Friday 18 August 2017

Adeolokun gets the ball rolling as Connacht break their duck in style

Connacht 28 Edinburgh 15

Connacht's Cian Kelleher on his way to scoring his side's third try. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Connacht's Cian Kelleher on his way to scoring his side's third try. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Connacht avoided some unwanted history as Cian Kelleher scored his first try for the province in this bonus-point victory at the Sportsground.

No reigning Pro12 champions have ever been defeated in four games on the trot at the start of a new season, but 22-year-old Kelleher added to the tries from Niyi Adeolokun - his third of the season - Quinn Roux and Peter Robb.

Roux also scored his first try for the province, and they cancelled out Grant Gilchrist's first-half effort and a late score from Michael Allen.

Connacht led 18-10 at half-time and despite a bruising second half they did enough to register a much-needed first victory of the season.

Edinburgh were expected to present a huge physical test for Connacht, and Matt Healy, Kieran Marmion, Eoin McKeon and Denis Buckley all left the field injured for the hosts, but they held on for a deserved win.

Connacht did the double over Edinburgh for the second time last season, and they were looking for their first ever treble over the Scots.

Connacht's Eoin McKeon in action against Edinburgh's Jason Tovey. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Connacht's Eoin McKeon in action against Edinburgh's Jason Tovey. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Although the Westerners have made a very slow start to 2016-17 Edinburgh were also in disarray following the departure of coach Alan Solomons midweek.

Duncan Hodge took over as acting head coach of a side who had won just once in their last seven Pro12 games - that was a 20-9 victory over Scarlets in Round 2.

Meanwhile, Connacht came into the game pointless and rooted to the bottom of the table following three defeats at the start of the season. Only Ospreys in 2007-08 and 2012-13 lost their three opening games as reigning champions at the start of a subsequent Pro12 campaign.

Connacht also trailed 22-10 at half-time in Parma against Zebre but that game was postponed and they survived that scare.

Connacht's Kieran Marmion is tackled by Edinburgh's Ross Ford. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Connacht's Kieran Marmion is tackled by Edinburgh's Ross Ford. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

But the hosts led at the interval on this occasion after they dominated the first half and scored two tries to Edinburgh's one.

Jason Tovey gave Edinburgh the lead after six minutes with a penalty, when Jake Heenan failed to roll away in time. But Connacht hit back with a wonderful effort from Adeolokun.

He blitzed the Edinburgh defence after he handed-off Chris Dean and raced to the line. Jack Carty scored the conversion and Connacht led 7-3 after 11 minutes.

Carty extended the advantage with a penalty, but then Gilchrist scored Edinburgh's first try in the 20th minute when he dived over after Tovey's off-load.

Tovey added the conversion to tie the game but Carty kicked his second penalty, and then Roux scored in the corner just before the break.

Although Ireland international Marmion left the field injured two minutes after half-time, Connacht scored next. This time Carty gave the pass and former Leinster flier Kelleher showed wonderful acceleration to sprint home down the left wing and touch down.

Carty couldn't add the conversion and although Allen touched down with nine minutes left, Connacht got the last score of the game through Robb.

Connacht - T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun (S O'Leary 37-41, blood), B Aki (S O'Leary 75), P Robb, M Healy (C Kelleher 4); J Carty, K Marmion (C Blade 42); D Buckley (R Loughney 68), T McCartney (D Heffernan 72), C Carey (F Bealham 47); Q Roux, U Dillane (L Stevenson 75); E McKeon (J Connolly 59), J Heenan, J Muldoon.

Edinburgh - G Bryce; D Hoyland, C Dean, S Rasolea, M Allen; J Tovey (B Kinghorn 80), S Kennedy (S Hidalgo-Clyne 63); R Sutherland (A Dell 63), R Ford (S McInally 59), WP Nel; B Toolis, G Gilchrist (L Carmichael 79); M Bradbury, J Hardie, C Du Preez (H Watson 21-28, blood & 59).

Ref - N Owens (WRU)

Irish Independent

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