DESPITE having to play with only 14 men for more than an hour at Dubarry Park, Connacht Eagles secured their first victory in the British and Irish Cup courtesy of three second-half tries.
Tadhg Leader, Eoghan Grace and Kevin O'Byrne all crossed for the Eagles to give coach Nigel Carolan reason to be satisfied.
After Stefan Jones had given Cross Keys a great start with two penalties, the Eagles suffered a self-inflicted blow in the 18th minute when Kiwi tight-head Rodney Ah You was shown a straight red card for punching. Connacht upped their game after the dismissal and Leader got them back to 9-9 at the break.
Last year's runners up suffered a huge blow when Leader touched down and after Dorian Jones gave them some hope with his try, an intercept try from Grace in the 54th minute sealed the win for Connacht.
Connacht Eagles – J Loxton; M McCrea (C Finn 61), T Leader, B Murphy, M Healy; J Carty (F Gormley 61), D Moore (M Walsh 25); F Bealham, A Flavin (K Reilly 61), R Ah You; C Kindregan (U Dillane 56), D Gannon; TJ Anderson (D Heffernan 56), E Grace, A Conneely 6 (K O'Byrne 18).
Cross Keys – G David; D Jones, L Andrews, W Owen, L Williams (J Lewis 45); S Jones, R James; R Cornock, G Horrigan (G Price 60), A Lott; D Hodge, S Higgins; R Nash, S Matthews, T Lampard.
Ref – M Black (IRFU).