Montpellier 35

Connacht 29

With the clock in the red, French Top 14 side Montpellier held on to a six point lead as Connacht drove at their line in search of their fifth try in this enthralling Champions Cup game. The hosts had to fight all the way in this exciting encounter as the sides went in level at the break, after Connacht clawed back a 21 points to 0 deficit after 30 minutes.

With Connacht winning the corresponding game in the Sportsground back in November, this one was always going to go down to the wire. In that round one clash, Montpellier got on the scoresheet in the first three minutes and the script looked like repeating itself when Levan Chilachava raced onto a pass and touched down by that three minute mark this time around. This prompted a reaction as Connacht settled into the game and gave as good as they got, with captain Jarrad Butler and Bundee Aki in particular putting in some huge tackles early on.

Just as Connacht were growing into this game though Montpellier hit them with two converted tries in three minutes, both from winger Gabriel N’gandebe. To Connacht’s credit though, instead of dropping their heads as the second try went in on 28 minutes, they dug deep and started to play some of the most attacking, open rugby they have produced all season.

In the 35th minute Matt Healy got a ball out wide and had plenty to do before touching down. Straight from the kick off, Connacht were flying down the opposite wing and John Porch touched down with his finger tips from what seemed like an impossible angle. Carty’s successful conversion from the touchline put Connacht within a converted try. The away side then struck parity on the stroke of half time when Kieran Marmion was released, and he raced in under the posts.

Amazingly on the 44 minute mark, Connacht had secured a bonus point try when Kyle Godwin beat two defenders after taking a pass on the Montpellier 22. Montpellier were quick to respond with their fourth, which they converted after 52 minutes to nudge back into the lead. Connacht went toe to toe with the powerful French outfit and going into the final quarter they regained the lead through a Jack Carty penalty. Crucially though this was to be Connacht’s final score and when Montpellier got in for their fifth try of the day with three minutes remaining, a Connacht victory looked unlikely.

Connacht did what they did all day though and kept battling. John Porch bravely claimed the restart and the high tackle on him resulted in a Connacht penalty and a launch pad for a final effort at the Montpellier. Unfortunately, though the home side held on and won out on a 35 points to 29 scoreline.

So this result marks the end of Connacht’s Champions Cup season but their six outings in the competition showed that they are certainly not out of place in the top tier of European rugby. The challenge now turns back to the Pro14 and the visit of Cardiff to the Sportsground on the 15th of February – a must win fixture against their conference rivals (Get tickets here).

Connacht Scorers –

Tries: Matt Healy, John Porch, Kieran Marmion and Kyle Godwin

Penalties: Jack Carty (1)

Conversions: Jack Carty (3 from 4)

Connacht: T O’Halloran, J Porch, K Godwin, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, K Marmion, P McAllister, D Heffernan, D Robertson-McCoy, J Maksymiw, G Thornbury, E Masterson, C Faianga’a, J Butler (c).

 

Replacements: J Murphy, D Buckley for McAllister (49), E McKeon for Materson (53), C Blade for Marmion (54), T Daly for O’Halloran (57m) N Murray for Maksymiw (58m), C Kenny for Robertson-McCoy( 63), J Murphy for Heffernan (68), Robertson-McCoy for Heffernan and C Fitzgerald for Carty (70).

Gloucester 26

Connacht 17

A strong second half Gloucester performance turned around Connacht’s three point half time lead as the English side claimed the bonus point win in this Champions Cup Round 3 clash. After the first of the crucial back to back fixtures, the return leg in the Sportsground next Saturday now becomes a must win for Connacht.

Gloucester drew first blood just 4 minutes into the game when Tom Marshall raced onto a pass outside the 22 and ran in under the posts. Amazingly though, Cipriani’s conversion was to prove their final score of the opening half for Gloucester as Connacht mounted a massive defensive display.

Connacht responded with their opening try after 8 minutes when John Porch scored his third try in two games. Porch looked confident in his new full back position and looked an attacking threat throughout.

While Gloucester made a handful of visits inside the Connacht 22 throughout the first half, they couldn’t break down a resolute defence. Connacht had their chances too and their period of pressure was rewarded on 18 minutes when Carty converted a penalty to leave the visitors 3 points to the good – a lead they held to the break.

It was a different Gloucester side that emerged for the second half and within seven minutes of the restart, Louis Rees-Zammit was in for the home side’s second try.

Connacht to their credit tried to stay in touch, but the English Premiership side had found a new level of confidence matched by greater accuracy.

At the game hit the 60 minutes mark, Gloucester were in again just after Kyle Godwin was sent to the bin following a succession of Connacht penalties – the final quarter was always going to be an uphill challenge from here. The home side capitalised on that numerical advantage and in the 65th minute Jake Polledri claimed the bonus point try with Cipriani scoring the conversion to leave it 24 – 10 with 15 to go.

