out of action until the end of 2017.

JP Cooney is rehabilitating from a recent hamstring injury and will return to action in early 2018.

 

Lock:

Andrew Browne is continuing his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Back Row:

Eoin McKeon will return to full training this week following his recent hamstring injury versus Cardiff.

Jake Heenan is recovering from shoulder surgery and will be out of action until April 2018.

Jarrad Butler is continuing his recovery from recent knee surgery and is due to return during the interpros series.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Centre:

Craig Ronaldson (calf) and Peter Robb (hip) both played 40 minutes for the Eagles at the weekend with no ill effects.

 

Back Three:

Stacey Ili (shoulder) played for the Eagles at the weekend with no ill effects.

Rory Scholes is continuing his recovery following the removal of his appendix and will return in early 2018.

Cormac Brennan will return in early 2018 following shoulder surgery.

 

 

 

Centre Peter Robb has returned from a leg operation to take his place in the Connacht Eagles starting XV to face Richmond in the B&I Cup. Craig Ronaldson who reintegrated into to full training in the past week is included among the replacements.

 

The Connacht side includes a mix of youth and experience. In the back row, Academy players Sean Masterson (openside) and Paul Boyle (number 8) and joined by Naulia Dawai at blindside. Mayo native Pat O’Toole starts at hooker where he is flanked by Conan O’Donnell at loose head and Conor Kenny at blind side.

 

Kick-off 3:00pm:

(15-9) Matt Byrne, Adam Leavy, Kieran Joyce, Peter Robb, Stacey Ili, Andrew Deegan, Conor McKeon,
(1-8) Conan O’Donnell, Pat O’Toole, Conor Kenny, Cian Huxford, Gavin Thornbury, Naulia Dawai, Sean Masterson, Paul Boyle

Replacements (16-23): Callum Torpey, Denis Coulson, Jakub Woitjowicz, Dylan Tierney, Caoilin Blade, Steve Crosbie, Craig Ronaldson.

This Saturday focus shifts to the European Challenge for our clash away to Brive (K.O. 8pm – live commentary on Galway Bay Fm).

Ahead of the game our medical team issued a squad update at the pre-game press conference.

 

Prop:
Dominic Robertson McCoy is continuing his rehabilitation from thumb surgery and will be out of action until the end of 2017.

JP Cooney sustained a hamstring injury in a club game last weekend and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Lock:
Andrew Browne is continuing his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Back Row:
James Connolly played versus Zebre last week in his first game since his ankle injury with no after effects.

Eoin McKeon is continuing his rehabilitation from his hamstring injury versus Cardiff and is planned to return to training next week.

Jake Heenan injured his shoulder versus Cardiff and underwent surgery last week. He will be out of action until April 2018.

Jarrad Butler is continuing his recovery from recent knee surgery and is due to return to training in the coming weeks.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery and will be out of action until early 2018.

 

Centre:
Craig Ronaldson (calf) and Peter Robb (hip) have both returned to full training and are available for selection this week.

 

Back Three:
Stacey Ili (shoulder) has returned to full training and is available for selection this week.

Rory Scholes is continuing his recovery following the removal of his appendix.

Cormac Brennan will return in early 2018 following shoulder surgery.

 

Connacht 24-37 Leinster

Connacht fell to a tough defeat at a packed-out Sportsground on Saturday night in a thrilling encounter that saw clinical Leinster take the spoils and book a home Guinness PRO12 semi-final.

With John Muldoon – on his landmark 300th Connacht appearance – leading manfully from the front, Connacht played some scintillating rugby but Leinster were absolutely clinical on the night and took every chance that came their way.

Some ferocious early tackles from Connacht and Kieran Marmion helped to force an early penalty with Ronaldson slotting the long-ranger to make it 3-0 within two minutes.

Leinster responded well and were off the mark before the seventh minute as winger Adam Byrne showed great hands to pop a pass inside for Zane Kirchner to touch down in the right corner.

Byrne soon touched down himself on 10 minutes as he pounced on a Ronaldson pass to run in an intercept try from 60 metres. Ross Byrne knocked over the easy conversion and Leinster led 12-3.

This time, it was Connacht’s turn to muster a riposte, and when Denis Buckley forced the penalty, Ronaldson made no mistake to narrow the deficit to six.

An electric Tiernan O’Halloran break down the right wing then set Connacht up for another attack and an impeccable crossfield kick from Jack Carty found Danie Poolman on the left flank and the winger ran in under the posts for a magnificent try with Ronaldson’s extras giving Connacht a 13-12 lead.

That advantage didn’t last long, however, as Ross Byrne’s first penalty for Leinster moved the visitors back in front on 22 minutes.

A third penalty for Ronaldson on the half hour made it 16-15 to Connacht but Leinster crossed via a Rory O’Loughlin try in the left corner following Luke McGrath’s break as Leinster moved 20-16 in front.

Connacht had the last word of a breathless first half with Ronaldson slotting his third penalty to narrow the deficit to just a single point at the interval, 20-19.

GUARANTEE YOUR SPOT FOR THE 2017/18 SEASON BEFORE PRICES RISE.

An incredible break and offload from O’Halloran set up Connacht’s second try after the interval with Carty eventually floating a pass out to Dave Heffernan on the left wing and the hooker had the wheels to cross to move Connacht into a 24-20 lead with half an hour remaining.

Within three minutes, Leinster scored their fourth try as captain Rhys Ruddock touched down from close range and Ross Byrne landed the tricky conversion as the visitors went 26-24 in front.

As Connacht pushed for the next score, they were hit by a sucker punch as Barry Daly hacked a loose pass clear and the ball bounced up perfectly for the replacement to score under the posts with Ross Byrne’s conversion giving Leinster a 10-point advantage.

And a second penalty from Ross Byrne on 76 minutes sealed the win for Leinster.

The home support roared Connacht on throughout and gave Muldoon a hearty reception at full-time as he was presented with a special plaque by Connacht President Pat Piggott to make the incredible achievement of playing 300 games for his home province.

There is still time to get your Early Bird Season Tickets for the 2017/18 season with big savings to be made, book your spot for next season here.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun (Eoin Griffin, 10), Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Danie Poolman; Jack Carty (Steve Crosbie, 70), Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade 36-40, 73); Denis Buckley (JP Cooney, 70), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt, 64), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 70); Quinn Roux (Sean O’Brien, 21), Andrew Browne; Eoin McKeon (Naulia Dawai, h-t), Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (C).

Leinster: Zane Kirchner; Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, James Tracy, Mike Ross; Ross Molony, Hayden Triggs; Dominic Ryan, Josh van der Flier, Rhys Ruddock (C).

Replacements: Seán Cronin, Peter Dooley, Michael Bent, Ian Nagle, Peadar Timmins, Nick McCarthy, Tom Daly, Barry Daly.

Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)

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