Connacht Rugby can confirm the following players will depart the club next month at the end of their respective contracts.
 
Tom McCartney has announced his retirement from rugby and has returned to New Zealand after six years with Connacht. The hooker has amassed 112 appearances for the province and started in the 2016 Guinness PRO12 Grand Final.
 
Fellow centurion and Connacht native Eoin McKeon departs Connacht having played 137 times since his debut in April 2010, and was also a member of the 2016 PRO12 winning team.
 
Back-three duo Niyi Adeolokun and Darragh Leader depart having also featured in the 2015/16 campaign, with the pair amassing 94 and 91 caps respectively.
 
Trio Kyle Godwin, David Horwitz and Joe Maksymiw have completed their two-year contracts after joining in the summer of 2018.
 
As previously announced, Colby Fainga’a and Robin Copeland will join French sides Lyon and Soyaux Angouleme respectively.
 
Finally front-rowers Rory Burke and Peter McCabe have completed their contracts, while Angus Lloyd departs to pursue a medical career – having passed his medical exams while under contract at Connacht.
 
Commenting on today’s announcement, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“The nature of professional rugby means there will always be comings and goings. I would personally like to wish all our departing players every success in the future and thank them for their contributions to Connacht Rugby, both on and off the field.
 
We all share in the players’ disappointment that they were unable to get a proper send-off at the Sportsground due to COVID, but they can be always assured of a warm welcome by the club and our supporters at any time in the future.”

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).

Connacht 41
Benetton 5
 
Connacht secured a bonus point win over Italian side Benetton in their first home game of the Pro14 season. In a game that the home side dominated in all areas, they never looked like losing when they Kyle Godwin races into the corner to score the opening try after seven minutes.
 
That opening try was preceded by a penalty after three minutes from the boot of Conor Fitzgerald who controlled the game throughout with the aid of a powerful Connacht pack. That early lead gave Connacht huge confidence and after twenty minutes the attack was in full flow as the home side delivered another killer blow with Caolin Blade’s first of two tries.
 
By now the Connacht pack was completely dominant and the rolling maul was used to great effect resulting in a  Tom McCartney try. With 15 minutes to half time Connacht went in search of the bonus point try but Benetton did manage to hold them out by forcing a turnover on the stroke of half time albeit after giving away a succession of penalties.
 
With a 22 – 0 lead at half time, the result was never in question and it seemed inevitable that Connacht would drive on.
 
The home side didn’t have long to wait long in the second half as Caolin Blade picked up the ball at the base of a ruck on the Benetton 22. He showed a clean pair of heals to round three Italian defenders and touch down with the best try of the game.
 
Three minutes later Tom McCartney added his second and it was one way traffic from there. Kieran Marmion wrapped up the win with Connacht’s sixth try of the evening with four minutes remaining.
 
Next up for Connacht is an away trip to Dragons next weekend.
 
Connacht Scorers:
Tries: Caolin Blade x 2, Tom McCartney x 2, Kyle Godwin 1, Kieran Marmion 1.
Penalties Conor Fitzgerald 1
Conversions – Conor Fitzgerald x 3 Kyle Godwin 1
 
Connacht Team:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Stephen Fitzgerald (John Porch), Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald (Tom Farrell), Caolin Blade (Kieran Marmion), (1-8) Paddy McAllister (Denis Buckley), Tom McCartney (Shane Delahunt) Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson McCoy), Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux (Ultan Dillane), Eoghan Masterson (Sean Masterson), Jarrad Butler (Capt), Paul Boyle.

MATCH REPORT WITH THANKS TO THE EPCR
 
Connacht’s European Challenge Cup campaign came to an end last night after the squad fell to a 20-10 quarter-final defeat to Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.
 
First half tries from wing duo Byron McGuigan and Denny Solomona did the damage while fly-half AJ MacGinty contributed with ten points from the kicking tee.
 
It was Connacht fly-half Jack Carty who nearly grabbed the first try after a delightful intercept and sprint towards the try line but Denny Solomona reeled him in five metres short.
 
The Irish province – playing in their dark blue alternate strip – would win the first penalty in kickable range and Carty made no mistake from 33 metres out, putting Connacht ahead for the only time in the match.
 
