Connacht Eagles 14-71 Ealing Trailfinders

It was a day to forget for the Connacht Eagles in the British & Irish Cup as high-flying Championship side Ealing Trailfinders claimed a comprehensive victory at the Sportsground.

Trailing 40-0 at the break, Connacht showed good fighting spirit in the second half and touched down through Pat O’Toole and Gavin Thornbury but the forward power of the English side proved too strong.

Ealing’s six-try first half included four tries from rolling mauls as Samuel Rodman, James Cordy Redden, Matt Cornish, Lewis Jones (2) and Joe Munro all touched down.

Thornbury and Conor McKeon were both sin-binned late in the half and, with Connacht down to 13, Ealing scored again early in the second half as Shane O’Leary’s superb crossfield kick allowed Will Harries to touch down.

James Cordy Redden scored in the left corner in 50 minutes before O’Toole finished off a flowing Connacht move before Harley Fox set Thornbury up for a second try with Andrew Deegan converting both.

That was as good as it got however as Ealing regained control and finished strongly with Harries, Morgan Allen and Cordy Redden crossing to complete the scoring as former Connacht out-half O’Leary kicked eight conversions in an impressive display.

Connacht Eagles: Matthew Byrne; Niyi Adeolokun (Adam Leavy, 68), Stacey Ili (Luke Carty, 26-35), Kieran Joyce, Rory Scholes; Andrew Deegan (Luke Carty, 75), Conor McKeon (James Mitchell, 55); Denis Coulson, Pat O’Toole, JP Cooney (Capt) (Conor Kenny, 55); Peter Claffey (Niall Murray, 72), Gavin Thornbury; Paul Boyle, Naulia Dawai, Harley Fox (Cian Huxford, 72).

Replacements: Callum Torpey, Conor Kenny, Niall Murray, Cian Huxford, James Mitchell, Luke Carty, Adam Leavy.

Connacht put in a huge, determined effort in front of a packed out Sportsground tonight as the game went down to the wire. The Aviva Premiership leaders were forced to fight hard for a tight victory in the opening game of the Heineken Cup campaign.

The visitors came out of the blocks faster with an early try from centre Chris Wyles on five minutes. British & Irish Lion Owen Farrell set up the conversion kick and added the two points.

Connacht responded quickly with a fine penalty kick from Dan Parks, but Saracens doubled their lead almost immediately from the kick off with a try from England international wing Chris Ashton following a spell of determined pressure on the Connacht line.

But Connacht fought back when Man of the Match Kieran Marmion collected a loose ball and ran in 30 metres to touch down. Parks added the conversion to reduce Saracens lead to four points.

A further penalty from Farrell put Mark McCall’s men seven points ahead but they were reeled in when winger Danie Poolman crossed for a well-worked team try. Parks’ conversion kick levelled the scores and the outhalf had a chance to take the lead with a late penalty but the ball went wide.

Half time: Connacht 17 – 17 Saracens

A second Farrell penalty put the visitors ahead again in the 53rd minute. Connacht continued to test the visitors and a huge defensive effort kept them out despite them dominating possession and territory.

A pulsating game of rugby remained in the balance. Farrell’s drop goal effort went wide and there was still time for an upset, despite the fifth successful kick of the night from Farrell to bring them six points ahead.

With five minutes on the clock, Connacht piled their bodies on the line in an effort to grab a match saving try. Replacements Aly Muldowney and Paul O’Donohoe looked to have chances but were held up short through some vital work from the Sarries who won the penalty to finish the game.

Full time: Connacht 17 – 23 Saracens

CONNACHT: G Duffy; F Carr (T O’Halloran 59 mins), R Henshaw, C Ronaldson (C So’olialo 67 mins), D Poolman; D Parks, K Marmion (P O’Donohoe 71mins); B Wilkinson (JP Cooney 73 mins), S Henry (J Harris-Wright), R Ah You ; M Swift (A Muldowney 59 mins), C Clarke; J Muldoon ( A Brown 55 mins), J Heenan; G Naoupu.

SARACENS: A Goode; C Ashton (M Tagicakibau 77 mins), J Tomkins ( D Taylor 60 mins), C Wyles, S Strettle; O Farrell, N de Kock (R Wigglesworth 53 mins); R Gill, S Brits ( J Johnson 73 mins), M Stevens; S Borthwick, G Kruis ( A Hargreaves 57 mins); K Brown, W Fraser (E Joubert 36 mins), B Vunipola.

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