Tuesday 18 September 2018

Connacht progress a grey area for Keane

Connacht 23 Cheetahs 15

There’s no quarter asked or given as Connacht’s John Muldoon is tackled by Junior Pokomela of Cheetahs during Saturday night’s clash in the Sportsground. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
There’s no quarter asked or given as Connacht’s John Muldoon is tackled by Junior Pokomela of Cheetahs during Saturday night’s clash in the Sportsground. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Connacht are back winning matches, but coach Kieran Keane said he is going grey trying to get them to play with more fluency.

The 63-year old Kiwi said that while it was great to notch a fourth win in a row on Saturday, the manner in which they are slipping back to bad habits is ageing him.

Jack Carty of Connacht is tackled by Johan Coetzee of Cheetahs. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Jack Carty of Connacht is tackled by Johan Coetzee of Cheetahs. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"The break is coming at the right time for me. I don't think I had any grey hair when I arrived. It's certainly coming at the right time for me and I think it's coming at the right time for them too," Keane.

"I am wrapped for the fellas, and for the club to get the four wins. It's just the manner in which we went about it, slipping back into old habits is a little frustrating."

Niyi Adeolokun, starting his first match after recovering from injury, produced the moment of class in the opening half when he went outside his opposite number Luther Obi down the left to score beside the posts.

It was a welcome reminder of what the 27-year old is capable of as he returned to make his first start of the season after recovering from injury.

James Cannon of Connacht is tackled by Paul Schoeman of Cheetahs. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
James Cannon of Connacht is tackled by Paul Schoeman of Cheetahs. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Craig Ronaldson added the easy conversion to make it 10-0, having got Connacht off the mark after six minutes with a penalty from the right wing.

The Cheetahs, who were hammered by Ulster and Munster on their visits to Ireland on the opening two weekends of the season, have grown more accustomed to the Guinness PRO14, but they undid a lot of good work running the ball from deep when they coughed up penalties after going into contact.

Boost

However, their defence dealt with anything Connacht threw at them in the run-up to the interval and while Ronaldson pushed Connacht out to 13-0 with a penalty after 29 minutes, the South Africans got a boost before the break when out-half Ernst Stapelberg converted a penalty from 45 metres.

That left it 13-3 at the interval, leaving Connacht facing the wind and rain after the restart.

John Muldoon of Connacht in action against Junior Pokomela, left, and Jasper Wiese of Cheetahs. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
John Muldoon of Connacht in action against Junior Pokomela, left, and Jasper Wiese of Cheetahs. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Stapelberg missed an ambitious penalty from 50 metres on the right five minutes after the restart and then when flanker Jasper Wiese was penalised again at the breakdown, Connacht made them pay.

They built the phases from a lineout on the right, with Adeolokun again making ground before three surges at the line ended with hooker Tom McCartney squeezing over. Jack Carty, having taken over the kicking duties when Ronaldson went off injured, added the conversion to make it 20-3 after 49 minutes.

A malfunctioning lineout which saw them lose three of their own throws didn't help Connacht's cause, while the Cheetahs broke for a try from Shaun Venter 13 minutes from time.

Steve Crosbie landed a penalty for Connacht from 45 metres five minutes from time, but a nervous finish was assured when winger Makazole Mapimpi broke down the left for a try which was converted by full-back Fred Zeilinga to cut the gap to eight with four minutes left. However, Connacht, with Tiernan O'Halloran again outstanding at full-back, held out.

Niyi Adeolokun of Connacht scores his side's first try. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Niyi Adeolokun of Connacht scores his side's first try. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Indeed, O'Halloran is keeping a bag packed during the November break in case Joe Schmidt calls.

The 26-year old from Clifden produced another Man of the Match display on Saturday evening, but he said he had no issue about not being included for the Autumn Internationals as his progress this season has been impacted by a troublesome hip injury.

"It's something that I knew myself, I hadn't played consistently enough. What got my foot in the door for Joe and the squad was that I was playing consistently, I was injury-free and I was putting in some good performances back-to-back," he said.

"We were doing well as a back three unit so that's what got me in there. Then this year has just been very disruptive. I got a hip pointer back in round two or three and then I was back for a game and I would drop out after five or 10 minutes. It was a tough one, but it is something that I thought about and said I might be in the squad, and then got the call off Joe.

"It is massively disappointing to get that call, even though you think in your head I wasn't going to be in it anyway. But to get that call is still a tough one.

"It's tough for any player, but Joe said the exact thing, you need to play consistently and you have a couple of injuries this year. That's what I am trying to do this year, get back playing 80 minutes," he said.

Connacht: T O'Halloran; D Leader, T Farrell, C Ronaldson (M Healy 40), N Adeolokun; J Carty (S Crosbie 53), C Blade (C McKeon 69); D Buckley (D Coulson 58), T McCartney (D Heffernan 53), F Bealham; Q Roux (G Thornbury 61), J Cannon (C Carey 65); E Masterson, E McKeon (N Dawai 37), J Muldoon.

Cheetahs: F Zeilinga; L Obi, T Kruger (A Mgijima 61), N Lee, M Mapimpi; E Stapelberg (S Venter 56), T Meyer; O Nche (C Marais 61), T Van Jaarsveld, J Coetzee (T Botha 65); C Wegner (D Visser 75), R Hugo; P Schoeman (R Bernardo 28-38), J Wiese (R Bernardo 61), J Pokomela.

REF- F Murphy (IRFU)

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