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Connacht are too quick for the Cheetahs but miss out on bonus point in Galway

Despite a late rally from the guests, Kieran Keane’s side held out.

Image: James Crombie; ©INPHO/James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht 23

Cheetahs 15

John Fallon reports from the Sportsground. 

KIERAN KEANE’S FIRST segment of matches in charge of Connacht ended on a high note when they made it four wins in a row in all competitions with a reasonably comfortable victory at the Sportsground.

Connacht, though, will be disappointed not to have pushed on and claimed a bonus point but after two wins in the Challenge Cup it was vital that they followed up their win over Munster last weekend with another victory.

Connacht led 13-3 at the break having played with the strong wind and they were on top in most facets of the game against a Cheetahs side who tried to run from deep but struggled to make headway and constantly conceded penalties when they brought the ball into contact.

It took a moment of class from winger Niyo Adeolokun, making his first start of the season after recovering from injury, to make Connacht’s dominance count on the scoreboard when he went outside his opposite number Luther Obi down the left before leaving full-back Fred Zeilinga flat-footed as he raced in to score by the posts.

Carl Wegner and John Muldoon compete for a line out Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Adeolokun, who was 27 on Friday, looked sharp and his return to action will give coach Kieran Keane more options when the PRO14 resumes later this month.

Craig Ronaldson, who got Connacht off the mark with a penalty after six minutes, added the extras to lead 10-0 after 13 minutes.

But while Ronaldson added another penalty Connacht were unable to get in for another try before the break and the South Africans cut the gap just before the interval when out-half Ernst Stapelberg landed a penalty from 45 metres.

He missed one shortly after the restart and then Connacht opened up a 20-3 lead after 49 minutes when hooker Tom McCartney squeezed over after a series of forays at the Cheetahs line after the South Africans had coughed up another penalty at the breakdown.

Jack Carty, who took over the kicking duties when Ronaldson went off injured, added the conversion to put 17 points between them and really all that remained to be decided was the margin of victory.

A malfunctioning lineout which saw them lose three of their own throws didn’t help Connacht’s cause, while the Cheetahs broke for a try from Shaun Venter 13 minutes from time.

Jack Carty and Johan Coetzee Source: James Crombie; ©INPHO/James Crombie/INPHO

Steve Crosbie landed a penalty for Connacht from 45 metres five minutes from time but a nervous finish was assured when winger Makazola Mapimpi broke down the left for a try which was converted by full-back Fred Zeilinga to cut the gap to eight with four minutes left.

But Connacht held out and the Cheetahs left Galway empty-handed.

Scorers: Connacht

Tries: Niyi Adeolokun, Tom McCartney

Conversions: Craig Ronaldson 1 / 1, Jack Carty 1 / 1

Penalties: Craig Ronaldson 2 / 3, Steve Crosbie 1 / 1

Cheetahs

Tries: Shaun Venter, Makazola Mapimpi

Conversions: Fred Zeilinga 1 / 2

Penalties: Ernst Stapelberg 1 / 2

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Darragh Leader, Tom Farrell, Craig Ronaldson (Matt Healy ’40), Niyi Adeolokun; Jack Carty (Steve Crosbie ’53), Caolin Blade (Conor McKeon ’69); Denis Buckley (Denis Coulson ’58), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’53), Finlay Bealham; Quinn Roux(Gavin Thornbury ’61), James Cannon (Conor Carey ’65); Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon (Naulia Dawai ’37), John Muldoon.

Cheetahs: Fred Zeilinga; Luther Obi, Tertius Kruger (Ali Mgijima ’61), Nico Lee, Makazola Mapimpi; Ernst Stapelberg (Shaun Venter ’56), Tian Meyer; Ox Nche (Charles Marais ’61), Torsten Van Jaarsveld, Johan Coetzee (Tom Botha ’65); Carl Wegner (Dennis Visser ’75), Reniel Hugo; Paul Schoeman (Rynier Bernardo ’28-38), Jasper Wiese (Rynier Bernardo ’61), Junior Pokomela.

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

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John Fallon

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