Connacht kept the pressure on the top three in Conference A with a hard-fought victory over Isuzu Southern Kings, with the side playing 65 minutes with 14 men.

Early tries from Colby Faing’a and Tiernan O’Halloran saw the visitors 14-0 up within ten minutes, before Peter Robb saw red for leading with a forearm.

Stefan Ungerer and Erich Cronjé’s brace got the hosts in contention in Port Elizabeth, but a resilient second-half performance saw Connacht take the victory, with Jack Carty scoring a crucial try after the break.

The writing looked to be on the wall within the first 60 seconds for the Kings, as Fainga’a profited from Ungerer’s fumble on halfway to run in unchallenged and get Connacht off to the perfect start.

And just five minutes later the visitors added their second, as some quick hands from Carty and Kyle Godwin on the Kings’ 22 allowed O’Halloran to break through, before sidestepping two defenders to touch down.

The game-changing moment came after 15 minutes in Port Elizabeth, as substitute Robb was adjudged to have connected with the neck of Howard Mnisi with his forearm, and was given his marching orders.

Things got even worse ten minutes later, as Godwin was shown yellow while trying to stop the unrelenting pressure on their try line, with Ungerer burrowing over from the ensuing penalty.

The hosts made the most of their time against 13 men, as Cronjé pierced the Connacht defence to level the scores three minutes later, before Carty slotted through a penalty to make it 17-14 to the visitors at the interval.

The Irish side came out after the break rejuvenated, and extended their lead through Carty as the fly-half crossed in the corner, while Cronjé went over for his second of the game on the hour mark to reduce the arrears back to three.

Connacht continued to dig deep in the last 20 minutes, with an outstanding effort at the scrum to force a penalty try to secure the bonus point, as the Kings struggled to break down the visitors’ defence.

 

Irish internationals Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan have both been included in the Connacht squad to face the Southern Kings in Round 13 of the Guinness PRO14 this Sunday in Port Elizabeth (k/o 1pm Irish time, 3pm local time).
 
The pair were both released from the Ireland camp following the postponement of the Six Nations tie with Italy, and duly met up with the squad for the one-match trip to South Africa.
 
Dillane starts in the second row alongside Joe Maksymiw with Heffernan named among the replacements.
 
In all there are six changes from the side that lost to Edinburgh last weekend.
 
Paddy McAllister is drafted back into the front row alongside Shane Delahunt, while there’s also a start for prop Dominic Robertson-McCoy following an ankle injury to Finlay Bealham.
 
The back row is unchanged for the third straight game with Jarrad Butler captaining the side at number 8, with flankers Paul Boyle and Colby Fainga’a alongside him.
 
Caolin Blade comes back into the starting side to partner Jack Carty in the half-back positions, while there’s also a change at centre where Tom Daly is named alongside Kyle Godwin.
 
The final swap comes on the wing where Connacht’s record try-scorer Matt Healy makes up a back three with John Porch and Tiernan O’Halloran.
 
Commenting ahead of the fixture, Head Coach Andy Friend says everyone is keen to put the disappointment of last weekend behind them:
 
“We didn’t get the result we wanted in Edinburgh, so this week has been all about ensuring we get another win on the board. The Kings are a dangerous side especially at home so we will have to be at our very best.”
 
Regarding his team selection, Friend added:
 
“We’ve been able to call on two international footballers in Dave and Ultan which is a nice boost for us. This mini-block of three games is key for us so I believe we have named a squad that can get the job done on Sunday and finish on a high before the short break.”
 
CONNACHT SQUAD V SOUTHERN KINGS (SUNDAY 1 MARCH 2020 @ NELSON MANDELA BAY STADIUM, PORT ELIZABETH)

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade.
(1-8): Paddy McAllister, Shane Delahunt, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (c).

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Denis Buckley, Conor Kenny, Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon, Kieran Marmion, Conor Fitzgerald, Peter Robb.

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.

Check out all the highlights from yesterday’s bonus point win over Southern Kings in the Guinness PRO14.

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