Sport PRO14

Sunday 18 August 2019

Cheetahs sent home empty-handed

Connacht 23-15 Cheetahs

Niyi Adeolokun was impressive for Connacht
Niyi Adeolokun was impressive for Connacht

John Fallon

Connacht's improving season under new coach Kieran Keane got another boost at the Sportsground last night when they made it four wins in a row in Europe and the PRO14.

They were always on top and will be disappointed not to have pushed on for a bonus point, but the Cheetahs never relented and ensured a few nervous moments in the end when they came with two late tries.

Ernst Stapelberg of Cheetahs kicks a penalty Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ernst Stapelberg of Cheetahs kicks a penalty Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

But they were always chasing this game and while they are undoubtedly becoming more accustomed to this competition, their error count remains their biggest handicap.

Connacht dominated the opening half with the strong wind behind them, but had to be content with a 13-3 interval lead.

The key moment came from birthday boy Niyi Adeolokun, who was 27 on Friday, after 13 minutes when he showed a clean pair if heels to his opposite number Luther Obi after taking him on outside and then he skipped inside full-back Fred Zeilinga to score.

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

Connacht's Darragh Leader in action against Tian Meyer of Cheetahs Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Connacht's Darragh Leader in action against Tian Meyer of Cheetahs Photo: 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 good 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 into the PRO14 but they undid a lot of good work running the ball from deep when they coughed up penalties after going into contact.

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However, their defence dealt with anything Connacht threw at them in the run up to the interval and while Ronaldson pushed Connacht's lead 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.

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 Makazola 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.

But Connacht held out and the Cheetahs left Galway empty-handed.

Scorers - Connacht: N Adeolokun, T McCartney tries; C Ronaldson, J Carty cons, Ronaldson 2, Crosbie pens. Cheetahs: S Venter, M Mapimpi tries; F Zeilinga con; E Stapelberg pen.

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.

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)

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