We return to United Rugby Championship action on Friday evening when we welcome The Ospreys to the Sportsground.

Check out the gallery from Tuesday’s Training session below:

 

Head coach Andy Friend believes Connacht are in a good place after the break in their season for the international window.

 

The Westerners have had over a month off since their last outing, the excellent 36-11 win over Ulster at the Aviva Stadium, allowing players and staff alike to rest and recuperate.

 

Connacht now go into a ten-week block of games, but Friend is confident that his team can begin this period on their best foot when Ospreys visit Galway on Friday, kick-off 19:35

 

“We’re in a good spot. We all had a break and three good weeks of training. We’ve got most of our internationals back, which is good,” the Australian said.

 

“We’ve had three really good weeks of continual work and we’re focusing on these first two games. We’ve got ten games, we’ve got Christmas in there, we’ve got New Year in there, we’ve got European games in there, URC games in there, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games.

 

“All we can do is zone in on these next two weeks, which is Ospreys and Leinster, two Friday night games and we’re looking forward to those.”

 

Ospreys arrive in Galway with a strong record in their opening five United Rugby Championship games, boasting four wins and a loss.

 

Friend says that Connacht will need to be at their best at the breakdown to attack the Welshmen, who the former Australian Sevens coach rates among the best teams so far this season, an opinion which reflects their impressive statistics.

 

“They have been one of the quality sides when you look at their stats across the board, in terms of metres gained up the field, in terms of their turnovers — they have the least amount of turnovers in the competition. They have a very good disciplinary record and don’t give away many penalties. Access into the game is going to be very tricky. We’ll have a tough night on Friday night, we know that. They’re a formidable outfit.

 

Elsewhere, Ireland international out-half Jack Carty says he is excited for Connacht’s future after committing himself to the province by signing a new three-year deal.

 

The Roscommon native, who made his debut for the first team in 2012, is an integral part of head coach Andy Friend’s plans with the Westerners and his retention and commitment to the club is another feather in the cap for the Sportsground team.

 

While Carty is delighted to spend the next three years with Connacht, his immediate focus remains on Friday’s home clash versus the Ospreys in the United Rugby Championship.

 

“Being on the periphery of the Irish team, people kind of presumed you would look to move elsewhere, but the main thing for me was I felt I was getting better as a player and better as a leader.

 

“Then obviously being close to family and stuff like that that you can’t measure if you go somewhere else. I think the change-up we’ve had in the coaching staff this year has massively benefited my game. It was really a clear-cut decision for myself and I am really enjoying where we’re at and where we’re going,” the Irish international said of his decision to extend his contract.

 

Carty, 29, says that the alterations to Connacht’s game plan — albeit slight and subtle — suit his best attributes as a Rugby player. He gave credit to the three new coaches in the Westerners’ backroom team, Mossy Lawler, Dewald Senekal, and Colm Tucker, alongside Friend and Pete Wilkins, for their role in the team’s growth.

 

“Yeah, that’s how I would have played Rugby growing up, in terms of the different coaches with Pat(Lam), KK(Kieran Keane) and Friendy’s(Andy Friend) first couple of years. They were different, but quite similar with the role the 10 played.

 

“It was a lot of facilitating how the shape worked, but now I feel I can get my hands on the ball and ask questions of defenders while also having the ability to look for kick space, which is something we’ve probably seen in the last few years.

 

“The element of the running game is definitely something I have enjoyed and carrying the ball to the line and putting players through holes. I feel like I have a freedom that may not have had before.”

Tickets are now on General Sale for Connacht’s first three fixtures of 2022, all of which fall on three consecutive Saturdays at The Sportsground.
 
First up is a New Year’s Day interpro with Munster – an annual game which is always one of the hottest tickets in town. Kick-off will be at 5.15pm.
 
A week later on Saturday 8th January we welcome another of the newest arrivals from South Africa with the DHL Stormers visiting the West. That one gets underway at the slightly earlier time of 3pm.
 
