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Rugby | Pro14

Luzuko Vulindlu © Gallo Images

Connacht set-piece kills Kings challenge

Two tries in the space of the last six minutes of the first half set Connacht on the road to a 32-10 bonus point win over the Southern Kings in a second round Guinness PRO14 match played in Galway on Saturday evening.

The Kings were competitive for the first half hour and delivered a strong second half performance and might have challenged for the win were it not for the soft moment that let Connacht in for a try just after they themselves had scored a good one through Berton Klaasen. In the space of those six minutes, the hosts went from a 10-5 advantage to 24-5, which was the halftime score, and there was too much ground for the Eastern Cape side to make up after that.

The reality facing both the Kings and their fellow South African participants in the competition, the Cheetahs, is that there is a much stronger emphasis on first phase dominance in the northern hemisphere, and it was there that the foundation for the Connacht victory was laid.

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The Kings were under frequent pressure in the scrums, and that prevented them from retaining attacking momentum in the periods where they were in opposition territory in the second half. It was the dominant Connacht scrum that set up the John Muldoon try that made the halftime score look more lopsided than had seemed likely for most of the first half.

The Kings lineout work was also sloppy - indeed it was more of a concern than the scrum on the night - and the Connacht jumpers were allowed to steal far too many balls against the throw, all of which contributed to the Port Elizabeth team’s defeat. However, the one thing that can be said about the Kings is that they did show signs of improvement in this game, and their second half showing, where they did trouble Connacht, should give them some confidence ahead of their home debut in the competition.

There is a lot for coach Deon Davids to work on though, and the Kings shouldn’t kid themselves as Connacht, although previous champions in the PRO14, have been going through a bad patch. In fact this win broke a five match losing sequence for Connacht stretching back to April.

The early exchanges were even but the Kings didn’t help themselves through the yellow card that wing Subisiso Sithole was shown for driving an opposing player through the horizontal in a tackle in the 11th minute. It didn’t look good and Sithole may have been fortunate not to see red. The loss of Sithole was immediately felt by the Kings as Connacht suddenly looked energised as they gained the momentum that created the opportunity for centre Tom Farrell to go through near the posts for the first try of the match in the 14th minute.

The hosts had to wait another 12 minutes for their next score, which was a Jack Carty penalty, and then the Kings produced a couple of sustained pressure that resulted in the Klaasen try that cut the deficit to five points with eight minutes to go to the break.

But then came a crucial soft moment from the Kings where they appeared to relax and the Irish team was able to strike with a try from replacement Eoghan Masterson that was scored too easily and looked the product of the Kings suddenly losing concentration and relaxing. The score galvanised Connacht who then camped for the next five minutes on the Kings line before eventually their scrum dominance saw Muldoon go in for a try on the stroke of halftime that ensured that the Kings would have too much to do in the second half.

The men from Port Elizabeth didn’t give up and they were awarded a try that was subsequently disallowed as they tried to fight back in a third quarter where they enjoyed a marked territorial dominance. The man who would have been credited with that score, replacement prop Luvuyo Pupuma, eventually did get it right near the end, but before that Connacht managed to score their bonus point try by sending wing Darren Leader in off a cut out pass across the face of the Kings defence that came after a strong driving maul from an attacking lineout.

The Kings were heavily penalised in the first half but it was Connacht who infringed the most in the second and the pressure applied by the Kings can perhaps be measured by the penalties and the two yellow cards that saw prop Finlay Bealham and then No 8 Muldoon take turns in the sinbin.

Connacht did play much of the second half as the team under pressure and that can be seen as encouraging by a Kings team that is virtually starting again from scratch after losing the bulk of their Super Rugby squad after the completion of that competition.


Connacht 32
Tries: Tom Farrell, Eoghan Masterson, John Muldoon and Darren Leader Conversions: Jack Carty 3 Penalties: Jack Carty 2

Southern Kings 10
Tries: Berton Klaasen and Luvuyo Pupuma


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