The Irish Times

Injury depleted Connacht pull out all stops to ground Falcons

Gritty workmanlik­e performanc­e enough for Lam’s side to maintain lead in pool

- LINLEY MacKENZIE at the Sportsgrou­nd

An injury-hit Connacht produced a winning performanc­e to maintain the lead of their European pool, securing a hard-fought victory over the Newcastle Falcons at the Galway Sportsgrou­nd.

It was a gritty performanc­e from the home side, which having lost 18 players to injury, suffered another setback prior to kick-off, losing fullback and captain Tiernan O’Halloran.

However the 4,346-strong crowd were rewarded with a deserved victory, carved by Connacht in the final 10 minutes when they were a man down. Although leading from start to finish, the game hung in the balance when the visitors reduced the deficit to just two points with a 56th-minute try, having previously only posted one successful kick.

Connacht had outscored their opponents by three penalties to two in an opening half marked more for endeavour than clinical edge from both sides. Opening with intent, Connacht were rewarded with an early penalty – Jack Carty kicking the three-pointer from the 22 after the Falcons strayed offside.

Taken out

Although Newcastle started to test the home defence, it was Carty who stroked over a second penalty from the 10-metre line when Matt Healy was taken out late on the counteratt­ack.

With both sides looking to keep the ball in hand, the Falcons big pack were able to gain ground, ensuring Connacht were kept on their toes until good work at the breakdown from Finlay Bealham forced a relieving penalty.

However, Connacht continued to dominate territoria­lly, but unable able to make it count on the scoreboard. Two crooked lineouts and the concession of frees at the scrum hampered their momentum, while the Falcons did well to stymie an attempted driving maul from a penalty kicked to touch.

And it was a poor pass from Connacht that proved costly, allowing the visitors to secure possession and against the run of play attack down the wings. The result was a penalty for the Falcons after Connacht were penalised defending their attempted rolling maul, and outhalf Craig Willis stroked over the three points after 34 minutes.

It gave the visitors huge boost, given the limited chances they had created, but Connacht were quickly back on attack. With their backs stretching the Falcons’ defence, Newcastle centre Christophe­r Harris strayed offside at the breakdown, and Carty struck perfectly his 30-metre penalty from just inside the right touchline to take a 9-3 lead at the break.

Carty extended the lead to 12-3 within seven minutes of the break after superb work by Peter Robb at the breakdown, but within a minute Newcastle had the opportunit­y to reply.

Aly Muldowney was judged to be holding on at the breakdown, but Willis’s kick was well wide, a let-off for the home side.

Superb offloading

However it gave the visitors some moment and some superb offloading, Zach Kibirige sweet kick was mishandled and Richard Mayhew was just held up.

It demanded a huge effort from Connacht to relieve the pressure and they duly obliged, winning a penalty form the resulting five-metre scrum. The Falcons, however, continue to piling on the pressure and they took their chance from a rolling maul. It looked like Connacht had halted their momentum, but eventually the try was scored, with Willis adding the extras to bring the visitors within two points.

Carty pushed the lead out to five on 62 minutes, having missed a kick from the same position some minutes earlier, while Catterick missed a straightfo­rward effort on 68 minutes when Connacht’s Rory Parata was sinbinned for a deliberate knock-on. When Carty stretched the lead the eight with a three pointer with 10 minutes remaining, it provided some breathing space with the home side down a player.

It galvanised Connacht and they took control, edging closer to the try line until Danie Poolman opted for a grubber some six metres out, and raced through to touch down for the final try five minutes from the final whistle. Man of the match Carty added the conversion to put the game beyond Newcastle’s reach.

 ??  ?? Connacht’s Jack Carty was named man of the match after the game at the Sportsgrou­nd
Connacht’s Jack Carty was named man of the match after the game at the Sportsgrou­nd

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