Battling Connacht dig deep to survive sweltering conditions

Connacht centre Tom Farrell on his to scoring a first-half try against the Cheetahs in Saturday's PRO14 encounter in Bloemfontein.
Connacht centre Tom Farrell on his to scoring a first-half try against the Cheetahs in Saturday's PRO14 encounter in Bloemfontein.

Cheetahs 17

Connacht  21

Michael Glynn in Bloemfontein

CONNACHT may have lacked the precision and quality of the previous week but dug deep into their reservoir of determination and bravery to tough out a second victory of their South African adventure in lung-burning conditions in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Always in front, it nevertheless took a supreme effort late on to seal a third Guinness Pro14 win in a row in a game in which the sweltering heat and the thin air of the High Veld had them running on empty from a long way out and left the outcome insecure right up to the sound of the siren. They became only the third team, after Munster and Glasgow, to win both legs of the South African challenge.

The fact that they protected their lead to the final whistle reflects extremely favourably on their determination and cussedness in such alien conditions in the magnificent, but near-empty, Toyota Stadium, yet it has to be recognised also that the Cheetahs left at least three tries behind them over the course of the 80 minutes through bouts of deplorable handling and a succession of knock-ons that marred some exhilarating off-loading and attacking by them.

A measure of Connacht’s obduracy is that they traded on little over 40% each of possession and territorial gains and significantly trailed the home side in terms of metres made (387m against 697m) and carries (23 against 43) over the course of the 80 minutes. And, proportionately, those figures were even more weighted against them in the second half.

What was absolutely imperative then was that Connacht displayed the utmost discipline, which they did by conceding only six penalties for the second week in succession, and defended stoutly in the face of some lightning-quick moves, forcing the Cheetahs into many, but not all, of their handling aberrations.

For more,  read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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