Brandon seals deal as U-18s complete successful UK trip
The Connacht U-18s team, led by head coach Lyndon Jones, recently completed a successful trip to the UK where they won both of their matches.
Arriving into Haverfordwest, Wales, to take on the Pembrokeshire County U-18 team, the 33-man Connacht squad were in peak condition, having completed five weeks of intensive workouts at their training base in Moneenageisha, Galway.
The Pembrokeshire team are the strongest team to feed into the Scarlets Academy and the coaches, Lyndon Jones and Geoff Kenny, knew the side were in for a tough test.
Hosted by Haverfordwest RFC in ideal playing conditions, the two sides played an impressive and expansive game with the lead changing hands a number of times in the opening exchanges, but the depth and strength of the Connacht squad proved too much in the end and the visitors ran out 26-17 victors.
The game provided valuable game-time to the whole squad and gave the coaches some interesting selection headaches ahead of the interprovincial match against the Exiles that Sunday.
After the match, the Connacht squad decamped to Reading where they stayed at the Oratory School. With its excellent facilities , it has been the home of the Irish Exiles for their training camps for the last number of years.
Conditions for the 12.30 kick-off on Sunday were ideal as the Connacht squad took on their Irish-qualified counterparts from all across the UK.
The Exiles had the lion's share of possession in the first half and it was only some excellent Connacht defence that stopped them from converting two clear try-scoring chances.
It was scoreless at half-time, but this belied the intensity and attacking flair that both teams displayed in a hotly contested match.
A steady Connacht scrum in the second half provided a solid platform that the backline were able to launch a number of promising attacks.
Exiles indiscipline at the breakdown afforded Connacht's Rory Gaffney two penalty chances, and he converted both leaving the score at 6-0 going into the last five minutes.
The Exiles rallied but the Connacht defence stood resolute and after another onslaught into the Exiles 22, James Brandon crashed over in the corner for the games only try.
The conversion was narrowly missed to leave it 11-0 and proved to be the last play of the game. Connacht U18s had registered another victory, and an important one at that, over the UK-based provincial counterparts, ahead of the Interpro series in September.
Connacht U-18s' remaining Inter-pro fixtures
Ulster v Connacht, Saturday, September 5 , Rainey RFC, 1.00pm;
Munster v Connacht, Saturday, September 12, CIT Cork, 2.00pm;
Connacht v Leinster, Saturday September 19, Sportsground, 1.00pm