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Connacht's captain fantastic scores hat-trick and inspires Westerners to bonus-point win over Benetton

Paul Boyle shone under Friday Night Lights as he captained the province for the first time.

Paul Boyle scoring his third try of the game.
Paul Boyle scoring his third try of the game.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht 31

Benetton Rugby 14

PAUL BOYLE SCORED a hat-trick as Connacht’s third bonus-point win of the season lifted them above Scarlets and into second place in the Pro14’s Conference B.

There was also a maiden try for winger Peter Sullivan, while Munster loanee Alex Wootton scored his fifth try of the season in an impressive showing from the home side.

But it was Boyle that stole the show with a dominant performance in the No. 8 shirt, and his first three tries of the season came as he captained the province for the first time.

Connacht had the advantage of the significant Sportsground wind advantage at their backs in the first half, but it proved very difficult to judge as Conor Fitzgerald’s over-shot penalty to the corner showed.

The initial exchanges all seemed to fall in Benetton’s favour, but in the scrum Connacht were totally on top, and 14 minutes in Boyle picked off the back and showed great footwork to force his way over for the score. Fitzgerald converted well from the right to put Connacht 7-0 ahead.

After the opening score a big hit from Sammy Arnold on former Connacht man Ian Kealtey – who was playing at inside centre for the Italians – caught the eye, and after 23 minutes the home side stretched their advantage.

This time it was a driving lineout that delivered the score, but instead of the pack cashing in, it was winger Sullivan who managed to score his first try for the province.

While they trailed 12-0, Benetton had attempted to play attacking rugby, and following a huge carry from Marco Barbini that Caolin Blade felt the brunt of, Filippo Alongi scored from close range. However, centre Tommaso Benvenuti was fortunate to escape a red card straight after the grounding when he dived on top of the prostrate Gavin Thornbury. Referee Adam Jones gave him ten minutes in the bin instead.

Two minutes later Connacht’s response was fitting when Wootton finished off a first phase move through the backs for his fifth of the season.

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conor-fitzgerald-is-tackled Connacht's Conor Fitzgerald is tackled. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

And just before the interval, the set piece delivered again when Boyle broke off the back of the scrum, raced down the blind side and outpaced the defence to score his second try of the game. With Blade balancing the ball on the tee, Fitzgerald added the excellent conversion for a 24-7 half-time lead.

A couple of needless penalties conceded by Connacht allowed Keatley to ease the pressure on Benetton after the break, but Connacht came closest to adding the next try but Eoghan Masterson was held up when he crossed the line.

But after 54 minutes Boyle made sure of his dream day as captain when he burrowed over for his third try, and while Connacht were in total control, there was a late consolation for Benetton when Dewaldt Duvenage scored their second try.

Scorers for Connacht:

Tries: P Boyle 3, P Sullivan, A Wootton

Conversions: C Fitzgerald 3/5

Scorers for Benetton:

Tries: F Alongi, D Duvenage

Conversions: I Keatley 1/1, D Duvenage 1/1

Connacht: John Porch; Peter Sullivan (Matt Healy ’47), Sammy Arnold (Sean O’Brien ’61), Tom Daly, Alex Wootton, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Colm Reilly ’66, Denis Buckley (Paddy McAllister ’55), Shane Delahunt (Jonny Murphy ’56), Jack Aungier (Dominic Robertson-McCoy ’48); Eoghan Masterson, Gavin Thornbury (Ultan Dillane ’53); Jarrad Butler (Cian Prendergast ’61), Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle (C)

Benetton Rugby: Jayden Hayward; Ratuva Tavuyara, Tommaso Benvenuti, Ian Keatley (Leonardo Sarto ’57), Tommaso Menoncello (Joaquin Riera ’57); Dewaldt Duvenage (C), Callum Braley (Luca Petrozzi ’59); Nicola Quaglio (Ivan Nemer ’55), Tomas Baravalle (Giacomo Nicotera ’65), Filippo Alongi (Tiziano Pasquali ’55); Irné Herbst (Riccardo Favretto ’65), Federico Ruzza; Giovanni Pettinelli (Alberto Sgarbi ’58), Marco Barbini, Toa Halafihi.

Referee: Adam Jones (WRU).

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Declan Rooney  / Reports from The Sportsground

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