From here Connacht went in search of a losing bonus point but and were unlucky not to have a try with 5 minutes remaining. The try did eventually come though when Quinn Roux drove at the Gloucester line 2 minutes into injury time. Unfortunately though, even with Fitzgerald’s conversion success, Connacht left with nothing.

So Gloucester draw first blood in the back to back battle. Both sides have just six days to regroup for the return leg in the Sporstground next Saturday.

For tickets to the crucial Champions Cup clash clash – Click here

Connacht scorers

Tries: J Porch, Q Roux

Conversions: Jack Carty (1), Conor Fitzgerald (1)

Penalties: J Carty (1)

Gloucester: Tom Marshall,  Louis Rees-Zammit,  Chris Harris (B Twelvetrees),  Mark Atkinson,  Ollie Thorley,  Danny Cipriani (M Banahan), Joe Simpson (Callum Braley ) Val Rapava Ruskin (Josh Hohneck), Franco Marais (Todd Gleave), Fraser Balmain (Jamal Ford-Robinson) Gerbrandt Grobler,  Franco Mostert (Alex Craig), Ruan Ackermann (Lewis Ludlow), Jake Polledri,  Ben Morgan.

Connacht:  John Porch,  Niyi Adeolokun,  Bundee Aki, Peter Robb (Tom Daly,  Kyle Godwin,  Jack Carty (Conor Fitzgerald) , Caolin Blade (Stephen Kerins)  Denis Buckley (P McCabe), Tom McCartney (Jonny Murphy), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy) Joe Maksymiw (Ultan Dillane ), Quinn Roux,  Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a (Robin Copeland), Jarrad Butler.

 

Connacht 24

Southern Kings 12

John Porch scored two tries as Connacht moved to within a point of Conference B leaders Munster with a hard-fought victory against Isuzu Southern Kings.

The Australian winger crossed once in each half, while further scores from Bundee Aki and Finlay Bealham settled a bonus-point win.

The Kings stay bottom of the Conference with just a single win this season, but they impressed at the Sportsground and scored two tries through Erich Cronje and Scott van Breda.

Connacht, who arrived with four wins from six league games, started impressively, with Ireland international centre Aki powering over in the 12th minute.

But the Kings, filled with confidence from securing their first ever Guinness PRO14 away win at Ospreys last time out, hit back as centre Cronje wrestled his way over four minutes later.

However, Connacht boast great forward power and they moved back ahead mid-way through the first half thanks to tries from prop Bealham and winger Porch.

The Kings hit back on the stroke of half-time through full-back Van Breda, who only joined on loan from Worcester Warriors this week.

After camping near the Connacht line, the Kings moved right and Van Breda dotted down after stepping up to collect a flat pass.

Connacht strengthened their advantage early in the second half, as Conor Fitzgerald and Aki combined to release Porch, who sprinted in for his second try in the corner.

No more points were scored in a lacklustre second half but that won’t matter to the hosts, who got the job done.

John Porch underlined just why Connacht decided to take him to Galway. With two predatory tries, the wing made the difference as the Irish province once again showed how dangerous they will be this season.

Next up for Connacht is back to back Champions Cup games against Gloucester with the English Premiership side coming to the Sportsground on the 14th of December – For tickets click here

Connacht Scorers – Tries: John Porch (2), Bundee Aki, Finlay Bealham. Conversions: Conor Fitzgerald (2 from 4)

Connacht: Matt Healy, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin (Peter Robb), Bundee Aki, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald (Jack Carty), Caolin Blade (Angus Lloyd), Denis Buckley (Matthew Burke), Tom McCartney (Shane Delahunt), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy), Ultan Dillane  (Joe Maksymiw), Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Paul Boyle (Jarrad Butler).

John Porch is set for his first competitive start for Connacht after he was named in the starting 15 for Friday Night’s Guinness PRO14 tie with the Dragons at Rodney Parade (k/o 7.35pm).
 
The inclusion of the Australian winger is the only change from the side that defeated Benetton last weekend, with the Connacht side running in 6 tries in the 41-5 win.
 
Porch plays in a back three that includes winger Matt Healy and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran, while Peter Robb and Kyle Godwin are selected at midfield.
 
Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald, who both impressed last time out, continue their half-back partnership at scrum-half and out-half respectively.
 
The front five is unchanged for the third straight game, with hooker Tom McCartney alongside props Paddy McAllister and Finlay Bealham, and a second-row combination of Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux.
 