Then on Saturday 15th January it’s the visit of Leicester Tigers to The Sportsground in what’s set to be a huge Heineken Champions Cup fixture, and will go a long way to determining which teams make it to the knockout stages. Kick-off there is at 3.15pm.
 
 
BUY MUNSTER MATCH TICKETS HERE
 
BUY STORMERS MATCH TICKETS HERE
 
BUY LEICESTER TIGERS MATCH TICKETS HERE

Connacht: 36

Ulster: 11

 

Connacht lit up the Aviva Stadium in their 36-11 interprovincial win against Ulster in the United Rugby Championship tonight. 

 

A brace of tries from Mack Hansen, as well as touchdowns from John Porch, Diarmuid Kilgallen and Niall Murray sealed the win for the designated home team. The boot of Jack Carty also tacked eight points onto the score — via a penalty and four conversions — as the Westerners produced a superb performance of equal parts intensity and accuracy.

 

Ulster started the game with intensity and their efforts yielded a penalty which Doak made no mistake with to give the designated visitors a 3-0 lead. 

 

The away team kept the tempo high in search of a try, but Connacht — with Conor Oliver and Tom Daly defensively resolute — repelled them backwards and their defence gave them a platform to grow into the contest after ten minutes of pressure from Ulster. 

 

The Westerners made their presence felt on the scoreboard thereafter with a beautifully crafted try. Carty’s pass found Daly and the centre — attracting the attention of Ulster defenders — created a gap for Paul Boyle and the number 8 in turn offloaded to Murray. Running a cutting angle and showing brilliant pace, the second row powered into the gap and over the try line. His fellow Roscommon man, Carty, slotted the conversion to give the hosts a 7-3 lead.

 

The onus was on Ulster to find a way back into the game but their attempts to run out of their own 22 were stunted when Hansen — with fantastic awareness — snaffled an interception and sped away from the cover defence to touch down and give Connacht their second try. Once again, Carty — whose game management and placekicking were both superb — kicked the extras and the Westerners were 14-3 to the good. 

 

Both teams swapped penalties — with Doak and Carty both successful off the tee — and yellow cards, with Alan O’Connor and Ultane Dillane taking their turn on the naughty step, and Connacht went into the interval leading 17-6.

 

The Westerners started the second half in a similar, attacking manner, but it took them twenty minutes — thanks to sturdy Ulster defence — to make their dominance count on the scoreboard. 

 

An excellently crafted set-piece move from a scrum saw Jarrad Butler feed Kieran Marmion and the scrum-half found Carty with a pass. The out-half then released Hansen on an angle and the winger burst into space before passing to replacement Conor Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald — showing selflessness and spatial awareness — then assisted Porch, who sped into the corner to touch down. The score saw Connacht move into a 22-6 win.

 

One second-half try soon became two when Kilgallen — who earlier replaced the impressive Tiernan O’Halloran at full-back — sensed an opportunity at an intercept and, backing his initiative, plucked an Ulster pass to run in Connacht’s bonus point try. Carty made no error in slotting the conversion and the Westerners found themselves 29-6 ahead. 

 

Ulster responded in kind when their replacement, Roberts, touched down at the tail of a rolling maul to bring the score to 29-11.

 

But Connacht weren’t done there and they added their fifth try when Hansen — once again sensing a gap in the defence — sped away from the defence to touch down. Carty slotted the extras with the clock in red and the game ended 36-11 in favour of the Westerners. 

 

Connacht team: 

 

15-9

 

15: Tiernan O’Halloran 

14: John Porch

13: Sammy Arnold

12: Tom Daly 

11: Mack Hansen 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

8-1

 

8: Paul Boyle

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Eoghan Masterson 

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Matthew Burke

 

Replacements: Duggan for Burke, Delahunt for Heffernan, Aungier for Burke, Dowling for Dillane, Butler for Boyle, Blade for Marmion, Fitzgerald for Daly, Kilgallen for O’Halloran

Irish international Kieran Marmion says that Connacht have drawn a line under last Saturday’s defeat to Munster and are keen to return to winning ways in this upcoming weekend’s interprovincial clash against Ulster at the Aviva Stadium. 

