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Connacht fail to take their chances in tough contest

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An Sruthan, Killimor

Wasps 32

Connacht 17

 

SINCE that glorious day in Edinburgh back in May, the news feed emanating from Connacht has not been good and we all need to acknowledge that at this stage.

Bar a few wonderful weeks in October – where they toppled Ulster and Toulouse and announced extended deals for Ultan Dillane and Bundee Aki – it has been one frustrating story after another.

Connacht arrived in Coventry on Sunday hoping to kick start a new narrative, a European Champions Cup story like never before. They are the first squad from the province to be a genuine quarter-final contender and the PRO12 champions took to the field in the Ricoh Arena rightfully bullish about their prospects, despite the home side’s glowing reputation.

It was a tough contest but by the 60 minute mark, all seemed well for the men from the west. They trailed by just three, owned the possession and territory stats and had sorted out the lineout which misfired badly for much of the first half. For a brief moment we wondered if this was to be the turning point in the campaign, what better way to push back against a tide of bad news than with a huge win in Europe’s major competition.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Jack Carty missed a kick to level the game and within a couple of minutes, Wasps notched a try from their captain Joe Launchbury for a ten point swing. That was game over for Coventry based side, a bonus point fourth try was inevitable from there on and it came around the 70 minute mark from Josh Bassett.

Connacht trundled off the field in the end, well beaten and with a multitude of new injuries to contend with ahead of the return leg on Saturday. They’ve no out half left to back up Jack Carty, no fully fit experienced centre option outside of Rory Parata (who by the way, is covering ten too). Wingers are dropping like flies, plenty of flankers and second rows are unavailable too. Only Carty attempted kicks in the warm up.

The bad news just keeps coming, Tiernan O’Halloran and Bundee Aki are touch and go for the rematch with Wasps in Galway. The longer term list of injured backs now includes Cian Kelleher, Peter Robb, Craig Ronaldson, Shane O’Leary, Stacey Ili and most disappointingly of all key signing Marnitz Boshoff – out until least March with a serious shoulder injury.

Connacht are not converting scoring chances at anything like the rate they need to this year. In almost every away game this season they have had a shed load of possession and territory, but botched chance after chance. Fixtures against Scarlets, Leinster, the Dragons and now Wasps. All lost by more than a score, all marked by a failure to convert. The one exception came against the totally inept opposition Zebre in October.

It was a familiar tale Sunday as they burst out of the blocks with great moments of attacking play that underline why their supporters still fully believe the team can turn a corner. A bulldozing scrum against the head where the excellent Conor Carey drove into Matt Mullen and Denis Buckley completely overwhelmed ten-time capped Irish international Marty Moore set the tone.

Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune

 

Connacht Tribune

Collins comes to Cappy’s rescue in absorbing clash

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Tommy Larkins' Keith Dervan is chased by Liam Collins of Cappataggle during Sunday's Senior A clash in Loughrea. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Tommy Larkins 1-18

Cappataggle 0-21

 By Mike Rafferty in Loughrea

RONAN Murphy provided the inspiration as Tommy Larkins got the outcome they required as their second place finish to Senior A Group 2 winners Loughrea sees them advance to the quarter-final draw of the hurling championship.

For Cappataggle, there was huge disappointment of not getting the required win that would have seen them advance directly to the knock out stages, but they have the compensation of a place in the preliminary draw.

This was a titanic battle. The hurling was fast and direct at times, but much to the annoyance of some in attendance the short puck out was used productively at both ends as the sides tried the short passing game from the back.

Without a doubt Tommy Larkins laid down the quickest foundations and only for some erratic shooting would have been more that five points ahead at the break. They probably never got an opportunity to build on the Jason Flynn goal that arrived on 29 minutes, but once the sides came out for the restart it was all Cappataggle as they tore into the opposition and had made enough ground to take the lead at the end of the third quarter.

From there to the end, it was nip and tuck as Ronan Murphy and Cian Duggan at one end and Liam Collins and Niall Collins at the other, struck over some wonderful scores to edge matters one way and then the other. Indeed, it took a late pointed free by Collins to secure the draw for Cappataggle and they were lucky to leave with even a point as Murphy, in a rare error, fluffed his lines when putting a late free wide to leave matter finishing on level terms.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

A remarkable rally sees St Thomas’ reel in the ’Bridge

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Clarinbridge's Conor Lee tries to shake off the attentions of St Thomas' Victor Manso during Saturday's Senior A Group tie at Kenny Park. Photos: David Cunniffe.

St. Thomas’ 4-20

Clarinbridge 4-17

DARREN KELLY AT KENNY PARK

NOTHING at ‘stake’ but pride and last year’s two senior hurling championship finalists had plenty of that on Saturday as St. Thomas and Clarinbridge served up a thriller in their final group game.

Both teams were already guaranteed places in the knockout stages but for the winners, a path straight through to the quarter-finals proper was the reward and they played like that meant everything.

Obviously, neither side wanted to show weakness ahead of a potential showdown later in the year. The contest even had a half-time scuffle that resulted in yellow cards for St. Thomas’ duo John Headd and Conor Cooney.

Despite all that and the changing weather, the hurling was the only item for discussion afterwards. Three first half Clarinbridge goals gave them a 3-10 to 0-11 interval lead.  Four green flags for St. Thomas in the second period reminded the county that they still are the team to beat.

And that was the talking point before throw-in following their 22-match unbeaten streak ending with a heavy defeat to Turloughmore two weeks previously. And it wasn’t looking any better for St. Thomas’ when TJ Brennan struck a second minute goal for Clarinbridge.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Sarsfields shade the verdict again in their spiritual home

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Turloughmore's Mikey Morris is chased by Ian Fox and Mark O'Regan of Sarsfields during Saturday's Senior A encounter at Duggan Park.

Sarsfields 0-18

Turloughmore 0-17

SARSFIELDS don’t lose too many tight matches at their spiritual home of Duggan Park and that trend continued in this slow-burning Senior A hurling championship clash on Saturday.

For three-quarters of the game, however, a close outcome appeared remote as the 2015 champions dictated the terms of engagement and continued to enjoy a healthy lead against wasteful opponents.

Turloughmore bore the gait of a team which still hadn’t come back down to earth after their unexpected trimming of St Thomas’ in the previous round. They lacked cohesion and urgency.

Their approach justified pre-match fears that, with both teams already through to the knock-out stages, this attractive fixture was compromised to some extent.

That backdrop had seemingly less impact on Sarsfields who tend to give their performance regardless of the circumstances. Up until the final quarter, they were relatively untroubled and heading for a comfortable victory.

But just when their supporters were on the brink of giving up on them, Turloughmore finally began to get motoring and despite assembling a crippling total of 17 wides, they had Sarsfields hanging on at the finish. They even had a chance to equalise in injury time only for Tom Quirke’s effort on the turn drifting wide.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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