Captain Jarrad Butler continues at openside, with Eoghan Masterson at blindside and Paul Boyle at number 8.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Andy Friend says it’s important to build on the performance at The Sportsground last Saturday:
 
“I was really pleased with the performance last weekend, so with a 6-day turnaround we’ve selected much the same squad to keep the momentum going. We’ve handed John Porch his first start after his competitive debut last weekend, and Cillian Gallagher is among the replacements after some good performances for the Connacht Eagles, so we are continuing to build the depth required for a long season.”
 
Speaking ahead of the trip to Wales, the Head Coach says:
 
“Rodney Parade is a tough place to go and with the Dragons playing a more expansive game this season we know our defence has to be on top form, but we also need to be clinical in attack when opportunities arise. This is our last game in this block before a short break so we’re aiming to finish on a high before our run of 13 weeks of games.”
 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY SQUAD V DRAGONS (FRI 11 OCT, 7.35PM @ RODNEY PARADE)

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, 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 (C), Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Stephen Fitzgerald.

A Conor Fitzgerald try which he duly converted 10 minutes from time gave Connacht a hard-earned win away to Oyonnax in the squad’s opening pre-season game of the 2019/20 season.
 
With all 30 players of the travelling party seeing at least 20 minutes of action, it was clear this was a game in which the focus was on giving players an opportunity to impress after the first month of pre-season.
 
Connacht found chances had to come by in the 1st half against a physical French outfit who are just one week out from the start of their league campaign. They led 7-0 at the break after a converted try after 23 minutes, and that could have been more after they saw two of their penalties hit the post.
 
Mass changes took place at the break with almost an entirely new team taking the field – among them Connacht Academy player Seán O’Brien and summer signing John Porch. The intensity increased almost immediately from the restart and the pressure eventually told after 45 minutes when Colby Fainga’a ran a great line inside the 22 to touch down underneath the posts.
 
Oyonnax responded well to that try and almost immediately regained the lead from a penalty, and that was then stretched to 6 points after a further shot at goal 15 minutes later.
 
However Andy Friend’s side found an extra gear when needed, as a well-worked play released Kyle Godwin out wide who showed good pace before finding Conor Fitzgerald on his inside to score their second try.
 
Fitzgerald’s resulting conversion was no gimme, but he made no mistake to give Connacht the slenderest of leads which they never relinquished.
 
1st half team:
15. Darragh Leader, 14. Niyi Adeolokun, 13. Kyle Godwin, 12. Peter Robb, 11. Matt Healy, 10. David Horwitz, 9. Caolin Blade.
1. Matthew Burke, 2. Tom McCartney, 3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 4. Joe Maksymiw, 5. Ultan Dillane, 6. Seán Masterson, 7. Paul Boyle, 8. Robin Copeland.

2nd half team:
15. Tiernan O’Halloran 14. Niyi Adeolokun / Kyle Godwin, 13. Seán O’Brien, 12. Tom Daly, 11. John Porch, 10. Conor Fitzgerald, 9. Angus Lloyd.
1. Denis Buckley, 2. Dave Heffernan, 3. Finlay Bealham / Rory Burke, 4. Cillian Gallagher, 5. Gavin Thornbury, 6. Eoghan Masterson, 7. Colby Fainga’a, 8. Jarrad Butler (c).
 

Connacht Rugby have announced the signing of Australian Sevens international John Porch ahead of the 2019/20 season.

The speedy winger was recruited into the sevens programme when by Andy Friend was Head Coach of the Australian Sevens team in 2016. In his first nine appearances for Australia, Porch scored 96 points and earned a place at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. In the 2017/18 World Series he went on to score an impressive 28 tries throughout the competition.

Commenting on the signing, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “John Porch is a player that was identified as a prospect for the Australian Sevens squad in early 2016. I was extremely impressed by his performances in his first tournament and subsequently offered him a contract. He was a hugely impressive player at sevens level, and I believe that he will suit the style of play and culture in Connacht as we prepare for the season ahead”.

Following his contract signing, John Porch added: “I am really excited about signing for Connacht. I obviously know Andy from his time with the Australia Sevens programme and he  gave me my debut in 2016. The possibility of playing Champions Cup rugby in the Sportsground next season is an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down. I’m looking forward to getting over to Ireland now and linking up with the squad”.

Following the latest signing, Andy Friend also spoke about the depth that now exists in the province with the large number of contract extensions and new players being added to the squad: “Ahead of next season I am extremely happy with the depth of our squad. We have already announced the signing of Paddy McAllister, Tom Daly, Stephen Fitzgerald, Angus Lloyd and Rory Burke in addition to Paul Boyle, Conor Fitzgerald, Matthew Burke, Conor Kenny and Stephen Kerins who have graduated from our Academy this season. We have also had a huge focus on retaining our existing talent with contract renewals for many of our internationals and more senior players in the squad”.

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