The Connacht pro squad endured the West of Ireland weather for the last time this week as they stepped up their preparations for Sunday’s clash with the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
 
The squad begin their travels to South Africa tomorrow for a Thursday arrival, in what will be their third trip to the country since the inclusion of the two sides to the Guinness PRO14 in 2017.
 
Check out some of the best pics from this morning’s session here.

After a three-week break to coincide with the start of the Six Nations . . . the Guinness PRO14 is back.
 
Connacht take on Cardiff Blues this weekend at the Sportsground in a crucial Conference B clash – the first of three consecutive games in this mini-block before another break in march.
 
Here’s all you need to know about the tie.
 
When’s the game?

Kick-off is at 7.35pm this Saturday 15th February at The Sportsground.
 
What’s the state of play so far?

It’s fair to say Conference B will be as tight as everyone predicted at the start of the campaign. Connacht sit in 4th place, 5 points outside the playoff spots and 1 point ahead of their opponents at the weekend.


 
How’s our recent record against them?

The last 5 meetings between the sides at the Sportsground has resulted in 3 wins for Connacht, 1 for Cardiff and 1 draw.

Their last clash with the memorable meeting last April when Connacht came out on top 29-22, booking a place in the Guinness PRO14 playoffs and with it a spot in the Heineken Champions Cup.


 
How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht team will be named this Friday at 12pm on the Connacht Rugby social media channels and connachtrugby.ie.

Speaking last week Head Coach Andy Friend said he was hopeful a number of injured players will make their return in the coming weeks, but it’s too early to say who will be involved this weekend.
 

Are tickets still available?

Yes there are a limited number of Main Stand tickets on sale, with general availability in the Bohermore & College Road Ends.

You could also treat yourself to a Platinum Hospitality package which includes a main course meal and three complimentary drinks along with a Clan Stand ticket and plenty more extras.
 
FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE
 
What if I can’t make the game?

TG4 will have live TV coverage from 7.15pm while Galway Bay FM will also provide 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?

🚪 Gates open from 6.05pm.
❌ No smoking is allowed in any of our stands at The Sportsground. Thank you for your co-operation.

Connacht Scrum Half Caolin Blade is set to captain Connacht as they travel to Kingspan Stadium to take on Ulster in the Pro14 on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm).
 
Blade has been a central figure for Connacht of late having taken part in all of the province’s 12 games of the current campaign. The 25 year old Monivea man will continue his half back partnership with Conor Fitzgerald for the trip to Belfast.
 
Elsewhere in the back line, Peter Robb has returned from injury to partner Tom Daly in midfield while Tiernan O’Halloran starts at full back in a back three that includes John Porch and Matt Healy on the wings.
 
Up front, Paddy McAllister is another to return from injury in time for the interpro clash. The loosehead prop joins a front row with hooker Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham at tighthead.
 
With Quinn Roux picking up a hand injury against Munster that will likely keep him out of action until the end of January, Andy Friend has been forced to make a change to his second row. Ultan Dillane will line up with Joe Maksymiw who came off the bench last weekend with 20 year old Roscommon man Niall Murray named among the replacements.
 
In the back row, Robin Copeland comes into the starting team at number 8. He will be flanked by Eoin McKeon and Paul Boyle at blindside and openside respectively.
 
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We have had a short turnaround from the Munster game, and with Christmas in the middle of that, there isn’t a huge volume of training the squad can get through. We are boosted by the return of Paddy McAllister, Matt Healy and Peter Robb, and those fresh legs are important as we head into the tenth weekend in a row of Pro14 and Champions Cup action”.
 
“Ulster have a fantastic record at home and are unbeaten in Kingspan since we defeated them some 14 months ago. So, we’re looking forward to another competitive interpro game in front of a passionate home crowd.”

 
Connacht Matchday Squad V Ulster (Fri 27 Dec, 7:35pm)
 
(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Capt) (1-8): Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Niall Murray, Eoghan Masterson, Stephen Kerins, Kyle Godwin, Stephen Fitzgerald.

Connacht have been boosted by the return of a number of players for tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 meeting with the Southern Kings at The Sportsground (k/o 5.15pm).
 
Bundee Aki is named at inside centre having missed last week’s Heineken Champions Cup defeat to Toulouse, and he plays alongside Kyle Godwin. There’s also a return from injury for Niyi Adeolokun who joins a back three with John Porch on the opposite wing and Matt Healy at full-back.
 
