Connacht’s trip to Springboks country off to a perfect start

Connacht winger Cian Kelleher makes a thumping tackle on Southern Kings prop Lupumolo Mguca during Sunday's PRO14 victory over Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
Connacht winger Cian Kelleher makes a thumping tackle on Southern Kings prop Lupumolo Mguca during Sunday's PRO14 victory over Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

Southern Kings 14

Connacht 31

Michael Glynn in Port Elizabeth

THE hotel where the group of seventy hardcore Connacht fans are staying may have run out of beer during the week, but no such crisis befell the team they travelled 10,000km to support as Andy Friend’s side produced a perfunctory, if not spectacular, performance to claim their maiden victory on South African soil.

The win, Connacht’s fifth of an inconsistent Pro14 campaign, leaves them in a healthy position in the race for the play-offs in Conference A of the league and they can consolidate their standing even further in their second game of a two-week tour of South Africa when they meet the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Having prepared for a week in advance in Capetown, Connacht flew into windy Port Elizabeth 24 hours before this contest and duly implemented their game plan in quite meticulous fashion in the Madibaz Stadium on the Nelson Mandela University campus against a home side laden with pace and brio.

In essence, Connacht imposed superiority in the basics of scrum, lineout, breakdown and maul and defended diligently when required to mostly deny their fleet-footed opponents the space and time they required to maximise their off-loading, high-tempo skills which had caused Leinster an amount of problems a fortnight before.

Truth to tell, once Connacht had gone 10-0 up inside ten minutes, their supremacy was rarely in doubt and when sub Paul Boyle, their discovery of the season, scythed through on an angular run in the 61st minute it secured a fully-merited bonus point.

The five points were testimony to their dominance up front, especially in the scrum, which yielded a penalty try, a yellow card for the Southern Kings and seven other penalties as well, but arguably equally effective were a rampaging back-row in which skipper Jarrad Butler once again excelled in his foraging and tackling work.

Despite fielding their own x-factor back-three, Connacht hardly ever gave the ball width and stuck to the formula of pressurising the home team in the tight exchanges and then pummelling them through the middle. It was precisely what was called for on a day climatically suited to the visitors with a temperature of just 22°C and a breeze that was difficult to assess.

For more,  read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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