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Pressure on Connacht to deliver eighth consecutive victory over the Dragons

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Monivea's Caolin Blade who will start at scrum half for Connacht's away clash against the Dragons on Friday night.

NEWPORT Gwent Dragons has been a ‘banker’ fixture for Connacht Rugby in recent seasons, with the Westerners toppling the east Welsh outfit seven times in their past seven meetings.

And making it eight wins from eight this Friday at Rodney Parade (7.15pm) is imperative if Connacht are to reignite their league campaign and make a push towards the business end of the PRO 12 table.

It is early days yet but defeat to the Dragons is unconscionable for the reigning PRO 12 champions. Recent triumphs over Edinburgh and Ulster, coupled with two wins in Europe over Toulouse and Zebre, replenished the belief that Connacht was back on track after an inauspicious start to the 2016/2017 campaign.

But last weekend’s heavy defeat away to Leinster has reminded everyone that Pat Lam’s men, since returning to action in September, are not operating at anywhere near last season’s best.

Losing at the RDS wasn’t such a bad result in itself – Leinster’s home record at this venue against Connacht is flawless.

The problem was the manner in which Connacht lost their way after taking a 6-0 lead, and the way they were strangled by the hosts. They were outmuscled and outfought and outthought by Leo Cullen’s lions.

Connacht did show some flashes of brilliance, that was a trademark of last year, and but for some poor decision making, they could have been closer than the 13-24 result at the finish.

But as Judge Judy would say: ‘Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda’. Overall the display was below par, and performance levels dipped when Craig Ronaldson was forced off with concussion after just 20 minutes.

The centre, who is now the preferred kicker from the tee, was going through the ‘return to play’ protocols and Connacht will be hoping he will be fit enough to be named in the starting XV, which will be announced at noon Thursday.

For years, Connacht supporters bemoaned the lack of representation on the senior international team. But the flip side of having top class players in the Ireland set-up, is that this weekend three front-line leaders – Kieran Marmion, Ultan Dillane and Finlay Bealham – are in Chicago as Joe Schmidt’s squad face the All Blacks Stateside this weekend.

Marmion’s absence gives Monivea out-half Caolin Blade a chance to shine; and although Tiernan O’Halloran can feel hard done by not to have been on the plane to US, Connacht will be glad to have someone of his experience as they head to Wales.

Considering that Ronan Loughney (hamstring) is still unavailable for another two weeks, Bealham is away and Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney and Conan O’Donnell remain out, Connacht are light on first-choice front-rowers.

 

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Referee shortage sees local games called off

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The Salthill Devon side that beat Corrib Celtic 4-1 in Drom last Friday night. Back row from left: Jackson Da Silva, Andrew Connolly, Cillian Doyle, Shane O’Rourke, Calum Crowe, and Arek Mamala. Front: Matthew Barrett, Darren Darcy, Matthew Murray, Michael Gallagher and Vinny Faherty. Photos: Iain McDonald.

Soccer Wrap with Mike Rafferty

It is not often that Mervue United have to wait until the third series of games in the Premier Division to get their first win, but after earlier losses to Maree/Oranmore and Athenry they finally secured their first success on the all-weather at Fahy’s Field on Sunday morning.

A 2-1 win over St Bernard’s moved them off the foot of the table, but in a close contest it was an outcome that could have gone either way. Mayo native Eoin Prendergast took both his goals well, although they were of the simple variety as deliveries over the top exposed the visitors cover and the former Conn Rangers striker was left with simple tap-in’s as they led by two at the break.

In contrast the St Bernard’s reply was a cracking effort as Matty Finn crossed from the right and the inrushing Paddy Mullins headed powerfully past Rob Carr to pull one back.

The visitors had plenty of opportunities to get back on level terms, but it was an occasion when their finishing let them down. Twice Dillon Murphy threatened a breakthrough, but his opening effort few across the face of goal; before failing to connect with a Keith Forde delivery.

Brian Moran had an effort that was easily gathered by Rob Carr, before Matty Finn was well off target with a late chance. All the opportunities were not at the one end, as Mervue threatened when Robert Carroll headed over following a Eli Sheedy corner; while Prendergast missed a great chance to complete his hat-trick, but fired over from in front of goal after a neat knockdown by Stephen Larkin set him up.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Lyons’ spectacular bicycle kick carries day for United

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Mikie Rowe of Galway United and Cork City's Cian Coleman in a race for possession during Friday night's First Division tie at Eamonn Deacy Park.

Galway United  2

Cork City 1

By Mike Rafferty at Eamonn Deacy Park

THERE is no doubt that the Galway United players will have had more of a pep in their step at training this week as their come-from-behind victory over Cork City at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night finally ended their five match winless streak and. hopefully, in the process installed a bit of confidence in their own ability.

No doubt the fact that the visitors would have clinched the Airtricity First Division title if they were to win was a further incentive for the home side to raise their game to a level that had gone missing in recent outings.

However, United did fall behind for the fourth game in succession, before two goals in a three minute spell by Wilson Waweru and Charlie Lyons rescued the situation and moved them to within seven points of the league leaders. United do enjoy a game in hand and while they are free this weekend, their next outing away against Treaty United will bring them level on games played with Cork City.

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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CITY TRIBUNE

Connacht thrashed by Ulster but internationals return for tough South African trip

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Connacht's Caolin Blade who scored their only try in Saturday's heavy URC defeat to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium.

By JOHN FALLON

ANDY Friend says Connacht need to pick up the pieces quickly from an opening night hammering (36-10) to Ulster after going down by five tries to one in Belfast.

Ulster dominated the opening half and were good value for their 14-3 lead as Connacht had to defend for long periods of a half littered with mistakes by both sides.

Centres Luke Marshall and Stuart McCloskey were dominant and the two combined for the opening score after 27 minutes, before 21-year old hooker Tom Stewart crowned his first start by punishing poor defending when he looped around a lineout to score three minutes from the break.

Connacht finished the half with a boost when Conor Fitzgerald landed a penalty from 35 metres to cut the gap to 11 points but they fell apart after the restart, coughing up six penalties in ten minutes.

Scrum-half Nathan Doak extended the lead with a 45th minute penalty and then he touched down for a try six minutes later when Stewart was stopped just short.

Doak’s third conversion made it 24-3 as both sides emptied their benches and Ulster secured the bonus point when full-back Stewart Moore got over after Connacht No.8 Paul Boyle was binned for offiside.

Replacement scrum-half Caolin Blade got over for a consolation try ten minutes from time after former Leinster out-half David Hawkshaw also impressed after coming on, but other than the performance of another ex-Leinster player, flanker Josh Murphy, there were few other consolations as Ulster finished on a high with replacement prop Callum Reid getting the touchdown and Doak converting from the right.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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