The backs are completed by Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald who continue their half-back partnership.
 
In the pack there’s an all-new front row from the side that started in Toulouse last week. Denis Buckley has recovered from an illness to start at loosehead with Finlay Bealham at tighthead and the in-form Tom McCartney as hooker.
 
Quinn Roux continues to captain the side from the second row alongside Ultan Dillane, while a back row of Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a and Paul Boyle completes the side.
 
Meanwhile club captain Jarrad Butler is likely to see some game time after missing the opening two games in Europe due to injury. The back row is named among the replacements.
 
Commenting on today’s squad announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend said:
“We were very disappointed not to come away with anything from France last week, so this is a good opportunity for the squad to bounce back. Bundee Aki, Niyi Adeolokun and Jarrad Butler are all back in the squad so we’re improving on the injury front.”
 
Speaking on the challenge posed by the Kings, Friend added:
“It’s important to keep our discipline in games like this. The Kings have had two weeks without a game, so all their focus has been on us, and they’ll be looking to build on their win away to the Ospreys as well. We’re heading into a few crucial games against Gloucester so it’s important we keep building our performances.”
 
CONNACHT SQUAD V SOUTHERN KINGS
(15-9): Matt Healy, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade. (1-8): Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (C), Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Jarrad Butler, Angus Lloyd, Jack Carty, Peter Robb.
 
FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE

After two weeks of intense Heineken Champions Cup action, it’s back to the Guinness PRO14 this week as South African side the Southern Kings visit The Sportsground.

Here’s all you need to know about this Round 7 encounter:
 
When’s the game?

Kick-off is at 5.15pm this Saturday 30th November at The Sportsground.
 
What’s the state of play so far?

Connacht sit in 4th place in a congested Conference B after 4 wins from 6 games, while the Kings’ sole victory so far has come away to the Ospreys.

Amongst our rivals there’s two other big inter-conference clashes with Munster taking on Edinburgh and Benetton facing Cardiff, while elsewhere Scarlets travel to Ulster.


How’s our recent record against them?

Connacht have won both meetings with the Kings since they joined the PRO14 in the summer of 2017. The first came in September of that year when we ran out 32-10 winners, and that was followed by a 31-17 win in South African this day last year.


How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht squad for the game will be announced on all our channels and website shortly before midday this Friday.
 
Are tickets still available?

Yes there is limited availability in the Main Stand and general availability in the Bohermore and College Road Ends. You can also purchase a Clubhouse Hospitality ticket which gives you access to the Clan Stand and other benefits like food and drink, match programme and pre/post game entertainment.

FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE
What if I can’t make the game?

TG4 will have live TV coverage while Galway Bay FM 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?

✅ Gates open from 3.45pm.
✅ The draw for the 2019/20 Top Oil Connacht Schools Cups will take place before the game in the Heineken Rugby Clubhouse.
❌ No smoking is allowed in any of our stands at The Sportsground. Thank you for your co-operation.

Connacht Rugby have announced that they will be installing additional temporary terracing in the Sportsground to meet the ticket demand for the interprovincial clash with Leinster on Friday night.
 
The additional terracing allows an increased capacity, beyond the 6,229 crowd that can be facilitated under normal circumstances.
 
The increase in capacity comes after Connacht Rugby achieved a record ticketing performance last season and were granted planning permission for a €30m redevelopment of the Sportsground. The redevelopment will include an increase in capacity to 12,000 spectators and the development of a high performance training centre on site.
 
Making the announcement, Head of Commercial and Marketing at Connacht Rugby, Brian Mahony said: “There has been a huge demand for tickets for our game against Leinster on Friday night and based off this demand we will be increasing our capacity with additional temporary terracing. The terracing will be installed at both ends of the ground and facilitate the large crowds expected for the first interpro of the season”.
 
Commenting on the general increase in ticket demand, he added: “Last season delivered a record ticketing performance for Connacht Rugby and we are seeing positive signs already this season. We have surpassed our targets for season ticket sales which are now sold out. We are now seeing greater demand for individual match tickets and we expect that we will have to extend our capacity again throughout the season. With our first home game in the Champions Cup against Montpellier coming up next weekend, our message to supporters is to buy tickets early as we cannot guarantee availability in the week leading up to games”.
 
FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE

The first interprovincial derby of the season is almost upon us, and what a way to start.
 
Reigning Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster visit The Sportsground, in a widely anticipated game between two of the Championship’s in-form sides.
 
Here’s everything you need to know about the tie.
 
When’s the game?

Kick-off at the Sportsground is at 7.35pm on Friday 8th November – our first Friday night fixture of the campaign.
 
What’s the state of play so far?

Leinster sit top of Conference A with 5 wins from 5, while after a disappointing opening loss to Scarlets, Connacht have hit back with 4 wins in a row. Those victories have propelled Andy Friend’s side up to 2nd place in Conference B, just one point behind Munster.
 
How’s our recent record against them?

Connacht have won 3 of the last 5 games between the two sides in Galway, most recently the famous 47-10 victory in John Muldoon’s last game with the province 18 months ago. Leinster got the better of the the two teams in their last game at The Sportsground, coming up on top 3-20 last season.
 
How will the two teams line up?

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

Yes but you need to be quick! As with every interpro game tickets are very sought after so the sooner you book the better.

FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE
What if I can’t make the game?

TG4 will have live coverage, and if you can’t get to a TV then Galway Bay FM will have you covered with live 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?

Please note that NO SMOKING is allowed in any of our stands at The Sportsground. Thank you for your co-operation.

Ospreys 10

Connacht 20

Connacht claimed their fourth Pro14 win in a row with a valuable win over the Ospreys in the Liberty Stadium. Away wins in Wales have proven difficult for Connacht over the past two seasons and having gone down to the Ospreys in the corresponding fixture last year, Connacht were determined to add to the three bonus point wins over in the past three rounds.

It was a wet a windy evening in Swansea, as the teams took to the field in conditions akin to an average winters evening in the Sportsground.

The Ospreys were first to take the lead when Luke Price converted an easy penalty inside four minutes.

From there to half time though Connacht dominated the game. In the sixth minute, Niyi Adeolokun received a pass out wide just inside the Ospreys half and when he kicked ahead there was only one winner as he touched down for the second game in a row.

After Ospreys gave away a succession of penalties in the opening 25 minutes, they found themselves down to 14 men. Connacht asserted their advantage immediately and when Peter Robb received a pass 5 metres out, nobody was going to stop him as he drove over. Conor Fitzgerald kicked his second conversion of the game to add to a successful penalty – leaving Connacht leading 17-3 at the break.

There was always going to be an Ospreys purple patch and it came as the teams emerged for the second half, with replacement out half James Hook beginning to control the game. Ospreys pressure was rewarded on the 55th minute when they scored an excellent try in the corner which was excellently converted.

From there though Connacht reasserted their control and won the kicking battle. Their territorial advantage was rewarded with a penalty after sustained pressure which Fitzgerald duly converted to maintain his 100 per cent kicking record.

From there to the end an Ospreys come back never looked likely and their final act was an attempted penalty from halfway to salvage a bonus point loss, which sailed wide with 80 minutes on the clock.

So Connacht go home with another four points on the board and maintain top spot in Conference B of the Pro14. Next up is two massive home games against Leinster next Friday and then the return to Champions Cup action against Montpellier in two weeks.

Connacht Scorers

Tries – Niyi Adeolokun 1, Peter Robb 1.

Penalties – Conor Fitzgerald 2

Conversions – Conor Fitzgerald 2

 

Darragh Leader, Niyi Adeolokun (Stephen Fitzgerald), Tom Farrell, Peter Robb (Tom Daly), John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade) (1-8): Denis Buckley (Matthew Burke), Dave Heffernan (Jonny Murphy), Dominic Robertson McCoy (Conor Kenny), Ultan Dillane (Cillian Gallagher), Joe Maksymiw (Robin Copeland), Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.

 

Connacht centre Tom Farrell is set for his first start of the Guinness PRO14 season as his side travel to Swansea to take on the Ospreys on Saturday (Kick off 5:15pm). Farrell is included following his two tries against the Cheetahs in The Sportsground last weekend.
 
Farrell and his midfield partner Peter Robb are included in a back line that also includes winger Niyi Adeolokun who finished the Cheetahs game as Man of the Match after scoring one try and setting up a second. He is part of a back three that includes John Porch on the opposite wing and Darragh Leader who has returned from injury to take his place at full back.
 
