Leicester Tigers 29

Connacht 23

 

Connacht were defeated 29-23 by Leicester Tigers in an entertaining Heineken Champions Cup clash at Welford Road today. 

 

Despite tries from John Porch and Jack Carty – who also added thirteen points with the boot, via two penalties, two conversions and a drop goal – it was the home team who secured the bonus-point victory. 

 

Connacht were strong throughout, however, against the unbeaten English Premiership leaders and earned a deserved losing bonus point.

 

Connacht employed a clever kicking game early on and this yielded a score when Carty expertly slotted a long-range penalty after the Tigers were penalized for offside.

 

Connacht’s attack was troubling the host’s defence and they conceded a raft of penalties which brought Connacht lineouts in advanced attacking areas. However, strong defending from Leicester held the away team at try-scoring bay, despite some powerful rolling mauls close to the try line in what proved to be an entertaining opening fifteen minutes. 

 

The visitors were in the ascendancy for the majority of the opening quarter, but Leicester – on their first attack of the game of note – opened the try-scoring. Hooker Nic Dolly dove over the in the corner for an unconverted try after the ball was worked wide after Connacht stoutly defended a rolling maul from the home team. 

 

One try soon became two in what was becoming a profitable five-minute spell from the Tigers. After Connacht excellently repelled an extended spell of pressure, the home team eventually broke their resistance when Bryce Hegarty dove in a try that Freddie Burns converted to make the score 12-3 to the English Premiership team. 

 

To their credit, though, Connacht responded brilliantly and they had their first try not two minutes after conceding. A sweeping move saw the ball worked wide to Porch from Bundee Aki’s sumptuous offload. The Australian then showed searing pace to burst through the gap and touch down under the posts. The conversion was a formality from Carty and the away team narrowed the score to 12-10. 

 

Proactive in defence and eager to blitz, Connacht were looking to force errors from the home team and that is exactly how they scored their second try. Running aggressively together, the away team’s defence made Leicester cough up possession and Carty – intelligently anticipating a spill – picked up the loose ball and ran in unopposed under the posts for a try. The Roscommon man converted it himself and the away team went into the halftime break leading 17-12. 

 

Connacht began the second half in the same manner that they ended the first and they extended their lead to eight points when Carty – after an attacking move was ended by an intentional knock-on from the hosts – expertly struck a long-range penalty between the sticks to continue his 100% record off the tee and stretch the lead to 20-12.

 

Leicester began to work their back into the game near the hour mark and their pressure, which Connacht stood up manfully to, eventually paid dividends when Finlay Bealham was yellow carded for an infringement close to the try line. 

 

Attacking against fourteen, it didn’t take the Tigers long to take advantage and Freddie Steward soon crossed for a try after a neat move found the England international. The conversion was successful and Connacht’s lead was cut to one point at 19-20.

 

Another try was soon to follow for the team when Hosea Saumaki showed pace and evasion to touch down after the Westerners initially stopped a Tigers’ maul dead in its tracks and they were forced to run the ball wide. Hegarty added the extras and the English team retook the lead at 26-20.

 

The momentum was with the home team and they added further to their lead when Hegarty – from over forty metres away – kicked a penalty that brought the score to 29-20.

 

Connacht kept plugging away in search for scores and their resilience paid off when – with the last kick – Carty’s drop goal gave them a losing bonus point with the final score reading 29-23 to the home team. 

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: Tiernan O’Halloran 

14: John Porch 

13: Sammy Arnold 

12: Bundee Aki

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Kieran Marmion

 

(8-1)

 

8: Jarrad Butler 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Niall Murray 

4: Ultan Dillane 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Matthew Burke 

 

Replacements: 

 

16: Shane Delahunt for Heffernan 

17: Tietie Tuimauga for Burke 

18: Jack Aungier for Butler(temporarily to scrummage with 14) then for Bealham

19: Leva Fifita for Murray 

20: Abraham Papali’i for Prendgergast 

21: Caolin Blade for Marmion 

22: Conor Fitzgerald for O’Halloran

23: Diarmuid Kilgallen for Wootton

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht fell to a 29-7 defeat to the Cardiff Blues in their first away game of the 2020-2021 Guinness PRO14 campaign. 

 

Despite Conor Oliver’s try bringing the scoreline back to 10-7 early in the second half, the hosts — thanks to a brace of tries from Hallam Amos, a penalty try, and a Kristian Dacey touchdown — ended the game strongly and sealed a bonus-point victory.

 

From the beginning of the game, it was clear the Blues, who won their opening game away to Zebre, were intent on attacking.

 

Connacht, though, with Gavin Thornbury, John Porch, and Alex Wootton especially impressive in their defensive duties, held firm and the Welshmen could not turn their territory and possession into a try.

 

The home team did manage to add points when Jarrod Evans slotted a penalty after some enterprising attack deep in the visitors half.

 

With a score to their name, Cardiff flexed their attacking muscles further when Amos — with the first of his two tries — showed a great turn of speed to touch down in the right-hand corner. Jarrod Evans expertly converted and the Blues held their 10-0 lead going into the half time break.

 

Connacht began the second half in strong fashion and launched wave after wave of attacks after a series of line outs deep in the Blues territory. The pressure finally paid dividends when Oliver — after collecting Sammy Arnold’s offload — powered his way over from five metres out. The conversion was a formality for Jack Carty and the visitors clawed the score back to 10-7.

 

 

With the wind in their sails, the visitors continued to attack, but the Blues defence — especially at the breakdown, an area attacks coach Nigel Carolan highlighted as being a crucial area of battle in the build-up to the game — remained steadfast and each Connacht attack was met with the same resistance.

 

Cardiff, with full-back Matthew Morgan a constant threat in broken play, showed their ability to counter when winger Josh Adams made significant headway with a break from deep in his own half. Porch, however, was once again sharp in defence and saved a certain try with a brilliant tackle.

 

The Irishmen couldn’t hold out on the next attack, however, when Amos — after brilliant work from Rey Lee-Lo — crossed for his second try in the left-hand corner. Evans’ conversion was wide but the hosts had a 15-7 lead with fifteen minutes remaining.

 

Connacht were brave and continued to attack in search of scores, but Cardiff — first through a penalty try and then, from close range after some hard carries, via a Dacey touchdown — went on to score two more tries, the second of which Jason Tovey converted, to take the bonus point win, 29-7.

 

Connacht team:(15-9)

15: John Porch

14: Peter Sullivan

13: Bundee Aki

12: Sammy Arnold

11: Alex Wootton

10: Jack Carty

9: Kieran Marmion

(8-1)

8: Jarrad Butler

7: Conor Oliver

6: Eoghan Masterson

5: Quinn Roux

4: Gavin Thornbury

3: Finlay Bealham

2: Dave Heffernan

1: Denis Buckley

Replacements: Jordan Duggan for Buckley, Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Jack Aungier for Bealham, Ultane Dillane for Thornbury, Paul Boyle for Oliver, Conor Fitzgerald for Carty.

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