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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# winning momentum
Two-try Godwin helps Connacht to Challenge Cup win over Bordeaux
Andy Friend’s side prevailed in testing conditions at the Sportsground in Galway.

Connacht 22

Bordeaux 10

Murray Kinsella reports from the Sportsground

IT WASN’T TOO pretty on a wet and dull afternoon in Galway, but Connacht’s Challenge Cup campaign is up and running with a win over Bordeaux.

Kyle Godwin celebrates his try with Jarrad Butler Tommy Dickson / INPHO Connacht celebrate Godwin's first try. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

The Top 14 side sent a weakened selection to Galway, while Connacht also mixed up their starting team, with the Irish province deservedly notching the four points as they scored three tries in the rain.

Kyle Godwin was man of the match with a two-try performance, while Ireland international Finlay Bealham added another and out-half Jack Carty kicked seven points off the tee.

The game never truly ignited, with the conditions meaning a high error count, but Connacht boss Andy Friend is likely to be satisfied to add another win to their record early on this season.

There was further positivity with debuts off the bench for two academy players in out-half Conor Fitzgerald – young brother of Munster fullback Stephen – and versatile back Colm de Buitléar, the Connemara man who started playing with An Ghaeltacht Rugbaí. Lock Joe Maksymiw – a summer signing from Leicester – also debuted.

While the Guinness Pro14 is clearly the priority for Connacht this season, they will travel to Sale Sharks next Saturday with intent to continue their solid start in Europe.

With the earlier heavy rain easing a little in time for kick-off, Connacht started much the brighter and built towards a deserved 14th-minute try through Australian back Godwin, best known as a centre but on the left wing for this game.

Colby Fainga'a is tackled by Luke Braid and Ulupano Seuteni Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Loosehead prop Peter McCabe – an impressive presence until he was forced off with a head injury in the 36th minute – cut through the Bordeaux defence off an intelligent flat pass by out-half Carty, only to be stopped metres short of the tryline.

Godwin was on hand to scoop the ball up and drive over to the left of the ruck from close-range, however, allowing Carty to convert for 7-0.

Soon after a strong scrum penalty for the Connacht pack, Carty added a further three points off the tee – punishing Bordeaux for a high tackle on centre Eoin Griffin.

The French side finally managed to get some territory in the closing 10 minutes of the first half, with Connacht initially repelling them with their superbly-organised and hard-hitting defence.

But a wild pass from the otherwise-excellent Quinn Roux as he acted as a makeshift scrum-half after a Blade carry put Connacht under pressure in their own 22 and Thierry Paiva earned a turnover penalty, allowing Lucas Meret to kick three points for a 10-3 half-time scoreline.

Jack Carty is tackle by Luke Braid and Thierry Paiva Tommy Dickson / INPHO Jack Carty carries for Connacht. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

A big turnover from replacement loosehead Conán O’Donnell got Connacht rolling in the second half and Godwin scored his second try in the 47th minute.

Carty looped behind Bundee Aki in midfield on a clever set-piece play inside the Bordeaux 22 but his pass to Colby Fainga’a went to ground just before Godwin stooped to pick it and slide over the tryline in the same fluid movement.

Referee Mike Adamson initially indicated a knock-on but a brief review with his assistant – and a replay on the big screen in the corner – convinced him that the score was legit and Carty’s conversion made it 17-3.

Connacht should have pushed on from there but a yellow card for Robin Copeland for looking to kill the ball as Bordeaux pressured their tryline was swiftly followed by replacement back row Afa Amosa battering through Carty and Fainga’a for a try converted by Meret. 

With the rain falling heavily again, Connacht began to reapply the pressure with 15 minutes remaining, a series of penalties culminating in replacement tighthead Bealham dotting down at the back of a powerful maul.

Bordeaux looked to have caught Connacht cold after sub scrum-half Conor McKeon departed with a worrying-looking shoulder injury, cross-kicking a penalty as play resumed but they managed to knock-on over the tryline.

Robin Copeland with Nans Ducuing Tommy Dickson / INPHO Robin Copeland watches on at ruck time. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

McKeon’s injury meant Connacht, having used their entire bench, had to play the closing eight minutes with 14 men and de Buitléar shifting from the wing into scrum-half.

There was no opportunity to grab the bonus point but in nasty conditions, Friend will have been pleased to keep the winning momentum going.

Connacht scorers:

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TriesKyle Godwin [2], Finlay Bealham

Conversions: Jack Carty [2 from 3]

Penalties: Jack Carty [1 from 1]

Bordeaux-Begles scorers:

Tries: Afa Amosa

Conversions: Lucas Meret [1 from 1]

PenaltiesLucas Meret [1 from 1]

CONNACHT: Cian Kelleher; Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin (Colm De Buitléar ’50), Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin; Jack Carty (Conor Fitzgerald ’68), Caolin Blade (Conor McKeon ’68); Peter McCabe (Conán O’Donnell ’36), Shane Delahunt (Tom McCartney ’57), Conor Carey (Finlay Bealham ’54); James Cannon (Joe Maksymiw ’69), Quinn Roux; Jarrad Butler (captain), Colby Fainga’a, Robin Copeland (yellow card ’53) (James Connolly ’63).

BORDEAUX-BEGLES: Simon Desaubies; Nans Ducuing (Adrien Pelissié ’76), Jean-Baptiste Dubie (captain), Ulupano Seuteni, George Tilsley; Lucas Meret (HIA – Lucas Lebraud ’45 to ’50), Yann Lesgourgues (Jules Gimbert ’50); Thierry Paiva (Laurent Delboulbes ’50), Clément Maynadier (Florian Dufour ’56), Lasha Tabidze (Viliamu Afatia ’58); Mariano Galarza, Cyril Cazeaux; Luke Braid (Maxime Lamoth ’66), Cameron Woki, Beka Gorgadze (Afa Amosa ’50).

Referee: Mike Adamson [SRU].

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