Connacht much-improved as they power to bonus-point win over depleted Benetton

Caoilin Blade starred in an unhappy return to the Sportsground for former Connacht fans’ favourite Ian Keatley.

Connacht’s Sean Masterson replaces his brother Eoghan Masterson.
Connacht’s Sean Masterson replaces his brother Eoghan Masterson.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht 41

Benetton Rugby 5

John Fallon reports from Sportsground

THIS WAS A bit more like it from Connacht as they secured a bonus point win in their first home game of the season with an accomplished display.

Connacht may have been sloppy in their opening round loss away to Scarlets but they were full of purpose and poised in this one from the outset, and were full value for their 22-0 interval lead.

The incessant rain of the morning and afternoon cleared for benign conditions at the Sportsground and Connacht weren’t long stamping their authority against a Benetton side with 15 players away on World Cup duty in Japan.

It was an unhappy return to the Sportsground for former Connacht fans’ favourite Ian Keatley as the Italians were on the back foot from the outset with Munster academy product Conor Fitzgerald controlling matters at out-half.

He edged Connacht in front with a sixth minute but it was a superb break from outside his own 22 by Kyle Godwin which set Connacht on their way with the Australian fending off the challenge of Benetton full-back Luca Sperandio to score in the right corner.

quinn-roux-wins-a-line-out Quinn Roux wins a lineout. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Impressive scrum-half Caolin Blade peeled away to score their second at the end of the opening quarter and another good lineout drive saw hooker Tom McCartney score after 25 minutes.

Blade cut through after good work by centre Peter Robb to secure the bonus point three minutes after the restart.

Keatley put his full-back Luca Sperandio over for a Benetton try after 49 minutes but Connacht got on top again and hooker McCartney got over for his second try of the match after 52 minutes.

Andy Friend’s men didn’t take their foot off the pedal and Kieran Marmion came off the bench to score a late try which Godwin converted.

Connacht scorers:

Tries: Caolin Blade (2), Tom McCartney (2), Kyle Godwin

Penalties: C Fitzgerald 1 (from 1)

Conversions: C Fitzgerald 3 (from 5), Godwin (1 from 1).

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caolin-blade-scores-his-sides-fourth-try Connacht’s Caolin Blade scores his sides fourth try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Benetton Rugby scorers:

Try: Luca Sperandio

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (John Porch ’65), Stephen Fitzgerald, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald (Tom Farrell ‘55), Caolin Blade (Kieran Marmion ‘52); Paddy McAllister (Denis Buckley ‘50), Tom McCartney (Shane Delahunt ‘52), Finlay Bealham  (Dominic Robertson-McCoy ’50), Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux (Ultan Dillane ‘47), Eoghan Masterson (Sean Masterson ’65), Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle.

Benetton: Luca Sperandio, Leonardo Sarto (Ian McKinley ‘52), Joaquin Riera (Ignacio Brex ‘50), Alberto Sgarbi, Monty Ioane, Ian Keatley, Luca Petrozzi ((Charly Trussardi ‘61); Derrick Appiah (Cherif Traore ‘41), Tomas Baravalle (Engjel Makelara ‘41), Michele Mancini Parri (Filippo Alongi ‘61); Niccolò Cannone, Eli Snyman (Marco Fuser ‘3), Marco Lazzaroni, Giovanni Pettinelli, Toa Halafihi (Lodovico Manni ‘52).

Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa).

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John Fallon

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