The Connacht lead didn’t last long as McGuigan exploited the overlap from an attacking Sale scrum, darting towards the corner after a decent set of passes wide left. Against his former side, MacGinty booted over the tricky conversion.
 
MacGinty then set up a second Sale try as his floated pass found Solomona who walked over the try line in the opposite corner to the opening score.
 
Connacht continued to struggle to get back onside with every quick phase initiated by Sale scrum-half and Man of the Match Faf de Klerk. That meant MacGinty could add to his growing tally with two penalty goals from in front of the posts before the interval.
 
It took 27 minutes before the visitors managed to score the first points of the second half despite dominating territory and possession. That came through centre Godwin who jinked past the the final Sale defender after a powerful Connacht scrum inside the opposition 22.
 
Stand-in kicker Darragh Leader slotted the conversion but they would be the final points of the match as Sale held firm despite several waves of Connacht attack.
 

Match Report courtesy of pro14.org
 
Kieran Marmion’s double inspired a huge win as Connacht maintained their formidable home record with a 46-5 victory over Ospreys in a one-sided Guinness PRO14 tie. Keen to bounce back from the loss to Glasgow last week, Connacht bossed the early exchanges, with Tom Farrell crossing early before two penalties from the excellent Kyle Godwin extended the lead.
 
Matthew Aubrey hit back against the run of play before Matt Healy, Marmion and a penalty try restored Connacht’s dominance. Marmion crossed again before Tom McCartney scored in a comfortable second half as the result was all but decided by Connacht’s early blitz.
 
Connacht flew out of the gates with a slick move to score their first through Farrell as a series of swift handoffs early on allowed the centre to cross the line in acres of space.They continued to pile on the pressure early doors as they showed intensity with every drive to pin their opponents in their own 22.
 
Ospreys appeared to have repelled the pressure but gave away a needless penalty which Godwin dispatched with ease.
 
The out-half converted again as Connacht looked to be firmly in control, but Ospreys’ Olly Cracknell charged down a drop kick and the ball fell for Aubrey to score out wide against the run of play.
 
Godwin appeared to continue his blinder of a first half as he latched onto an opposition kick to storm past four defenders and cross the line. But protests from the Welsh side over an off-the-ball block bore fruit as the try was ruled out and Ospreys’ remained well in it.
 
Godwin and Farrell set up Healy for Connacht’s second try with two incisive passes and the winger crossed between the posts to tee up an easy conversion for Godwin. Marmion was then the beneficiary of a powerful team effort as Connacht drove a maul over the line on the half–hour mark.
 
Ospreys had chances to reduce the deficit before half time but two crucial interceptions saw the ball up the other end of the pitch, where Connacht were awarded a penalty try after a deliberate knock-on from Keelan Giles.
 
The Welsh side’s ill-discipline continued after the break as Jordan Lay received a yellow to give Connacht a two-man advantage.
 
Ospreys rallied well to gain some territory, but Marmion put any notion of a comeback out of sight as he was set up by Jarrad Butler to score between the posts.
 
With the victory secured, Connacht rung in the changes, but Ospreys failed to convert their increased possession into points. Instead, McCartney further embellished the score line as he drove over powerfully following a scrum.

Connacht 22

Perpignan 10

 

In difficult, almost hurricane like conditions at times, Connacht claimed a 12 point victory over Top14 side Perpignan, in the first instalment of back to back clashes in the European Challenge Cup. With two wins from three in the competition, another win away to Perpignan in six days’ time will set up a top of the table clash at home to Sale in January.

With conditions extremely difficult for both teams, forwards were also going to be the stars of the show, and so it was that international lock Quinn Roux was deservedly named Man of the Match after a powerful display.

With the wind at their backs, Connacht made the best possible start when Darragh Leader ran a brilliant line to pick up a pass 10 metres out and touch down under the posts with nine minutes on the clock. Connacht were patient in attack and after going through the phases they were rewarded eleven minutes later when Bundee Aki drove for the line and got Connacht’s second try despite the best efforts of three Perpignan defenders. When David Horwitz added his second conversion and Connacht looked in control with a quarter of the game played.

