Oliver and Porch star in Connacht‘s dominant win over Scarlets

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Connacht got their first five-point win of the season against a disappointing Scarlets in a rainy Sportsgrounds on Friday night. Conor Oliver and John Porch put in great performances.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS 

MATCH REVIEW

On Tuesday column I declared this a must win game for Connacht during the week and I think most fans would have agreed with me, so to come away with the win plus a bonus point is a huge result.

Connacht have not started games well so far this year, but they couldn’t have started this game any better as straight from the kick-off, Niall Murray blocked down an attempted box kick clearance from Scarlet’s scrum-half Kieran Hardy and touched down for an opening try within 30 seconds on the clock.

 

Connacht fans would have assumed that try would have settled the team and an easy win was on the cards but that was not the case. Both teams traded penalties and neither team really got a foothold in the game. The conditions may have been one of the reasons for that, however.

 

A game of kick tennis then began with both teams trying to pin the opposition back and force a mistake and the ball stayed in play for nearly two minutes straight. Which in rugby is an eternity. In that two-minute span the ball was kicked eleven times. The eleventh kick was by Mack Hansen, and it was a poor kick. It looked like he was trying to kick to touch but if he was, he missed by quite a margin. Mack then is the first person to meet the attacker and fatigue seems to kick in and Johnny McNicholl steps him and one pass later Steff Evans is over in the corner for Scarlets only try of the game. This is where I think Connacht need to be smarter, just kick to touch and get the breath back. Two minutes of ball in play time is going to show on the legs and with Connacht’s line-out now a real weapon, the decision should have been made to kick for touch much earlier.

 

Connacht scored a big try in the 35th minute to open up a gap after both teams continued to trade penalties. Connacht applied constant pressure to the Scarlets in their 22 and sucked in the pack with a barrage of pick and go’s. Connacht captain Jack Carty sensed an opportunity out wide so called for the ball and flung a deep pass to Mack Hansen who cut back on one player and finished in the corner for five points. At half-time the score was 16-11 and it seemed a fair reflection on the game.

 

Connacht started the second half riding their luck. Several times bad decisions were made and luckily, they were not punished as Scarlets had shot themselves in the foot by conceding a penalty of some description.

Then the luckiest break of the evening came when Paul Boyle was only shown a yellow card after a Scarlets player ended up on his head.

https://twitter.com/smallclone_/status/1583545279822766081?s=46&t=a83Dm79w8U9tlqmDDMiaew

I personally believe a yellow card was the correct decision. It is not Paul Boyle’s fault that the player was lifted above horizontal, Niall Murray drives through the ruck which causes the lifting motion. What Paul Boyle did was not intentionally reckless, it was the result of a different players actions. A red card for that I feel would have been harsh but I understand the argument for player safety here.

 

Connacht handled the 10-minute sin bin period really well. They kept the ball in Scarlets territory and got rewarded when replacement Jack Aungier powered over and some great work from the Connacht pack.  To go down to fourteen players and score a try is a huge boost for any team.

 

Connacht’s indiscipline kept Scarlets in this game much longer than they deserved to be.

Repeatedly giving Rhys Patchell kickable penalties to stay within seven points.

 

The last 10 minutes is where Connacht really asserted themselves on Scarlets. Using their line-out to devastating effect, Connacht forced a yellow card to Scarlets number 8 Sione Kalamafoni. This was the beginning of the end for Scarlets as Connacht continued pushing the tempo. A penalty try and another yellow card sealed the win and the bonus point try.

The remaining minutes became scrappy with the two-man advantage and Connacht tacked on another try late when after the ball broke loose near halfway, Jack Carty placed a lovely grubber kick through for Mack to chase and touch down in the corner.

22-point win and most importantly 5 points on the league table.

 

Positives:

I know it seems simple, but I expected Connacht to win that game, and they did. Too often Connacht lose games they shouldn’t and in normally very frustrating manners. They were the better team last night and it was clear to see in the second half.

Connacht beating scarlets

It was great to see Connacht finally getting points for all their pressure in the opposing 22. Last week scoring zero points hurt and didn’t reflect the game. Scoring 36 points in slippery conditions was a fair haul for the performance.

 

The individual performances again were outstanding. The pack were fantastic. Niall Murray showed us once again he is going to be one of Connachts great players and Conor Oliver put it a savage performance to win man of the match.

The set piece once again was solid as a rock and our line-out in particular has been one of the best in the league so far.

In the backs John porch again stood out, his effort and passion always visible and he needs to be re-signed this year. The centre-partnership of Hawkshaw and Ralston has been really good the past 3 weeks and both players have impressed coming into a new team like they have.

 

Negatives:

Discipline. I am sick of saying it, but it kept Scarlets in that game for long periods last night and most of the penalties are so avoidable. Eleven conceded last night but it seemed a lot more watching the game live.

 Connacht still haven’t really unlocked this attack.


They worked their scores well on Friday, but we still haven’t seen a really nice strike play from a scrum or a lineout this season. We saw plenty last year but this year it just seems a tad lethargic at times. It could be due to new players coming in but so far, Connacht haven’t looked the most creative.

TEAMS

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (rep: Alex Wootton ’69), John Porch, Byron Ralston (rep: Cathal Forde ’65), David Hawkshaw, Mack Hansen, Jack Carty (CAPT), Kieran Marmion (rep: Colm Reilly ’55), Denis Buckley (Jordan Duggan ’65), Dave Heffernan (rep: Dylan Tierney-Martin ’55), Finlay Bealham (rep: Jack Aungier 52) , Niall Murray, Leva Fifita (rep: Oisin Dowling ’52), Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle (48-58, yellow card – rep: Butler ’58)

Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl, Corey Baldwin, Steff Evans, Jonathan Davies (CAPT), Ryan Conbeer, Sam Costelow (rep: Rhys Patchell ’52), Kieran Hardy (rep: Dane Blacker ’50), Steff Thomas (rep: Kemsley Mathias ’65), Ken Owens (rep: Ryan Elias ’52), Harri O’Connor (rep: WillGriff John ’65), Jac Price (rep: Morgan Jones ’55), Tom Price, Josh Macleod, Dan Thomas (rep: ), Sione Kalamafoni

Replacements:  Iwan Shenton Eddie James

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU)

LiveScores Now Available at IrishScores.com

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