Pair of Porch tries sees Connacht claim bonus point win over Southern Kings
Connacht 24 Southern Kings 12
John Porch scored either side of half-time as Connacht closed to within a point of Munster in Conference B with a bonus point victory over Southern Kings at the Sportsground.
A day after signing a new three-year deal with the province Bundee Aki scored an early try, while Finlay Bealham and Porch’s brace gave Connacht the maximum five points ahead of next weekend’s crunch Champions Cup tie in Gloucester.
After a sluggish start to the game allowed Kings to dominate the early action, Connacht soon began to dominate affairs.
The first try arrived when Conor Fitzgerald pushed Connacht into the corner from a penalty, and the driving lineout delivered with Aki the beneficiary at the tail. Fitzgerald slotted the very tough conversion from the sideline for a 7-0 lead.
Kings didn’t deserve to be behind and three minutes later they crashed over when Erich Cornje ran an arcing line and touched down, with Van Breda’s conversion levelling matters.
But the scoring chances came easier to the home side. Porch’s blockdown almost led to a try for Matt Healy but the final pass didn’t go to hand, and 15 minutes from the interval another mauled try put Connacht ahead.
Again Aki joined in to add his power, but second time round a forward took the honours with Bealham crossing.
Starting for the second game in a row ahead of Jack Carty, Conor Fitzgerald was at the hub of all Connacht’s creativity.
He kicked and passed brilliantly and played the game within inches of the Kings defensive line at times, and his side’s third try came off his determined linebreak. Caolin Blade was stopped just short, but with Aki on the assist, Porch raced in for a 19-7 lead.
There was one last kick in Kings before the break, and when they elected to scrum an offside penalty Van Breda scored on the right to leave it 19-12 at half-time.
Despite their seven-point interval advantage Connacht had plenty of improvements to make. Twelve missed tackles and a couple of sloppy lineouts before the break kept Kings in touch, but three minutes after the break Connacht pulled clear.
A quick throw to a lineout on the left launched the move and eventually Healy’s pass sent Porch in for his second try in the opposite corner, the bonus point score.
Victory over Ospreys in their last outing certainly gave Kings a lift and they maintained their standards throughout in Galway. Six minutes after the restart they very nearly crossed for a third time but prop Juan Schoeman knocked on as he tried to dive over the line.
Carty was given his turn with half an hour remaining and his first involvement was a brilliant territorial kick to the corner, which saw Connacht camp out in Kings’ territory for an extended period of the final quarter.
A fifth try never materialised, but with the bonus point win in the bag, Connacht were probably happy to switch focus to next week’s Champions Cup clash with Gloucester.
Scorers – Connacht: B Aki, F Bealham, J Porch 2 tries; C Fitzgerald 2cons. Southern Kings: E Cronje, S Van Breda tries; S Van Breda con
Connacht: M Healy; N Adeolokun, K Godwin, B Aki, J Porch; C Fitzgerald, C Blade; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham; U Dillane, Q Roux (C); E Masterson, C Fainga’a, P Boyle.
Replacements: J Carty for Fitzgerad (51), S Delahunt for McCartney (58), J Butler for Boyle (58), A Lloyd for Blade (60), M Burke for Buckley (65), D Robertson-McCoy for Bealham (65), J Maksymiw for Dillane (70), P Robb for Godwin (70).
Southern Kings: S van Breda; C Hollis, E Cronje, H Mnisi (C), Y Penxe; JT Jackson, S Ungerer; J Schoeman, J du Toit, P Scholtz; J Sexton, A Fortuin; M Burger, T Bholi, E Louw.
Replacements: R Lerm for Burger (36 HIA), S Sithole for Minsi (46), T Maree for Ungerer (47), B de Wee for Fortin (56), DJ Terblanche for Scholtz (69), C Solomon for du Toit (73), X Vos for Schoeman (73), S Masuku for Jackson (73).
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).
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