A man-of-the-match performance from Paul Boyle helped Connacht to a deserved bonus point win over Benetton at The Sportsground this afternoon.
Tries from Niall Murray, Boyle, Finlay Bealham and Caolin Blade were enough to give Connacht the five points in what was the first game under the new Sportsground lights.
The cliché would be that Connacht needed a good start to justify the favourites tag, and that’s exactly what they did in the first 5 minutes. Following a good defensive set, a line break from Niall Murray on the half-way line brought Connacht deep into the 22, and the Roscommon man found an excellent turn of pace to touch down beside the posts. Carty added the extras and Connacht found themselves a converted try ahead.
Not for the first time this season Connacht’s try concession came out of nothing, as the ball squirted out of a ruck on the sideline and Benetton had a two on one which was capitalised by Marcus Watson to level the game.
The second quarter was dominated by the hosts as they added 10 more points to scoreboard, but they could’ve and arguably should’ve added more. Paul Boyle got Connacht’s second of the game with a lovely first phase move off a 5 metre lineout, and Carty added two more. Multiple more visits to the Benetton 22 followed for the rest of the half but Connacht were unable to capitalise, with a mixture of penalty concessions and the ball held up inside the Benetton line.
Eventually the captain decided to take the points on offer and Carty added a penalty to make it 17-7 at the break.
Whatever was said in the Connacht dressing room at half-time paid dividends as the squad came out all guns blazing. Some excellent attacking phases brought them a few metres short, and this time they didn’t repeat the mistakes of the first half as Finlay Bealham touched down under the sticks.
Unfortunately any momentum they were hoping to build from there didn’t materialise, and it was arguably the hosts who were on top for the rest of the quarter. A second try followed as a result of a line break deep inside the Connacht half along the Clan Stand side, and after some repeated penalties Marco Zonan added the five for the visitors.
Any hope of a Benetton comeback was effectively ended when Scott Scrafton received a red card for a high challenge on Dylan Tierney-Martin, and it didn’t take long for Connacht to make the extra man count as Caolin Blade crossed over for the vital fourth try.
The gloss was then added by Tierney-Martin for his first home try for the club, powering over past the 80th minute.