 

After a strong performance from the Westerners — which included tries from Jack Carty, who also kicked a conversion and two penalties and Paul Boyle — their southern neighbours eked out a win with a late try in a physical encounter that finished 20-18 in favour of the hosts at Thomond Park. 

 

While it was frustrating to lose, Marmion is confident the squad will take the lessons and positives from it and move their focus to their face-off against Ulster. 

 

“We parked it Monday,’’ the scrum-half said. 

 

“What happened happened. We felt we put in a much better performance than the week before. Obviously, we were a bit disappointed not getting a result, but I think we can take away how we showed up and how we ran them close. We obviously wanted to win, but we can take confidence going into this weekend.”

 

“I think it was a typical InterPro performance. We spoke among ourselves about how we can do that every week. Just the emotions of the occasion, I think it brings the best out of everyone, but we need to deliver every week if we want to be finishing at the top of the table.”

 

Conor Oliver, meanwhile, who excelled in the Munster game paid tribute to the impact made by new forwards coach Dewald Senekal. 

 

The South African coach — who acquired extensive experience both playing and coaching in France — joined Connacht in the summer and Oliver says the pack as a whole are already seeing the benefit. 

 

“Look, it’s brilliant for us”, the openside flanker said of Dewald’s influence. 

 

“We’re really enjoying having him here. It’s very technical with him. All the one-percenters that not a lot people will see, even things like the lift quality in the line out and stuff like that. 

 

“I would say the amount of work he does on his laptop when he’s outside of the Sportsground is nuts. He has all the sessions coded down, of even every game and every lift that someone has done, so the work he’s put in has really filtered down to us as a pack and we’re really buying into that and we’re really enjoying having him here so far.”

 

Elsewhere, head coach Andy Friend is confident that Connacht can secure a win against the in-form Ulster if they stick to their principles. 

 

The Northern province have won all of their opening four games — winning each with a try bonus point — and play a balanced game that incorporates strong running, an efficient maul, and an accurate kicking game. 

 

However, while acknowledging the Ulster strengths, Friend is keen for his team to impose their style of play on the designated visitors for Saturday’s Aviva Stadium clash of provinces. 

 

“First and foremost, they’re the number one team in the competition at the moment: four wins and four bonus-point victories in their four games, maximum points. They’re scoring lots of tries and not conceding too many,” the Australian said. 

 

“They’re a good football side, we know that. They appear to put a big focus on their maul, which will test us. As well as their running game and their kicking game, they like to move the ball up the field through those two methods. 

 

“Listen, we’re gonna have to be on our best performance to knock them off, but we’re comfortable with the game style that we have got and the way that our game is improving. If we can keep that intensity that we showed at Thomond Park last weekend, it will be a very interesting contest.”

 

Jack Carty produced an excellent performance for Connacht in the Munster game — tacking thirteen points onto the scoreboard via a try, two penalties and conversion — and Friend believes his consistency should secure him a berth in the upcoming Irish squad. 

 

There are other players in the Westerners’ playing staff who deserve international recognition, the former Australia sevens coach believes. 

 

Ireland name their squad for their November series tests against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina this evening. 

 

“I thought he was really brilliant, I really did. I think Jack has played some lovely rugby this year and I think he played some great rugby last year too. I would certainly have him there or thereabouts, but it’s not up to me to pick the team, so we’ll wait to see what Andy(Farrell) and his selectors do tomorrow.” 

Connacht Rugby battle training in the rain today ahead of their clash against Ulster Rugby this weekend in the Aviva Stadium. Check out the gallery below.

Have you bought your tickets yet? Join us at the Aviva this Saturday 23rd at 17:15

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 Munster 20

Connacht 18

 

Connacht were narrowly defeated by Munster in the United Rugby Championship tonight in a keenly fought contest at Thomond Park. 

 

Despite a converted try and two penalties from Jack Carty and a Paul Boyle touchdown, the visitors were ultimately pipped by the hosts who had two Joey Carbery penalties and conversions and tries from Chris Cloete and Diarmuid Barron to thank for their points. 

