Tuesday 16 October 2018

Keane demands improvement as Munster clash looms

Connacht 15 Worcester Warriors 8

Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran is tackled by Pierce Phillips of Worcester Warriors. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran is tackled by Pierce Phillips of Worcester Warriors. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Connacht boss Kieran Keane has called for major improvements from his side before Munster arrive at the Sportsground next Friday.

The Kiwi watched has his side grind out a second successive Challenge Cup victory that keeps the Westerners top of their pool, but he was less than impressed with their performance.

Copnnacht's Matt Healy (right) is congratulated by teammate Cian Kelleher. Photo: Sportsfile
Copnnacht's Matt Healy (right) is congratulated by teammate Cian Kelleher. Photo: Sportsfile

"I wouldn't call it a good performance, we got a good win," Keane said. "I was pretty happy about the fact that we won, it probably would have been tragic had we had lost it but I thought it was a slip back, to be honest.

"I was a bit disappointed with our level. I thought we were a bit average compared to what we have been in the last couple of weeks.

"We made some changes and that was largely to freshen our squad and create competition that we want to have within the squad. People are getting opportunities but not everybody is taking them."

First-half injuries to James Connolly and Eoin Griffin were followed by three more to Tiernan O'Halloran, Quinn Roux and Dominic Robertson-McCoy. They face a six-day turnaround before Munster arrive when the Guinness PRO14 resumes.

Craig Ronaldson of Connacht is challenged by Worcester Warriors' Wynand Olivier and Jackson Willison. Photo: Sportsfile
Craig Ronaldson of Connacht is challenged by Worcester Warriors' Wynand Olivier and Jackson Willison. Photo: Sportsfile

Tries in either half from Eoghan Masterson and Matt Healy ensured that Connacht stayed top of the pool.

Donncha O'Callaghan came off the bench for the final 16 minutes to a warm ovation from the home crowd but the former Ireland lock couldn't help turn the tide in his side's favour.

The one moment of quality in what was otherwise a very stop-start first half came from Tiernan O'Halloran and it was the full-back's spark that created the home side's first try after six minutes.

Having won a scrum inside their own half, rather than play for the corner with a huge wind at their backs, the ball was shifted right to O'Halloran who turned on the afterburners to leave a couple of Worcester defenders behind him before Darragh Leader went haring down the right wing.

Leader was stopped just short of the whitewash but the back-up was quickly on the scene and after great work at the breakdown, the ball was recycled quickly for Masterson who powered over from close range. It was just the start that Keane would have been demanding, but despite dominating both territory and possession, Connacht's accuracy in difficult conditions halted their momentum.

Worcester were happy to soak up the pressure against the wind but Jack Carty punished their indiscipline when he fired over a 21st-minute penalty to atone for his earlier conversion miss.

They were almost made to pay for not making their dominance count more on the scoreboard when Worcester knocked the ball on with the line at their mercy five minutes before the break.

Eleven minutes after the restart, Worcester struck for a try completely against the run of play. A Connacht mistake in midfield was punished and Josh Adams got over in the corner to cut the gap to three (8-5).

That stunned the home crowd into silence but they found their voice seven minutes later when Healy raced onto a perfectly-weighted dink from Carty to score Connacht's second try. Carty's conversion pushed the hosts into a 15-5 lead with 22 minutes left on the clock.

The gap was cut again when Jono Lance added a late penalty but it was too little, too late as Connacht hung on for an important, yet ugly, win.

Scorers - Connacht: Masterson, Healy 1 try each, Carty 1 pen, 1 con. Worcester: Adams 1 try, Lance 1 pen.

Connacht: T O'Halloran (C Kelleher 55); D Leader, B Aki, E Griffin (C Ronaldson 27), M Healy; J Carty, C Blade (K Marmion, 54); D Buckley (P McCabe 72), D Heffernan (S Delahunt, 54), D Robertson-McCoy (C Carey 43); Q Roux (C Gallagher 49), J Cannon; E McKeon, J Connolly (J Butler 2), E Masterson (capt).

Worcester: C Pennell; T Howe (P Humphreys 58), W Oliver, J Willison, J Adams; J Lance, J Arr (M Dowsett 49-58, 69); E Walker (R Bowe 64), J Singleton (M Williams 69), G Milasinovich (S Kerrod 54); P Phillips (D O'Callaghan 64), W Spencer; D Denton, A Faosoliva GJ van Velze (capt) (H Taylor 54)

Referee: I Davies (Wales)

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