The impressive Conor Fitzgerald continues at out-half alongside Kieran Marmion who has scored three tries in the opening four games of the season.
 
In the pack, injury has forced Head Coach Andy Friend to make a number of changes for the trip to Wales. Dominic Robertson McCoy replaces Finlay Bealham at tighthead, while there is a new second row with Ultan Dillane and Joe Maksymiw coming in from the start.
 
There is a settled look about the back row, where Captain Jarrad Butler is named at openside with Eoghan Masterson at blindside and Paul Boyle at number 8.
 
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said; “Our squad is in confident mood after three bonus point wins in a row. We have a few changes from the win over Cheetahs last weekend, but I am really happy with the depth we have in the squad and how we have performed so far”.
 
“Our win away to Dragons in Round Two was our first in Wales in a while so we will be looking to back that up with a win this weekend. Ospreys are a very competitive side especially when they are at home. We saw that last season when we played them over there, so we face a really tough test. We have Leinster and Montpellier coming up in the Sportsground over the next two weekends, so it is important for us to keep winning going into those games”.
 
 
Connacht Matchday Squad V Ospreys (Sat 2 NOV, 5.15PM)

(15-9): Darragh Leader, Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Peter Robb, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion.
(1-8): Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Matthew Burke, Conor Kenny, Cillian Gallagher, Robin Copeland, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Stephen Fitzgerald.

CONNACHT 24
CHEETAHS 22

 
Tom Farrell’s last-gasp try ended Toyota Cheetahs’ unbeaten start to the Guinness PRO14 season in a tense match that included seven tries and a red card in Galway.
 
The hosts led 14-5 at the break thanks to tries from Niyi Adeolokun and Kieran Marmion but the Cheetahs bit back after the break to go 22-16 ahead.
 
However, a red card to Cheetahs centre Dries Swanepoel mid-way through the second-half proved to be a turning point and Farrell scored twice to snatch the points.
 
The Cheetahs arrived with a spring in their step and averaging more than 50 points per game, but the Sportsground is a notoriously difficult place to play and Connacht attacked with gusto from the first whistle.
 
The Cheetahs held on gainfully but the hosts finally broke through to score in the 14th minute when they moved the ball wide to the right.
 
Fly-half Conor Fitzgerald wrapped around and off-loaded to wing Adeolokun to power through and dot down.
 
The Cheetahs’ away record since joining the Guinness PRO14 leaves a lot to be desired but this is a different Cheetahs side and one which is likely to be right in the mix come June.
 
They responded impressively just before the half-hour mark, with Joseph Dweba bulldozing over off the back of a driving maul. The Cheetahs were excellent in the second-half, with a Ruan Pienaar penalty and Rhyno Smith converted try putting them one point ahead.
 
Connacht thought they regained the lead when John Porch intercepted the ball on his own tryline before sprinting 100 metres to dot down, only for it be brought back for offside.
 
That looked like being the key moment, as the Cheetahs regained the ball inside the Connacht five-metre line and crossed through Clayton Blommetjies.
 
Swanepoel’s red card for a headbutt on Caolin Blade proved to be a massive blow to the Cheetahs with ten minutes remaining.
 
The Cheetahs dug deep and resisted for as long as they could but Connacht gained field position on the five-metre line, drew defenders to the breakdown and then moved right for Farrell to dot down.
 
Connacht Scorers: Tries: Niyi Adeolokun, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell 2 Conversions: Conor Fitzgerald 2
 
 
CONNACHT: Stephen Fitzgerald; Niyi Adeolokun (Darragh Leader), Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb (Tom Farrell), John Porch; Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade), Denis Buckley (Matthew Burke), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy), Gavin Thornbury (Ultan Dillane), Quinn Roux (Cillian Gallagher) Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle.

CHEETAHS: Rhyno Smith; Clayton Blommetjies, Dries Swanepoel, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Anthony Volmink (William Small-Smith), Tian Schoeman, Ruan Pienaar; Ox Nche (Boan Venter), Joseph Dweba (Wilmar Arnoldi), Aarnos Coetzee (Luan de Bruin), Sintu Manjezi, Walt Steenkamp (JP du Preez), Gerhard Olivier, Junior Pokomela (Sias Koen), Jasper Wiese.

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