Connacht 22
Dragons 35

Connacht were defeated 35-22 by the Dragons at the Sportsground in the United Rugby Championship tonight.

 

Despite four penalties from Jack Carty and tries from Mack Hansen and Conor Fitzgerald, it was the visitors who left Galway with the bonus point win.

 

Tries from Jonah Holmes(2), Jordan Williams and Maseke Doge, as well as the boot of Sam Davies adding fifteen points — via three penalties and three conversions — paved the way for the away team to seal the win in an enthralling game.

 

Connacht started the game with an attacking ambition and their approach yielded points after only two minutes. The Dragons were adjudged to be offside just inside their own half and the hosts were awarded a penalty. Making no mistake, Carty confidently slotted the long range kick to open the scoring at 3-0.

 

The Roscommon native soon after added a second penalty, accurately slotting the kick from just inside the Dragons’ half. The 6-0 lead was a worthy reward for Connacht who were the dominant team in the opening fifteen minutes.

 

The Welsh team, however, opened their scoring account not long after when Davies slotted a penalty with aplomb. With their tails up, the visitors grew into the game and they showed their attacking strengths near the half hour mark with a well constructed try.

 

Full back Williams’ kick over the blitzing defence of the hosts bounced back to the full-back and he then showed vision to pass to Holmes to touch down. The conversion was wide, but Connacht found themselves behind for the first time at 8-6.

 

The Westerners were only behind for a matter of moments and retook their lead when Carty confidently stroked a penalty between the sticks and in a double whammy, the away team were reduced to 14 men after a yellow card to Rhodri Williams

 

Connacht seized on the man advantage and stretched their lead to four points when Carty notched his fourth penalty of the half and they held that 12-8 lead going into the interval.

 

The Dragons started the second half with renewed vigour and their efforts were rewarded when full-back Williams — with a sharp slight of foot — skipped in to touch down for a try that Davies converted to see the visitors edge 15-12 in front after ten minutes of the second period.

 

The away team went from strength to strength and they had their second try in a profitable second half period when Mesake Doge — the Fijian — barged over from close range. Once again, Davies — who continued his 100% record off the tee — made no error and the Dragons were 22-12 to the good.

 

With fresh impetus from replacements Conor Oliver, Shane Delahunt and Jordan Duggan, The Westerners upped the tempo in search of their opening try and they had it close to the hour from a familiar source. Carty’s slicing looping pass found Hansen and the winger sold two dummies to skip in for the try and Connacht brought the score back to 22-17.

 

The Dragons, though, were proving themselves adept from the kicking tee and Davies continued his fine form with the boot with a long range penalty to give the Welsh team an eight point lead at 25-17.

 

With their confidence up, the Welsh team flexed their attacking muscles and completed their bonus point when Holmes — pouncing on a bouncing ball — touched down for his second try. Davies made no mistake from the tee and the scoreline read 32-17 to the away team.

 

Connacht knew they had to go in search for tries to attempt to mount a comeback in the remaining ten minutes and they started that period well when Fitzgerald fielded Sammy Arnold’s beautiful offload to touch down to take the score to 22-32

 

However, the Dragons soon extinguished that hope with a Davies penalty and they stretched their lead further to 22-35 and that’s how the game finished.

 

 

Connacht team:

15-9

15: Tiernan O’Halloran
14: Ben O’Donnell
13: Tom Farrell
12: Tom Daly.
11: Mack Hansen
10: Jack Carty
9: Caolin Blade

8-1

8: Paul Boyle
7: Jarad Butler
6: Cian Prendergast
5: Ultan Dillane
4: Oisin Dowling
3: Finlay Bealham
2: Dave Heffernan
1: Matthew Burke

Replacements: Duggan for Burke, Delahunt for Heffernan, Aungier for Bealham, Oliver for Butler, Fifita for Dowling, Fitzgerald for Farrell, Arnold for Daly

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht 34

Bulls 7

 

Connacht welcomed back fans to the Sportsground for the first time in over a year and they didn’t disappoint their supporters with a 34-7 win over the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship. 

 

Despite conceding an early try to Lizo Gqoboka, the Westerners rallied and scored five tries in a brilliant performance of physical dominance and skill. 

 

Tom Daly crossed for two tries, while player of the match Mack Hansen — on his home debut — Tom Farrell and Tiernan O’Halloran also dotted down five-pointers. The boot of the impressive Jack Carty tacked on three conversions and a penalty to account for the thirty-four points. 

 

The physical South African team started well and, after only a minute, found themselves in front when their loose-head, Gqoboka, powered his way over for a converted try.

 

Connacht, though, didn’t panic and soon after levelled the scores up when a rumbling maul gave them territory in the Bulls’ 22. From there, the ball was worked wide with speed. Tom Farrell throw a beautiful offload out of the tackle to Carty and the fly-half picked out O’Halloran to touch down. The Roscommon native then added the conversion to tie the game up at 7-7.

 

The line out was proving to be an excellent platform for the home team to launch attacks and it was through the set-piece that they took the lead for the first time. After winning a line out, Connacht constructed a move — which included a Kieran Marmion break — that was eventually ended when a Bulls player was penalised for not rolling away. Showing composure, Carty made no mistake to take the score to 10-7 in the Westerners’ favour. 

 

The home team started the second half in a similar fashion to what they finished the first and they had their second try not long into the second period. A probing move from the forwards close to the line — with Abraham Papali’i carrying hard and often — established field position. Then, the ball was worked to the backs and Daly — running on an arc — powered over. Carty once again added the extras and Connacht lead 17-7.

 

It wasn’t long before it became three tries and it was a score worth waiting for. Fielding the ball in his own half, Hansen — with pace in abundance — fired his way down the pitch, evading several tackles, and dove over for a try of individual brilliance. At 22-7, the home team were deservedly ahead. 

