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Connacht Rugby trounce Zebre

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Crowds came to College Road for fireworks, and fireworks is what they got as Connacht Rugby defeated Zebre 43-3 on Friday night in the Guinness Pro12.

Pat Lam’s men picked up a try-bonus in their biggest win of the season, running in five tries in total, as they cut loose in the second half.

The main attraction was, of course, Mils Muliaina, Connacht Rugby’s first All-Black, whose significant pulling-power brought out almost 5,500 supporters despite the rainy conditions. He didn’t disappoint.

Capped 100 times for New Zealand, the World Cup winner made a few line breaks, and provided the assist that set-up winger Danie Poolman for the home side’s first try of the night in the right corner.

Afterwards, the 34-years-old was full of praise for the Connacht Rugby fans, and the electric atmosphere they created during his debut.

“The atmosphere was awesome. The supporters here are really passionate, especially in weather like this and to still have 5,000-odd crowd that turns up. We’re pretty pleased and we’re stoked about turning it on for them,” Muliaina told reporters.

Zebre, missing 13 internationals, were always going to struggle. But desperate discipline really punished them, and they conceded several tries when three of their players were sin-binned.

The fourth try was scored by scrum-half John Cooney, in his first start at the Sportsground, after a powerful break from George Naoupu from the base of the scrum on halfway. Substitute out-half Jack Carty finished the scoring with a break-away try.

Just as Muliaina was causing a stir in Galway, up the M6, on Saturday, another star of Connacht Rugby was lighting up the international stage at Lansdowne Road.

Robbie Henshaw, lining out in the number 13 jersey, put in a decent shift for Ireland, who clung on to beat Australia 26-23.

Improving with every international game he plays, the young Athlone centre was solid without being spectacular alongside Gordon D’Arcy. He kicked well, and made some yardage, while defensively Henshaw was a rock.

Henshaw’s performance against Australia, which backs up his impressive display against South Africa a fortnight ago, galvanises his starting position ahead of the Six Nation’s campaign in Spring and the 2015 World Cup.

He should be available for selection this weekend as Connacht Rugby welcome Scarlets in what is a completely different ball-game to Zebre.

Connacht are sixth in the league table, with 23 points, and are within striking distance of Leinster (24 points), Glasgow (27 points) and Munster (28 points).

The Scarlets are in seventh place in the table, just a point behind Connacht, and this mouth-watering clash is effectively an eight-pointer, in the scramble to secure European Cup qualification. Kick-off is at 7.30pm on Saturday. Tickets are available from the usual outlets.

Connacht Tribune

Aran Islands look to be hitting their stride at the perfect time

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Conal Ó hIarnáin had a fine game at midfield for Oileann Arainn in their win over Oranmore/Maree.

Oileáin Árann 0-18

Oranmore/Maree 1-9

Ivan Smyth at Pearse Stadium

Oranmore/Maree suffered defeat at the quarter final stage for the fourth year on the trot as they were simply outgunned by an Oileáin Árann side which has now reached its third semi-final in five years and appear to be peaking at the right time.

Nine players found the target for the winners compared to six for Oranmore/Maree, but it was the Islanders’ opening half display which was the key to this victory as they led by 0-10 to 0-3 at half time.

Oranmore/Maree were struggling to create chances as they kicked just two wides which coupled with their three first half points showed that they struggled to break through a physical Oileáin Árann outfit.

Sean Mulkerrin and Mark Ronaldson enjoyed an interesting duel as the Galway full-back was tasked with keeping the former Mayo forward quiet. The pair were both standout performers for their sides but aside from Ronaldson, Oranmore-Maree’s forwards struggled to make an impact on this game.

If you told Oileáin Árann that their top scorer in this year’s championship, Tyler Ó Flaithearta, would not register a score in this game, then they would have feared the worst. That’s what transpired although his teammates stood up to the plate as seven different players kicked scores in the opening half. With Ó Flaithearta kicking 1-19 and Ronaldson scoring 2-16 across the group stages, a shootout between the two was anticipated, but it never transpired.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Clarinbridge upset the odds to send Loughrea packing

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Clarinbridge's Mark Kennedy gets his pass away despite the best efforts of Loughrea's Neil Keary in their preliminary quarter-final clash in Athenry last Saturday. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Clarinbridge 1-10

Loughrea 1-7

Niall Canavan at Kenny Park

Clarinbridge pulled off a big upset when knocking a Loughrea outfit many deemed challengers for a county senior title out of the championship race at a wet Kenny Park, Athenry, last Saturday.

Incessant rain throughout ensured this wasn’t a day for the hurling purists as both sets of players struggled to stay on their feet as weather conditions worsened during a game that had the potential to be the tie of the round.

That said, while it had little of the free-flowing hurling that supporters would have hoped for, it was certainly a compelling contest between two teams who battled valiantly throughout.

In the end, Clarinbridge deserved to win: they had a better scoring threat with Michael Daly, Mark Kennedy and Gavin Lee prominent on an afternoon when scores were hard earned. Evan Niland, too, worked extremely hard, while Shane Bannon, TJ Brennan and Patrick Foley also played leading roles.

Loughrea, though, will be bitterly disappointed to exit the championship after their heroics against Sarsfields a week previously. They continued to play a short passing game, and, in the conditions, a more direct approach may have yielded better dividends.

Too often, they laboured in attack where the tussle between Jamie Ryan and Clarinbridge’s Shane Bannon was intriguing. They also hit some early wides, including three in the opening stages, and in a game that wasn’t going to be a high scoring contest, they were to prove costly.

Yet, they fought bravely to the end with Paul Huban, Johnny Coen, Caimin Killeen and Ryan to the fore on an afternoon when the introductions of the Mahony cousins, Emmett and Brian, could possibly have happened sooner given their experience. It was needed in the energy-sapping conditions.

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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Connacht Tribune

Favourites all advance in Junior Cup

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Athenry's Colm O'Donovan about to cross the ball against Tuam Celtic in last weekend's FAI Junior Cup match between the sides in Tuam Photo: Kennedy-Beirne, Eirefoto.

Soccer Wrap with Mike Rafferty

The potential for surprise is always a possibility in cup action, but while the weekend’s FAI Junior Cup’s six games saw some competitive contests, there was no outcome that could be considered as a shock.

Athenry had a real battle on their hands before they saw off Tuam Celtic by the odd goal in seven, while it was equally competitive as Gort United came from two down to level matters with Mervue United B, before the city side secured an additional time winner in a 5-4 success.

The meeting of two Premier Division sides saw Loughrea and Maree/Oranmore A go head-to-head and it was the visitors who ran out impressive winners here.

However, there was no joy for the Maree/Oranmore B side for despite taking the lead at home against Hibernians, it was the Premier Division outfit who turned on the power in the closing stages to pull away for victory. Elsewhere Salthill Devon and Mervue United also advanced in relevant comfort; while Ballinasloe Town also advanced with a win over Dunmore Town.

Tuam Celtic’s promotion to the Premier Division this season has seen them struggle on occasions, but they have proved that they have the ability to test the best on occasions and on Friday night under lights in Clonthue Road, they made visitors Athenry work very hard for a 4-3 win.

Last season’s beaten semi-finalists displayed all their quality in the opening quarter as goals by Adam Duffy and Cole Connolly, with a deflected effort, had them two up. The home side were struggling to get to the pace of the game in the early exchanges, but once they pulled one back through Mike Swinhoe, matters got more competitive.

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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