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).

Ireland international Kieran Marmion has recovered from a back injury to take his place on Connacht’s starting team for the Champions Cup clash away to Montpellier on Sunday (Kick off 3:15pm Irish Time).

The scrum half hasn’t played for Connacht since the win over Ospreys in the Sportsground at the beginning of November. Marmion’s inclusion sees him renew his half back partnership with fellow international Jack Carty.

Elsewhere in the backline, Kyle Godwin comes into the Connacht midfield to partner Bundee Aki. While in the back three Tiernan O’Halloran is named at fullback with John Porch and Connacht’s record try scorer Matt Healy on the wings.

In the forwards, hooker Dave Heffernan who was named in Andy Farrell’s first Six Nations squad during the week, starts alongside props Paddy McAllister and Dominic Robertson McCoy. In the second row Joe Maksymiw and Gavin Thornbury are both selected in the second row, with 20 year old Niall Murray among the replacements.

In the backrow, Eoghan Masterson comes in at blindside with Colby Fainga’a at openside and Captain Jarrad Butler at number 8.

Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We had a great win over Montpellier in the opening round but we are under no illusion that the return leg will be a huge challenge. We have picked a strong side and are aiming to win the game and regain some momentum ahead of an important block of games coming in the Pro14”.

“We are delighted to see Kieran Marmion back from injury. He has been out since November and has worked really hard to get back on the field. His experience alongside Jack Carty, will be a boost to us on Sunday”.

Connacht Matchday Squad V Montpellier (Sun 19 Dec, 3:15pm Irish Time)

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (1-8): Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Denis Buckley, Conor Kenny, Niall Murray, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Daly.

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that Irish international scrum half Kieran Marmion has signed a three year contract extension with Connacht up to the end of the 2022/23 season.

The 27 year old joined the Connacht Academy in 2011 and since his arrival in the Sportsground has played over 160 games for the province. Marmion’s outstanding form during his time with Connacht has led to him being capped 27 times for Ireland since making his debut against Argentina in 2014.

His international representation began in his teens when he played for Ireland at Under 18, 19 and 20 level.

Commenting on the signing, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “Kieran has been an outstanding player for Connacht and for Ireland. He is a diligent professional and through his hard work he has progressed through the Connacht Academy and on to play for Ireland. His progress demonstrates the support that is available to players through our academy pathway.  Kieran’s commitment to Connacht for a further three seasons demonstrates his ambition to contribute at provincial and international level in the coming years. His signing also ensures that we continue to retain a squad equipped to compete at the highest level of European club rugby”.

Ends

Head Coach Andy Friend has made four changes to the Connacht starting team from the side that recorded a bonus point win over Dragons two weeks ago.
 
With Tiernan O’Halloran and Paddy McAllister out of action until December, Connacht have had to reshuffle slightly but Darragh Leader has returned from a leg injury to take his place on the bench.
 
Stephen Fitzgerald comes straight into the side at fullback for the injured O’Halloran. He is part of a new look back three that sees Niyi Adeolokun and John Porch on the wings. Fitzgerald’s brother Conor is retained at out half following his impressive start to the season, and he forms a half back partnership with Kieran Marmion.
 
The midfield remains unchanged with Peter Robb and Kyle Godwin continuing their partnership.
 
Loosehead Denis Buckley comes back into the side for his first start of the season, alongside hooker Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham at tighthead.
 
The second row sees Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux together for the fourth straight game, while the backrow also has a familiar look to it with Captain Jarrad Butler at openside, Eoghan Masterson at blindside and Paul Boyle occupying the number 8 jersey.
 
Connacht face a Cheetahs side that have been hugely impressive in their opening games with three bonus point wins recorded in Bloemfontein. This impressive form is something that Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says his side will be well prepared for:
 
“The Cheetahs have been impressive in their opening three games and have three bonus points on the board so we will have to be at our best against them. But we have a had a really good start to the season as well, with two wins from our opening three games so fans can expect an exciting game on Saturday evening”.
 
Commenting on his team selection he added; “Unfortunately we have to plan without Tiernan O’Halloran and Paddy McAllister until December but I have always said that this block of thirteen games in a row was going to require real depth in our squad. We have picked a match day 23 targeting a home win.”

 
Connacht Matchday Squad V Toyota Cheetahs (Sat 26 OCT, 5.15PM)
 
(15-9): Stephen Fitzgerald, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion (1-8): Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Cillian Gallagher, Caolin Blade, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader.

