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Connacht aim for road-trip win to rekindle memories of 2015/16 season

Connacht are aiming for a second successive win in this season’s Pro14.

Aki shone in Connacht's victory last week.
Aki shone in Connacht's victory last week.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THE THING THAT is half-forgotten about Connacht’s seismic 2015/16 season is the confidence they gleaned from all those road trips.

Quite apart from the historic win over Munster at Thomond Park, there were other scalps worth boasting about, against Ospreys, Dragons, Zebre and Edinburgh.

Even on nights they lost, they still won bonus points – two of those coming early doors at Glasgow, further bonus points arriving in Treviso, Scarlets and against this evening’s opponents, Cardiff (kick-off 7.35pm, Live TG4).

The upshot was that by the time judgement day came around, Connacht knew what they had to do: win and home advantage was theirs for the semi-finals. All those bonus points added up to something big.

All this is worth bearing in mind when Andy Friend’s side land in Rodney Parade today – Cardiff are playing there because their ground is being used as a Covid-testing centre.

These are the days that often determine whether a season ends up in mid-table or the play-offs. And Connacht travel there in expectation not just hope, buoyed by that brilliant opening day win last Saturday against Glasgow, content that Sammy Arnold is a more than capable replacement for Tom Farrell as Bundee Aki’s centre partner while Eoghan Masterson’s inclusion in the back-row is a sign of the depth they have in that department.

“We were very pleased to pick up the win last week and the way the squad took control of the game in the second half,” said Friend.

“That said, we are targeting two wins from these first two games so the job is only half done.”

For their part, Cardiff are also seeking a second successive win after chalking up a victory over Zebre last weekend. Prop Dillon Lewis is back in the starting XV – one of six Blues players selected in the Wales squad earlier this week. Hooker Kirby Myhill and flanker Olly Robinson are the other two changes in the pack.

“The performance and result out in Italy last week was really pleasing for us as a group, and everyone who featured showed their maturity and game management to get us over the line in tough conditions after the red card,” said their coach, John Mulvihill.

“The defence was excellent, so we can certainly take confidence from that performance.

“As a group, we’re all looking for consistency, and that starts this week. We won last week, but an important message throughout the week is that we’re not content with that unless we back it up with another good performance this week.

“The changes to the side have been minimal, and we want to reward those boys who have performed well in recent games.”

Connacht

15. John Porch
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Bundee Aki
11. Alex Wootton
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

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1. Denis Buckley
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Gavin Thornbury
5. Quinn Roux
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Conor Oliver
8. Jarrad Butler (captain)

Replacements:

16. Shane Delahunt
17. Jordan Duggan
18. Jack Aungier
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Paul Boyle
21. Stephen Kerins
22. Conor Fitzgerald
23. Tom Daly

Cardiff Blues

15. Matthew Morgan
14. Josh Adams
13. Rey Lee-Lo
12. Willis Halaholo
11. Hallam Amos
10. Jarrod Evans
9. Lloyd Williams

1. Corey Domachowski
2. Kirby Myhill
3. Dillon Lewis
4. Seb Davies
5. Cory Hill (captain)
6. Shane Lewis-Hughes
7. Olly Robinson
8. James Botham

Replacements:

16. Kristian Dacey
17. Rhys Carré
18. Dmitri Arhip
19. Ben Murphy
20. Alun Lawrence
21. Lewis Jones
22. Jason Tovey
23. Garyn Smith

 

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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