 

Connacht started the game with breakneck tempo and they had a score to show for their efforts after barely a minute of play. 

 

A well-orchestrated set-piece routine saw Mack Hansen speed through a gap and offload to Bundee Aki, who, in turn, found Conor Oliver with a pass. Munster infringed and the away team were awarded a penalty that Carty slotted with ease to open the scoring at 3-0.

 

After absorbing pressure from the hosts, the Westerners launched an attack of their own and this yielded a penalty which Carty — showing composure — slotted to make it 6-0 for the away team in what was proving to be a profitable opening ten minutes. 

 

Munster were in the ascendancy, in terms of possession and territory, but Connacht — with Aki, Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver especially prominent — were resolute in defence, be it at the breakdown, maul or in open play. 

 

The Westerners — who were reduced to 14 men temporarily when Sammy Arnold was unfortunate to slip into a high tackle — held the hosts at bay until the stroke of half time but Cloete, diving on a deflected kick through, pounced on a ball in the 22 to score the games first try. Carbery converted and Connacht went into the interval trailing by a point at 7-6. 

 

The home team began the second half in a similar manner to the way they ended the first and they capitalised on this when Carbery scored the first points of the second period with a penalty to take the score to 10-6 in favour of Munster. 

 

Connacht weren’t deterred, however, and they wrestled their way back into the game and earned a number of penalties deep in the Munster 22 with enterprising attacks. Showing quick thinking, number eight Boyle chose to take a quick tap penalty and he dove in for the Westerners’ first try of the evening and the away team took the lead at 11-10.

 

The leads swapped hands again when Carbery kicked Munster back into the lead with a penalty to set up a tense final twenty-minutes. 

 

Connacht kept in the fight, however, and they were rewarded for their doggedness when Carty — showing determination — charged down a kick from Carbery before collecting the ricochet to touch down for a try that he converted to give the away team an 18-13 lead. 

 

In what was a topsy turvy encounter, Munster were next to take the lead when Barron barged over from short range for a try that Carbery converted to take the score to 20-18 to the home team.

 

That’s the way the contest ended and the home team narrowly took the intepro, 20-18.

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: Tiernan O’Halloran 

14: John Porch 

13: Sammy Arnold 

12: Bundee Aki 

11: Mack Hansen 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Caolin Blade

 

(8-1)

 

8: Paul Boyle 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Cian Prendergast

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Matthew Burke.

 

Replacements: 

 

Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Greg McGrath for Matthew Burke, Jack Aungier for Finlay Bealhan, Eoghan Masterson for Ultan Dillane, Abraham Papali’i for Boyle, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Jarrad Butler for Prendergast, Tom Daly.

Fly-half Jack Carty says that Connacht will take learnings from last weekend’s home defeat to The Dragons and will apply them to the rest of their season, starting with Saturday’s United Rugby Championship Interpro versus Munster at Thomond Park. 

 

Despite leading at halftime, the Westerners eventually lost 35-22 to the Welshmen in last Saturday’s 5:15 PM kick-off at the Sportsground. 

 

However, the Irish international is confident that Connacht can bounce back at a venue where they won last season, but admits it will be an arduous task against their 100% winning record boasting southern rivals. 

 

“We spoke about backing up a big performance with another one after last week(The Bulls game), but unfortunately we didn’t do that,” the Roscommon native said. 

 

“It was bitterly disappointing and I think there was a couple of things there like if we scored Bladey’s try we go in at halftime with a bigger lead and I think it changes the dynamic a small bit. 

 

‘We were a bit flat throughout the game and it was a bit disappointing because we had a good week, and again we didn’t back it up how we wanted to.”

 

“It usually comes down to an error, or a piece of brilliance, if you think about the game last year,” Carty said of the generally tight encounters between Munster and Connacht. 

 

“Mike Haley, with a piece of brilliance from him, fielded a high ball and ended up scoring. We ended up getting a yellow card at a pivotal point and that was the turning of the game. 

