The Connacht Eagles won their opening interpro game of the season, defeating Ulster Ravens 26 – 24 at Deramore Park in Belfast today.

Head Coach Nigel Carolan had eight players from his Academy in the match day squad and four of them crossed for tries this afternoon.

Number 8 and captain Eoghan Masterson was the first to get on the score sheet with a 5th minute try. New centre recruit Shane O’Leary kicked the conversion.

The Ravens responded with three tries of their own, two converted, all within 10 minutes of the first half.

Half time: Ulster Ravens 19 – 7 Connacht Eagles

The Eagles were the first to score after the restart with scrum half Caolin Blade touching down to bring his side to within seven points five minutes into the second half. It was another 25 minutes before the next score came and it was Galway man and Ireland U20’s winger Ciaran Gaffney who ran in. The conversion from Conor McKeon brought the score level at 19 – 19 with 10 minutes to play.

The Ravens pulled ahead on 72 minutes later with replacement Sam Arnold scoring but his side failed to convert this time.

In a dramatic finish, it was new Academy centre Peter Robb who equalised with his 79th minute try. Former Ireland U20’s outhalf McKeon, finding himself in a similar position when he stepped up to kick the deciding penalty for his club Lansdowne RFC in the AIL last week,  once again held his nerve to slot the touchline conversion for the Connacht Eagles to secure the win.

Full time: Ulster Ravens 24 – 26 Connacht Eagles

Ulster Ravens (15-9): Ricky Andrew; Jack Owens, Michael Allen, Luke Marshall, Ross Adair; Sean O’Hagan, David Shanahan; (1-8): Callum Black, John Andrew, Dave Ryan, John Donnan, Neil McComb, Sean Reidy, Clive Ross, Mike McComish;

Replacements: Kyle McCall, Johnny Murphy, Ricky Lutton, James Simpson, Frankie Taggart, John Creighton, Josh Bingham, Sam Arnold, Ryan Campbell, Jonny Rosborough, Charlie Butterworth.

Connacht Eagles (15-9): Ciarán Gaffney, Conor Finn, Shane O’Leary, Peter Robb, Dwayne Corcoran, Miah Nikora, Caolin Blade; (1-8): JP Cooney, Pat O’Toole, Finlay Bealham, Cian Romaine, Danny Qualter, Steve McVeigh, James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson (captain)

Replacements (all used): John Healy, Jacob Walshe, Jamie Dever, Josh Pim, Marc Kelly, Conor Lowndes, Conor McKeon, Aidan Moynihan


4 Connacht Academy players named in Irish U20 squad to face Wales