Wednesday 18 October 2017

Rampant Connacht top group in style

JOHN FALLON

Olympus Madrid 0

Connacht 66

Connacht scored a record victory in Spain to sail through to the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup as the No 1 seeds with a 10-try rout of Olympus Madrid.

Connacht had the bonus point in the bag by half-time as they wore down the Spanish resistance by spreading it wide at every opportunity. They started and finished the opening half with tries to lead by 28-0 at the break, Fionn Carr settling their nerves with a try after just two minutes.

Olympus Madrid, a composite side made up of players from clubs all over Spain, kept Connacht at bay for the remainder of the opening quarter but the pressure eventually told and Carr put Niva Ta'auso through for their second try after 20 minutes.

That knocked the heart out of the hosts and Adrian Flavin, who came on after 10 minutes when hooker Sean Cronin was taken off with an ankle injury, crossed for a try in the left corner just past the half-hour mark before skipper John Muldoon sealed the bonus point just before the break.

All four tries were converted by Ian Keatley, who duly added the extras again seven minutes after the break when Flavin crossed for his second try. Miah Nikora came on after that for Keatley and within minutes of his arrival he converted his own try as the tired Madrid defence opened after he stepped inside.

It was inevitable more tries would follow and Mike McComish and George Naoupu took the try count to eight by 70 minutes as they passed the half century to lead 54-0.

They did not relent even after that and a break from Carr sent Keith Matthews over for their ninth, and Nikora's conversion of Matthews' second try with the final kick finished the scoring.

It is the seventh time Connacht have made the quarter-finals of the competition but the first time they have won all six pool games. They will have to wait until all the pool games are finished today before they know who they play in April's quarter-final but after home and away wins in Montpellier, Worcester and now Madrid, it has been a great campaign for Michael Bradley in his last season at the Sportsground.

Scorers -- Connacht: Flavin, Matthews 2 tries, Carr, Ta'auso, Muldoon, Nikora, McComish, Naoupu try each, Keatley 5 cons, Nikora 3 cons.

Olympus Madrid -- M Tudela; J Cano (H Quirelli 65), M Heredia, J Canosa, B Pardo; M Mazo (C Sempere 32), P Feijoo; A Onega Camacho (S Hattori 74), C Bohorquez (J Arbelaitz h-t), D Gurgenadze (M Serrano 47); S Souto (L Fernandez h-t), J Recuerda; R Camacho, M Acena (G Palmers 52), I Criado.

Connacht -- T Nathan; L Bibo, N Ta'auso (A Wynne 47), K Matthews, F Carr; I Keatley (M Nikora 47), F Murphy (C O'Loughlin 47); R Loughney, S Cronin (A Flavin 10), R Morris (J Hagan h-t); M Swift, M McCarthy (B Upton 32); J Muldoon (M McComish 50), J O'Connor, G Naoupu.

Referee -- S Traversi (Italy).

Sunday Independent

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