 

“And down there in Thomond, we kind of grinded it out and held them out in the end. Usually, they’re one score games and it comes down to those finer things, like discipline, staying in the fight and sticking to what our game will be. When we play against Munster, it’s always a dog fight and always those one or two little pivotal things that are the making or the breaking of the game.”

 

Carty, 29, referenced Connacht’s win against The Bulls — a team with a similar size and athletic profile to Munster — as the kind of standard the Westerners will need to hit once again if they are to win the upcoming interprovincial. 

 

“Yeah, I think so. That’s the benchmark, defensively and in an attack sense, that everything from that point on would be that or more. Munster have totally changed the way they have played in certain facets of the game as well. 

 

“It will be a bit different from how they’ve been previously. They are obviously incredibly good in the air, and they have changed in how they look to shift the ball into the wider edges and in terms of where their players are going in terms of kick receipts. 

 

“It should be really interesting and it’s always a tight game when you go down there and it’s going to come down to the top two inches.”

 

Meanwhile, senior attack coach Pete Wilkins says Connacht are on track to improve, despite last weekend’s reversal to the Dragons. 

 

The Englishman, who moved from his defensive coaching berth to senior attack coach role this summer, said that there are positives for the Westerners to take — even in defeat — and that progress towards an enhanced style of play is clear for the coaching staff to see. 

 

And Wilkins is confident that squad will move forwards and adapt further to their new style of play and overall strategy. 

 

“I think that any time you’re going to change the way you play the game — particularly in an overall identity — it’s not going to be done in one pre-season, in one or two or three games,” Wilkins said. 

 

“If you can start to see a real semblance of that identity come together in the middle of that first season, I think that’s a good outcome. That said, you need to see key markers along the way. On a game-by-game basis, you want to see those aspects of your identity growing as you go, you don’t just wait six months and be patient, you need to see that building and then see that final product halfway through the season. 

 

“In that sense, I’m happy with how we’re tracking and every game gives us the opportunity to learn where we’re at and how we can fix things.”

 

“Unfortunately, sometimes you have to go through that pain and learn those lessons by reviewing it. But what you don’t want to see is that being repeated week by week, you want to see growth. We’re on track, we’re on the right track. There are some difficult lessons out of a defeat like that but we take the lessons and we will move forwards.”

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

Connacht Rugby are delighted to share details of additional transport options to the Aviva Stadium for our historic URC fixture with Ulster Rugby on the 23rd October (k/o 5.15pm).

Thanks to our partners CityLink, as well as a new agreement with Irish Rail, we are making it as easy as possible for our supporters to travel from the West to our ‘Day of Celebration’ at the home of Irish Rugby.

Here’s all you need to know:

Travelling by bus
Connacht Rugby have come together with our partners CityLink to offer supporters an easy and stress-free way of getting supporters directly to the Aviva Stadium, all at a discounted rate.

A number of buses will depart from The Sportsground on the morning of the game, and will bring fans directly to the Aviva Stadium. These return fares will be priced at a discounted rate of just €20 for those with tickets to the game.

If that’s not all, all supporters travelling with Citylink will be automatically entered into a draw to win a signed Connacht Rugby jersey! There’ll also be a number of surprises waiting for you when you board.

So head to www.citylink.ie now to book your sport.

Travelling by train
We are thrilled that Irish Rail have agreed to operate a late train on Saturday evening, giving supporters ample time to make their way back to Heuston Station and onwards back home.

This train will leave Heuston at 20:20 and will serve Athlone, Ballinasloe, Woodlawn, Athenry and Oranmore, before arriving back in Galway at 22:38.

This is in addition to the usual Saturday services that will depart Galway at 06:25, 07:30, 09:30, 11:05 and 13:05, all of which will get you to Dublin in time for the game.

There are also services that will depart from Sligo at 06:40, 09:05, 11:05 and 13:05, as well as trains from Westport at 07:15, 09:45 and 13:10.

The last train from Connolly Station to Sligo as also been pushed back to the latest allowed time of 19:40.

To book your ticket head to www.irishrail.ie, and do so sooner rather than later to ensure your spot.

 

FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE

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