Scarlets 18

Connacht 10

Connacht suffered a disappointing eight point loss to the Scarlets in the opening game of the Guinness Pro14 season. As the heavy rain poured down in Parc y Scarlets it was always going to be difficult for Connacht to eat into the home side’s lead that was constant when they scored the first try of the game.

Connacht had all the territory in the opening ten minutes and while Scarlets did muster two attacks, the Connacht defence were outstanding in defending their line.

The game continued to ebb and flow with Connacht dominating the territory but on 20 minutes, Scarlets only visit into the 22 resulted in a try in the corner which they failed to convert.

For large parts of the game this was a contest that was played between the two 22s.However it was scarlets accuracy when they did attack that proved the difference between the sides. After 33 minutes, Connacht failure to clear their lines gave Scarlets the opportunity to run in under the posts and when they landed the resulting conversion,  Scarlets were 12 – 0 to the good.

Conor Fitzgerald did respond for Connacht with a penalty to reduce the home side’s lead to nine at the break.

The Scarlets drew first blood again in the second half when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. The successful kick brought the Scarlets back into a twelve point lead and it went from bad to worse as Tom Daly was sent to the bin.

During the numerical disadvantage however, Connacht took the initiative and Eoghan Masterson was the one to get over as Connacht had been banging on the door as the Scarlets gave away a succession of penalties. Fitzgerald’s successful conversion reduced the deficit back to five points as the game entered the final quarter.

As the torrential rain poured down, Scarlets added a penalty to close their account on 62 minutes and that score proved enough to secure the eight point lead.

A disappointing result for Connacht as they leave Wales with no points from their conference rivals. Next up is a home tie against Italian side Benetton on Saturday the 5th of October.

Connacht scorers – Conor Fitzgerald 1 pen, 1 conversion. Eoghan Masterson try.

Tiernan O’Halloran, Stephen Fitzgerald, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Kieran Marmion), (1-8) Paddy McAllister (Denis Buckley), Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a (Eoin McKeon then replaced by Ultan Dillane), Jarrad Butler.

Prop Paddy McAllister is set to make his first competitive start in a Connacht jersey as his side travel to the Scarlets for the opening round of the Guinness Pro14 on Saturday (k/o 5:15pm).
 
McAllister, who signed from Gloucester in the summer, made his debut in Connacht’s pre-season friendly win over against Munster at The Sportsground last Saturday.
 
He joins an experienced front row that includes tighthead Finlay Bealham and hooker Tom McCartney. Behind them will be Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux, both of whom impressed in Connacht’s three pre-season wins.
 
Captain Jarrad Butler will wear the now familiar number 8 jersey in a back row alongside Eoghan Masterson and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.
 
With Jack Carty away on international duty at the Rugby World Cup, Conor Fitzgerald is named at out-half alongside scrum-half Caolin Blade. Elsewhere in the back line, Tom Daly and Kyle Godwin will form the centre partnership with wingers Matt Healy and Stephen Fitzgerald and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran completing the side.
 
Ahead of the opening game of the season, Head Coach Andy Friend commented on the depth that will be required in the Connacht squad as they prepare for a season of PRO14 and Champions Cup action: “We used fifty players last season and we expect to use a similar number this time around. We have come through a really good pre-season where we have won three games from three and more importantly we have got to do a lot of work on the training field. I think we are definitely further along as a squad compared to where we were this time last season”.
 
Commenting on the challenge of the Scarlets, Friend added: “We are expecting a hugely competitive game. While they are missing players away on World Cup duty, they also have real depth in their squad. Both sides will be targeting a win, so I think we are in for quality game”.
 
Connacht Matchday Squad:
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Stephen Fitzgerald, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Eoin McKeon, Kieran Marmion, Peter Robb, Darragh Leader.
 

The Connacht squad trained at The Sportsground this morning with the clock ticking down to Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 opener away to the Scarlets (k/o 5.15pm).
 
The team are on the back of three straight pre-season wins, culminating in a 40-31 victory over Munster last weekend.
 
Here’s all the best pics from this morning’s training session.
 

Tom McCartney is set to captain Connacht as they travel to Wales to take on champions Scarlets in the PRO14 tomorrow night (7.35pm, live on BBC Wales).

Hooker McCartney takes his place in the front row alongside Denis Buckley and Conor Carey. In the back-row Jake Heenan and Eoin McKeon come into the side, for their second and first starts of the season respectively.

The side is also boosted by the return of Tiernan O’Halloran from injury and he takes his place on the wing with Darragh Leader being retained at full-back. After coming off the bench against Cardiff last week, Tom Farrell forms the centre pairing with Bundee Aki. Caolin Blade gets his second start of the season as he forms a half back partnership with Jack Carty.

Connacht face a huge challenge against last year’s PRO12 champions, a fact that Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane was fully aware of when he spoke to journalists ahead of the game: “They are very expansive, very well skilled and a well drilled team. We are going over to beat them obviously. We have put in place a plan that we think could trouble them, but they are a quality side and you don’t become champions for nothing.

“Decision-making has really been a focal point for us. We have hard workers, we have good players, and we have structures they are coming to grips with that will create opportunities, which we haven’t been able to exploit yet. So, putting a little bit of polish on the rough diamond is what we are looking to achieve.”

#SCAvCON

Kick-off 7.35pm:

(15-9) Darragh Leader, Tiernan O’Halloran, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Cian Kelleher, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney (Capt), Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Jake Heenan, Jarrad Butler, Eoin McKeon

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Denis Coulson, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Steve Crosbie, Eoin Griffin.

Head Coach Kieran Keane spoke to the media yesterday ahead of our visit to Scarlets on Friday night with our team being named at noon tomorrow.

On the road for our next 3 games, we are then back at home for a triple-header against Worcester Warriors (Oct 21), Munster (Oct 27) & Cheetahs (Nov 4).

Tickets available here

 

Our medical team have issued the following squad update ahead of Friday night’s Guinness PRO14 clash against Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets (7.35pm).

Lock:

Andrew Browne is rehabilitating from an achilles tendon injury and will be out of action for a number of weeks.

James Cannon sustained a minor thigh strain in training last week and is currently rehabilitating under the supervision of the medical and performance staff.

Back Row:

Naulia Dawai is progressing well with his hamstring rehabilitation and is due to return to training next week.

Sean O’Brien is recovering following shoulder surgery last week.

Scrum-half:

James Mitchell is progressing well in his recovery from a shoulder injury and will return to training in the coming weeks.

Centre:

Peter Robb is rehabilitating from recent hip surgery and will be out of action until December.

Back Three:

Tiernan O’Halloran has recovered from his hip injury sustained against the Dragons and has returned to training.

Matt Healy is progressing well with his groin rehabilitation and is due to return to training next week.

Cormac Brennan has returned to training following his recent shoulder injury.

Niyi Adeolokun is continuing his recovery from knee surgery and will return to training in the coming weeks.

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On the road for our next three games (see fixture details here), we are then back at home for a triple-header against Worcester Warriors, Munster & Cheetahs – buy tickets here.

 

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