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.

Kieran Marmion, Bundee Aki and man-of-the-match Jack Carty all produced impressive performances in Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up win over Wales on Saturday.
 
Carty, who was making his first Test start for Ireland, slotted over 5 points and also produced the break which resulted in the opening try for Jacob Stockdale.
 
The trio are now waiting to hear if they will be named in the final 31-man squad for the World Cup with less than 3 weeks to go until the opening game against Scotland.
 

The Ireland coaching group have named the first match day 23 of the Guinness Summer Series and Ireland take on Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
 
Rhys Ruddock will captain the Ireland for the seventh occasion and is joined in the backrow by Tommy O’Donnell at openside and Jordi Murphy at No.8. Devin Toner and the uncapped Jean Kleyn pack down at lock with Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter making up the front row.
 
Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery fill the half-back positions with Chris Farrell and Garry Ringrose named in the centre. Jordan Larmour starts at fullback supported by Andrew Conway and Dave Kearney on the wings.
 
The replacements named for Saturday’s game are Niall Scannell, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty and Mike Haley.
 
IRELAND Squad v Italy – 2019 Guinness Summer Series

Player/Club/Province/Caps

15. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 13 caps
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 12 caps caps
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 20 caps
12. Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 5 caps
11. Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) 17
10. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 18 caps
9. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 10 caps

1. Jack McGrath (St Marys College/Leinster) 54 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 7 caps
3. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 14 caps
4. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 64 caps
5. Jean Kleyn (Munster) 0 caps
6. Rhys Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 21 caps CAPT
7. Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) 12 caps
8. Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Ulster) 27 caps

REPLACEMENTS
16. Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 14 caps
17. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 88 caps
18. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 18 caps
19. Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster) 44 caps
20. Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 5 caps
21. Kieran Marmion (Galwegians/Connacht) 25 caps
22. Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 3 caps
23. Mike Haley (Munster) 0 caps

Guinness Summer Series 2019 Fixtures

IRELAND v Italy
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 10th August, KO 2.00pm
(Live Coverage: RTE & Channel 4)

IRELAND v Wales
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 7th September, KO 2.00pm
(Live Coverage: RTE & Channel 4)

The Ireland coaching team have named a 44 strong training squad for the upcoming Rugby World Cup pre-season and preparatory camps which commence in mid-June.
 
Over the course of the pre-season period the squad will hold camps in Galway and Limerick as well as their usual base in Maynooth. Open sessions are planned for both the Sportsground in Galway and Thomond Park in Limerick. Details of the open sessions will be announced in due course.
 
Ireland will play at the Aviva Stadium in two Guinness Summer Series fixtures firstly against Italy (August 10th) and then Wales (September 7th). Ireland will also face off against England in Twickenham (August 24th) and Wales at the Principality Stadium (August 31st).
 
Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt, commented, “The provinces have done a great job throughout the season with all four of them being involved in two sets of playoffs.
 
There were some very close calls in selection and it’s always a challenging process because the coaching group are very conscious of how hard the players work. It’s ideal that they get a good opportunity to relax for a few weeks before getting stuck into pre-season training and the busy ‘Guinness Series’ in the lead up to the World Cup.
 
Some players have missed out through injury and there are one or two guys that may be added into the squad at a later stage.”
 
Ireland Training Squad Rugby World Cup Pre-Season
Forwards (24)
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht) 9 caps
Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) 117 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 5 caps
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 14 caps
Sean Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 68 caps
Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht) 14 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 33 caps
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 88 caps
Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster) 44 caps
Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 7 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 29 caps
Jean Kleyn (Munster) 0 caps
Jack McGrath (St Marys College/Leinster) 54 caps
Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Ulster) 27 caps
Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) 12 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 57 caps
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 14 caps
Rhys Ruddock (Lansdowne/Leinster) 21 caps
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 17 caps
John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 18 caps
Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 14 caps
CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 31 caps
Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 64 caps
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 17 caps
 
Backs (20)
Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 17 caps
Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 2 caps
Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 18 caps
Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 3 caps
Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 12 caps
John Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster) 8 caps
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 77 caps
Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 5 caps
Mike Haley (Munster) 0 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 37 caps
Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) 17 caps
Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 90 caps
Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 13 caps
Kieran Marmion (Galwegians/Connacht) 25 caps
Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 10 caps
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 72 caps
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 20 caps
Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 3 caps
Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 83 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 19 caps
 
Unavailable due to injury
Dan Leavy (Leinster)
Sean O’Brien (Leinster)
 