 

With the bonus point try in their sights, Connacht continued to play with ambition and a high tempo and their efforts were rewarded with ten minutes remaining. A solid scrum on halfway gave Marmion clean ball to work with. The scrum-half made a burst, fed a pass to Carty and the Roscommon man’s pass was met by Farrell on a clever line. The centre then powered his way through the midfield to touch down for the home sides bonus point. Carty then tacked on the conversion and the Westerners found themselves 29-7 ahead. 

 

The home team weren’t done there, however, and they had a fifth try with the clock in red at the end of the game. Daly, with the aid of team-mates lending their strength close to the line, crashed over the whitewash to seal the win at 34-7.

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9) 

 

15: Tiernan O’Halloran 

14: John Porch
13: Tom Farrell 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Mack Hansen 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

(8-1)

 

8: Abraham Papali’i

7: Jarrad Butler © 

6: Cian Prendergast

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Oisin Dowling 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Jordan Duggan 

 

Replacements: 

 

16: Shane Delahunt for Dave Heffernan 

17: Matthew Burke for Jordan Duggan

18: Jack Aungier for Finlay Bealham

19: Leva Fifita for Oisin Dowling

20: Conor Oliver for Jarrad Butler 

21: Caolin Blade 

22: Paul Boyle for Papali’i

23: Sammy Arnold for Cian Prendergast

The Connacht Rugby coaching team have named their matchday squad for Friday night’s United Rugby Championship opener away to Cardiff (k/o 7.35pm).
 
After a two-try performance for the Eagles last week, new signing Mack Hansen has been handed his Pro debut after he was named on the wing. Fellow Aussie John Porch is named on the other wing with Tiernan O’Halloran operating at full-back.
 
Tom Farrell starts his first competitive game since November after his serious knee injury, with the 28-year old named in the centre alongside Tom Daly who makes his 50th appearance for the province. Irish internationals Kieran Marmion and Jack make up the half-back pairing.
 
Club captain Jarrad Butler is named at number 8 alongside flankers Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver, while Oisín Dowling and Ultan Dillane start together in the second row.
 
The starting line-up is completed by hooker Shane Delahunt and props Matthew Burke and Finlay Bealham.
 
There’s also a potential debut off the bench for Hubert Gilvarry. The scrum-half has represented Sligo RFC and Sligo Grammar School and has been integrated in the Pro setup the last number of weeks.
 
Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“It’s been a really productive pre-season campaign so we’re all really looking forward to this URC opener. It’s a difficult opening game as Cardiff are always a formidable outfit especially at home, but we’ve prepared in the right way and are confident we can put in a really strong performance.
 
Mack Hansen has been very impressive since arriving so fully deserves his first start, and in Hubert Gilvarry we have another Connacht native ready to make his debut if called upon. I know his inclusion in the matchday 23 will be a very proud day for all at Sligo RFC and Sligo Grammar School.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS CARDIFF RUGBY
Friday 24th September, Cardiff Arms Park @ 19:35

Number/Name/Caps (* denotes uncapped)
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (190)
14. John Porch (40)
13. Tom Farrell (62)
12. Tom Daly (49)
11. Mack Hansen *
10. Jack Carty (159)
9. Kieran Marmion (187)
1. Matthew Burke (23)
2. Shane Delahunt (100)
3. Finlay Bealham (159)
4. Oisin Dowling (7)
5. Ultan Dillane (114)
6. Cian Prendergast (10)
7. Conor Oliver (20)
8. Jarrad Butler (73) (C)

16. Dave Heffernan (144)
17. Jordan Duggan (13)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (68)
19. Niall Murray (18)
20. Paul Boyle (57)
21. Hubert Gilvarry *
22. Conor Fitzgerald (36)
23. Sammy Arnold (16)

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce the signing of Australian Mack Hansen from Super Rugby side the Brumbies.
 
Hansen, whose mother hails from Cork, can play across the back three or as out-half and has played a key role in the Brumbies’ Super Rugby AU campaign this season, featuring in all eight games and scoring three tries.
 
The 23-year-old came through the ranks at the Australian side, playing for Canberra’s Daramalan School and later the Canberra Vikings before moving on to the professional ranks in 2018, while also representing the Australian U20s in the World Cup that same year.
 
Hansen was handed his full debut for the Brumbies in March 2019, coming off the bench in a win over the Waratahs. Despite the disruption of the Super Rugby calendar due to COVID-19, Hansen has been an ever-present member of the squad since his first start last July. He was named Super Rugby Player of the Round in Round 2 after scoring a hat-trick in their win over the Waratahs. He has made 11 clean breaks this season, putting him in 2nd place for most clean breaks by any player across both Super Rugby leagues, and sits in the top 10 for most metres carried.
 
Hansen has signed a two-year deal and will link up with the squad for 2021/22 pre-season training later in the summer.
 
Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“Securing the signing of Mack Hansen is a real coup for Connacht Rugby. I have been following his progress for a long time and he has all the attributes to become a really important player for us. As well as his playmaking abilities, he is a physically strong and tall player who can easily adapt to the demands of northern hemisphere rugby. His versatility and ability to play all across the back field as well as a number 10 is also a big plus for us. I’m looking forward to welcoming him to The Sportsground and integrating him into our playing squad over the summer.”
 
Mack Hansen says he’s hugely looking forward to joining up with the squad:
 
“I am delighted to be making this move and signing for Connacht Rugby. Obviously, I have strong family ties to Ireland, so that was an immediate positive for me, but after chatting to Andy I became really excited by both the brand of rugby that Connacht play, as well as the ambition of the club to succeed in the years ahead. I want to play my part in that, and I can’t wait to link up with the squad and get settled in the West of Ireland.”

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