Perpignan came to life after that second try but a combination of handling errors and difficult conditions meant that they never challenged the Connacht line. Going in at the break Connacht would have felt they were deserving of their 14 – 0 lead and with an excellent opportunity for a third try on the stroke of half time, it could have been an even more significant lead.

 

The second half was all about possession for Connacht and they bravely went through phase after phase but found it difficult to gain ground now playing into the stormy conditions. With a penalty on 44 minutes, Connacht opted to kick for the posts and the successful kick by Horwitz proved to be the right the decision, giving increased daylight between the sides.

Perpignan kicked their first points of the game six minutes into the second half to give them some hope of a comeback.

On the sixty sixth minute the French side got a try against the run of play and when they converted, all off a sudden the scoreboard read only 17 – 10 in Connacht’s favour. The French men went on the attack again and went through the phases inside the Connacht 22. But hard work in defence forced a turnover and Connacht introduced some fresh legs to good effect.

 

Replacement scrum half Caolin Blade made a typical sniping run through the Perpignan defence and was held up just short of the line. Moments later, Kyle Godwin made his mark when he backed himself on the outside and powered over for Connacht’s third try with four minutes remaining on the clock.

 

Connacht had one more attack when they went in search of the fourth try but it wasn’t to be and the game finished out with a twelve point victory for the home side.

 

 

CONNACHT: 15. Darragh Leader, 14. Cian Kelleher, 13. Kieran Joyce, 12. Bundee Aki (Kyle Godwin 67′), 11. Matt Healy, 10. David Horwitz (Conor Fitzgerald 58′), 9. James Mitchell (Caolin Blade 70′); 1. Peter McCabe, 2. Dave Heffernan (captain), 3. Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson McCoy 60′), 4. Joe Maksymiw (Gavin Thornbury 60′), 5. Quinn Roux, 6. Eoghan Masterson (Paul Boyle 68′), 7. Colby Fainga’a, 8. James Connolly.

PERPIGNAN: 15. Jonathan Bousquet (captain), 14. Tima Fainga’anuku, 13. Pierre Lucas (Afusipa Taumoepeau 56′), 12. Paul Marty (Julien Farnoux 62′), 11. Eroni Sau, 10. Enzo Selponi, 9. Sadek Degmache; 1. Quentin Walcker (Kevin Tougne 56′), 2. Raphael Carbou (Manu Leiataua 41′), 3. Nicolas Lemaire (Sylvain Charlet 60′), 4. Yoann Vivalda, 5. Berend Botha (Alban Roussel 56′), 6. Johan Van Heerden, 7. Pierre Reynaud, 8. Michael Faleafa (Edoardo Iachizzi 60′).

Attendance: 5,011.

Referee: Karl Dickson [RFU].

 

Two tries from European debutant Kyle Godwin ensured Connacht got their European Challenge Cup campaign off to a winning start with victory over Bordeaux-Beglés.

In awful conditions at The Sportsground, Andy Friend’s side grounded out a 22-10 victory with glimpses of impressive performances but also plenty to work on ahead of next week’s trip to Sale.

The first of Godwin’s tries arrived just after the 10 minute mark when Peter McCabe found himself in plenty of room to power his way just short of the Bordeaux try line after an excellent pass from Jack Carty. With the French side’s defence stretched, the Australian winger was the first to arrive at the ruck and he touched down for the 5-0 lead, with Carty adding two more.

The remainder of the half saw both sides struggle to get any decent spell of momentum due to the trying weather. A penalty from Carty after 23 minutes extended Connacht’s lead to 10 points, while their defence was also heavily worked as Bordeaux tried to power their way across the Connacht try line. With the clock passed the 40, they eventually settled for a kick at the posts to bring the score to 10-3 at the break.

Whatever message was given to the Connacht players at the break appeared to work in spades as they came roaring out of the traps in the second half. A deserved second try was to follow and again it was Godwin who found himself in a good position – arriving at the end of a wonderfully looping play with Carty again the architect. His resulting conversion stretched the lead to 14 points, but it was the next 20 minutes when Bordeaux played their way into their best spell of the game. Their replacement front row had an impact as they powered over for their first try of the game, moments after Robin Copeland was sent to the sin-bin. Suddenly there was a converted try in it with 15 v 14 for the next 10 minutes, but Connacht were able to dig deep defensively when needed.