Guinness Summer Series 2019 Fixtures
IRELAND v Italy
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 10th August, KO 2.00pm
(Live Coverage: RTE & Channel 4)

England v IRELAND
Twickenham Stadium, Saturday 24th August, KO 3.00pm
(Live Coverage: Sky)

Wales v IRELAND
Principality Stadium, Saturday 31st August, KO 2.30pm
(Live Coverage: Channel 4)

IRELAND v Wales
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 7th September, KO 2.00pm
(Live Coverage: RTE & Channel 4)

The inclusion of out-half Jack Carty is one of eight changes to the Connacht side to face Ulster at Kingspan Stadium in the Guinness PRO14 Quarter Final on Saturday (k/o 5:35pm).
 
Having been rested against Munster last weekend, Carty returns to form a half-back partnership with Kieran Marmion, with Caolin Blade named among the replacements.
 
Elsewhere in the back line, Tom Farrell comes back in to partner Bundee Aki in midfield. There is one change in the back three from the side that played Munster last weekend with Matt Healy returning to the wing. Stephen Fitzgerald keeps his place on the opposite wing with Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.

Up front prop Denis Buckley returns to the side as does hooker Dave Heffernan. Tighthead Finlay Bealham showed no ill effect of his recent hand injury last time out and he retains his place in the front row. In the second row Irish International Ultan Dillane will partner Gavin Thornbury.
 
In the back row, Colby Fainga’a is the only change as he comes in at openside with Captain Jarrad Butler switching to number 8, while Eoin McKeon is named at blindside.
 
Ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says his side are really looking forward to the challenge: “This is a massive game for us – knock-out rugby with the added incentive of an interpro. We said all season that we wanted to be playing at the business end of the season but now we want to go and win and get to a semi-final. I genuinely feel that we haven’t played our best rugby yet and we are constantly improving”.
 
Ulster are an outstanding side. They have got better and better and we are facing a much stronger side than what we played earlier in the season. Facing them on their home patch makes the challenge even greater but we are really up for that challenge”, Friend added.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Friend said that there was huge competition to get into the match day squad. “This week we have had 46 players fit and available to us. We have used 50 players throughout the season so there are disappointed boys not to be in the match day 23. We also had some big calls to make in the starting team, but we have picked a team that we feel can go and win this quarter final and we have a bench that gives us even more options over the 80 minutes”.
 
 
CONNACHT STARTING XV & REPLACEMENTS VS ULSTER
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Stephen Fitzgerald, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Eoghan Masterson, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Darragh Leader.

Connacht have been boosted by the return of Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane for the Guinness PRO14 clash with Benetton at The Sportsground on Friday night.
 
The return of the trio is a welcome boost to Connacht’s match day squad as they face an in-form Benetton side who have already registered ten wins this season and sit in 2nd place in Conference B of the PRO14.
 
Carty and Marmion will start on the bench, as Caolin Blade and Kyle Godwin are named as the starting half-back partnership.
 
Peter Robb and Tom Farrell start again in the Connacht midfield following the bonus point win over Ospreys in the last round. Meanwhile in the back three, Tiernan O’Halloran is named at full-back with Matt Healy and Darragh Leader on the wings.
 
Dillane’s inclusion sees him named in a second row alongside James Cannon, with Gavin Thornbury returning from injury to take his place on the bench.
 
In the front row, props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham are selected with Shane Delahunt at hooker.
 
The back row has a familiar look to it with captain Jarrad Butler at number 8 and Eoin McKeon and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.
 
Ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says his side are expecting a huge challenge from an in-form Benetton side. “They have been great all year,” said Friend. “I’m not surprised they’re sitting in second spot. They’re playing a physical yet attractive brand of rugby. They’ve got a lot of quality players, so we are preparing for a top side coming to the Sportsground. We are in a similar situation, they are sitting second in their conference and we are third in ours so both teams will be looking for a win.”
 
With four rounds of games left in the PRO14, Friend is satisfied that Connacht’s destiny is in their own hands. “We said at the start of the year we wanted to be there at the business end and we’re there or thereabouts, but we need to keep winning to make sure we control our destiny. If we keep winning we stay in control. If we don’t, then we have to start looking at points and seeing where we can scrounge some. At this stage it’s just about the win.”
 
#CONvBEN

Kick-off 7:35pm:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Kyle Godwin, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Tom McCartney, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Stephen Fitzgerald.

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