Saturday 20 January 2018

Muldoon's magic claims Samoa scalp

Connacht 26
Samoa 22

John Muldoon celebrates after scoring the winning try. Photo: Barry Cregg / Sportsfile
John Muldoon celebrates after scoring the winning try. Photo: Barry Cregg / Sportsfile

Connacht skipper John Muldoon came off the bench to score the match-winner on a famous night at the Sportsground.

But while Muldoon made a storming impact on his introduction in the second-half, it was the display of another Galway native, Eoin Griffin, which gave cause for optimism as Eric Elwood's experimental side produced a stunning display.

Griffin, with just a couple of Magners League appearances to his name, produced a superb performance and with Samoan Niva Ta'auso out until after Christmas, the 20-year-old could be poised for plenty of action.

Elwood gave his fringe players a chance with Aidan Wynne, Miah Nikora, Eoin McKeon and Darragh Fanning involved. Both sides showed willingness to run with the ball in hand and there was no shortage of entertainment in an open first-half.

Twice Samoa looked like they would pull away, but Connacht hauled them back on both occasions. Samoan scrum-half Junior Poluleuligaga created the opening try for blindside flanker Misioka Timoteo with a superb switch pass after 19 minutes.

But the boot of Nikora, a Kiwi of Samoan extraction, hauled Connacht back with three penalties. However, sloppy defending undid a lot of hard work as Samoan openside Falemiga Selesele broke from the base of a ruck to dart over six minutes from the break. Out-half Lolo Lui maintained his 100pc record with another conversion to push Samoa 17-9 in front.

Connacht's response was excellent, with Nikora and centres Aidan Wynne and Griffin working it through the hands and Troy Nathan doing well to switch back inside before being bundled into touch for Brian Tuohy to race in and score. Nikora added the points to leave it 17-16 at the end of the opening half.

Connacht hit the front for the first time two minutes after the restart when Nikora added another penalty after Samoan scrum-half Poluleuligaga was binned for killing the ball. That was the only score Samoa conceded minus their scrum-half, as they kept the ball tight and regained the lead after 55 minutes with a fine break finished by sub Brando Vaulu.

The introduction of Muldoon and scrum-half Conor O'Loughlin lifted Connacht and they hit the front after some great forward play was rewarded when Muldoon barged over.

Nikora landed the touchline conversion to make it six-from-six in a 16-points haul and that summed up Connacht's great economic performance. And having been caught at the death a few times this season, they secured the result by remaining on the offensive right to the end in a display which will give Elwood plenty to ponder in the coming weeks.

Connacht -- T Nathan; S Monahan (D Fanning 57), E Griffin, A Wynne, B Tuohy; M Nikora, C Willis (C O'Loughlin 59); R Loughney (R Sweeney 73), A Flavin (D Murphy 65), B Fa'amausili (D Rogers 51); A Browne, B Upton; E McKeon (J Muldoon 51), M McComish, E Taylor (S Conneely 73).

Samoa -- M Pesamino; F Otto, U Setu, J Helleur, S Sinoti (B Vaaulu 52); L Lui, J Poluleuligaga (U Mai 52); S Lemalu, P Paulo, L Mulipola; C Slade (N Leleimalefaga 64), D Leo; M Timoteo, R Muagututia, F Selesele.

Ref -- J Lacey (IRFU).

Irish Independent

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