Connacht turn eyes to new year tests

Newcastle Falcons 29 Connacht 5: Without 19 European squad members and fielding a host of Academy players, injury hit Connacht were swept aside by Newcastle in Kingston Park last evening.
Connacht turn eyes to new year tests

Connacht still top Pool One but the English outfit and Brive have closed the gap to ensure the westerners cannot afford any slip ups in the New Year.

“It is still in our control,” says coach Pat Lam, ” and we knew that going into this game.

"No mattered what, we have to go to Brive, and if we do that job, and against Enisei at home, we will go through.

“We have that breathing space, so now we just park this competition and pick it back up in mid January, and now we have three big games, Ulster, Leinster and Scarlets.”

Connacht, having dominated the opening half, failed to post sufficient points, and went into the break level on 5-5.

But a nightmare start to the second half in which the visitors conceded two tries in the opening five minutes, put them on the back foot, and the Falcons took control to post their second European win of the season.

And Connacht’s injury nightmare continued as both centre Peter Robb and Danie Poolman were forced off, and with only two replacements available, scrum-half Caolan Blade finished on the wing with replacement Jack Carty at fullback.

Newcastle, having lived off scraps in the opening 15 minutes, bagged the opening try in their first visit to the 22.

From a turnover, it was England sevens exponent, Marcus Watson, whose dancing feet evaded six Connacht tacklers to touch down in the 23th minute, against the run of play.

Connacht replied after 34 minutes when fullback Danie Poolman crashed over to bag his fifth try in six games to level the game at the interval.

However, it all went horribly wrong for Lam’s side on the restart.

The first sucker punch came from a penalty try when Eoghan Masterson was yellow carded for not retreating and Willis added the extras.

Within five minutes, a lost line-out provided Newcastle with another attacking platform, and a stretched Connacht defence could not stop centre Belisario Aguilla crossing in the left corner.

Craig Ronaldson missed a long range penalty before referee Ben Whitehouse awarded a second penalty try, and Willis converted to wrap up the fourth try bonus and extend their lead to 24-5.

A minute later Watson finished off a counterattack from deep with the Connacht defence marked absent.

NEWCASTLE FALCONS:

S Hammersley, A Tait, B Agulla, C Harris, M Watson, C Willis, S Takulua, A Rogers, S Lawson, J Welsh, M Botha, S Robinson, W Welch, D Temm, A Hogg.

Replacements:

J Socino for Harris (41),G McGuigan for Lawson and R Vickers for A Rogers (50), M Young for Takalua (55), T Vea for Welsh (57), C Greene for Robinson (57), R Mayhew for Temm and T Catterick for Willis (64).

CONNACHT:

D Poolman, R Parata, P Robb, C Ronaldson, Adeolokun, S O’Leary, C Blade, C O’Donnell, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You, D Qualter, A Browne, S O’Brien, E Masterson, C Naoupu.

Replacements:

J Cartry for Robb (11), I Porter for Blade (47), F Bealham for Ah You (53m), C Blade for Porter (52), S Delahunt for Harris-Wright (54), A Muldowney for Browne (64), S Meungargia for O’Donnell (69) Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).

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