The victory was effectively secured on the 67th minute mark when a five metre lineout and resulting rolling maul saw the pack power their way over the line with Finlay Bealham the man with his hands on the ball. The rest of the game was a case of seeing it out which they did and, even though no bonus point try followed, it’s 4 points on the board with five more pool games to follow.

 

 

After making his Guinness PRO14 debut, Kyle Godwin spoke to us about his experience of playing in front of the Sportsground crowd for the first time.

He also reflected on a disappointing result against Glasgow and what needs to be worked on ahead of the visit of Zebre next weekend.

https://www.facebook.com/Connachtrugby/videos/1914362991973728/

New Connacht signing Kyle Godwin is set to make his Connacht debut as Andy Friend’s side take on Glasgow Warriors in the Sportsground in the opening game of their Guinness PRO14 campaign on Saturday (Kick Off 3pm – Live on TG4).

Godwin forms a midfield partnership with last season’s Connacht Fans’ Player of the Season, Tom Farrell. 

The back line also includes the ever present Tiernan O’Halloran at full back with Connacht’s record try scorer Matt Healy and Cian Kelleher on the wings. 

In the front row, Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham start at loosehead and tighthead respectively with Mayo native Dave Heffernan given the nod at hooker. 

Meanwhile in the back row, newly appointed captain Jarrad Butler is selected at openside with Academy player Paul Boyle named at blindside after impressive performances in the pre-season fixtures. 

After three wins from three in the pre-season, Head Coach Andy Friend knows there will be bigger challenges ahead, starting with the visit of Glasgow; “We’ve had three good pre-season games. You don’t win championships in pre-season, but you can lose them. We’re at the start line in pretty good shape but it’s what we do from here that’s important”, Friend said.

“We are expecting a massive challenge from Glasgow on Saturday afternoon. They got off to a roaring start in last year’s campaign and I have no doubt they will be looking to do something similar this season. They have great strength and depth in their squad so it going to be a big challenge. I have heard so much about the atmosphere that our fans create in the Sportsground and I can’t wait to experience it on Saturday”, he added. 

#CONvGLA

Kick-off 3pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, Cillian Gallagher, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun. 

The Connacht management team have named the starting XV to face Bristol Bears in tomorrow’s pre-season friendly at Ashton Gate (k/o 7.45pm).

 

There are five changes from the team that beat Wasps in Athlone last week, with Robin Copeland making his first appearance for the province at number 8. The other change in the back-row sees James Connolly come into the starting lineup where he’ll play alongside Paul Boyle.

 

The front row is unchanged with Dave Heffernan captaining the team alongside Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham, while in the second row Ultane Dillane starts with James Cannon.

 

There’s a new half-back pairing with James Mitchell named at scrum-half with Jack Carty beside him, and the only other change sees Tiernan O’Halloran start at full-back while Cian Kelleher moves to the wing. Matt Healy, Kyle Godwin and Tom Farrell make up the rest of the backline.

 

 

Tomorrow’s game is the squad’s final pre-season encounter before the opening Guinness PRO14 tie at home to Glasgow on Saturday 1st September (k/o 3.00pm). The game is the first of four in The Sportsground during the month of September, and tickets for the Month Of Champions are now on sale at connachtrugby.ie/tickets.

Related

GALLERY: Leinster 33-29 Connacht

“I am full of pride of my time at Connacht” – The Eoin McKeon Interview
EMcKeon

“I am full of pride of my time at Connacht” – The Eoin McKeon Interview

6 months ago
“Connacht Will Always Be Our Second Home” – The Tom McCartney Interview
TMcCartney

“Connacht Will Always Be Our Second Home” – The Tom McCartney Interview

6 months ago
Connacht make four changes for clash with Edinburgh in Murrayfield
DBuckley

Connacht make four changes for clash with Edinburgh in Murrayfield

9 months ago