Connacht get campaign up and running with easy win
Connacht 32 Southern Kings 10
Seldom has the Liam MacCarthy Cup been displayed to such a global audience and after the victorious Galway hurlers were given a rapturous reception at half-time, Connacht followed their example and marched to their first win of the Guinness PRO14 campaign.
Any hopes the Southern Kings had of bouncing back from last week's 57-10 loss to champions Scarlets in Llanelli were well and truly buried by the break when Connacht has established a 24-5 lead.
The South Africans' discipline also let them down and a string of Connacht penalties saw the Kings temporarily reduced to 14 when winger Sibusiso Sithole was binned for a tip-tackle on Jack Carty that could well have merited a red card.
Connacht used the extra man well to hit the front after 15 minutes when Tom Farrell stepped back inside four defenders to score. Carty converted and added a penalty to make it by 10-0, but the Kings hit back with a try from centre Berton Klaasen eight minutes from the break.
The Connacht response was top class and they struck for two tries before the interval. Eoghan Masterson, who had come on for the injured Sean O'Brien, got over following a good break by Farrell and Carty added the extras to lead 17-5.
And they finished the half strongly, turning over a Kings scrum deep inside their own 22 and while the initial surges were contained, Ulan Dillane picked and drove over for another converted try.
Carty tacked on a penalty early in the second-half but the bonus point didn't come until ten minutes from time when Darragh Leader finished in the right corner after being set up by Matt Healy and Steve Crosbie when they went wide.
John Muldoon became the second Connacht player to be binned - Finlay Bealham also spent ten minutes out - in the closing stages.
Scorers - Connacht: T Farrell, E Masterson, U Dillane, D Leader tries; J Carty 3 cons, 2 pens. Southern Kings: B Klaasen, L Pupuma tries.
Connacht: T O'Halloran; D Leader (C Carey 55-62), T Farrell (E Griffin 64), B Aki, M Healy; J Carty (S Corsbie 53), K Marmion (C Blade 58); D Buckley (D Coulson 50), T McCartney (D Heffernan 53), F Bealham; U Dillane (Q Roux 55), J Cannon; S O'Brien (E Masterson 31), J Butler, J Muldoon
Southern Kings: M Banda; Y Penxe, B Klaasen, L Vulindlu (J Nel 64), S Sithole; K Coleman (O Zono 53), G Masimla (R van Rooyen 53); S Ferreira, M Willemse (S Coetzee 74), R de Klerk (E Swanepoel 42) (L Pupuma 48); J van Vuuren, D van Schalkwyk; K Majola (S Mdaka 62), V Sekekete (B de Wee 68), A Ntsila.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
Sunday Indo Sport