James Crombie/INPHO Danie Poolman celebrates scoring his try with Niyi Adeolokun.
# the west is awake
Injury-ravaged Connacht edge past Newcastle to stay top of pool
The Western province continue on their merry way.

Connacht 25
Newcastle Falcons 10

LATE REPLACEMENT DANIE Poolman crossed for a try five minutes from time to wrap up victory for Connacht and keep them top of Pool 1 in the Challenge Cup.

Connacht had it much tougher than expected but never trailed and came good when it mattered most in the closing stages to seal a deserved win.

Connacht’s injury crisis deepened before the start when captain Tiernan O’Halloran was forced off with a quad injury, which saw Matt Healy, who covered scrum-half last week, switch from the wing to full-back.

O’Halloran’s loss meant that coach Pat Lam had 22 players unavailable for this one as Connacht went for their third win in the competition after earlier pool wins away to Russian side Enisei-STM and at home to Brive.

Conditions at the outset were perfect for rugby with no wind or rain and Connacht wasted little time in getting on top with a couple of penalties from Jack Carty easing them into a 6-0 lead after 17 minutes.

But Newcastle, having changed all 15 who were hammered 38-3 at home by champions Saracens last weekend, were up for the fight with a youthful side who kept Connacht at bay despite most of the opening half hour being played inside their own half.

Sonatane Takulua, Criag Willis and Tom Penny with Rory Parata James Crombie / INPHO Connacht always had their noses in front and sealed the win in the closing stages. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The Falcons got off the mark six minutes from the break when out-half Craig Willis converted a penalty from the left to cut the gap.

But Carty restored Connacht’s six point advantage to lead 9-3 at the break when he made no mistake with a penalty from 20 metres on the right.

Carty extended the lead eight minutes after the restart with an excellent penalty from 35 metres on the right after another good turnover was won by centre Peter Robb.

Newcastle kept plugging away and were rewarded when a good lineout drive saw captain Richard Mayhem credited with the touchdown which Willis converted to leave it 12-10 after 58 minutes.

Carty, having missed a long range penalty, then landed one from 35 metres on the right to make it 15-10 with 18 minutes left.

And then Poolman broke through to score five minutes from the end to wrap up the victory as Connacht made it three wins from three to stay top of the table.

Connacht scorers:

Tries: Poolman
Conversions: Carty
Penalties: Carty

Newcastle scorers:

Tries: Mayhew
Conversion: Willis
Penalties: Willis

Connacht: Matt Healy (Shane O’Leary ’73); Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Peter Robb, Danie Poolman; Jack Carty(Dave McSharry ’79), Caolin Blade; Finlay Bealham (Conan O’Donnell ’76), Jason Harris-Wright (Shane Delahunt ’55), Nathan White (Rodney Ah You ’55); Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney; Sean O’Brien (Danny Qualter ’66), James Connolly (David Heffernan ’69), George Naoupu.

Newcastle Falcons: Simon Hammersley; Dan Marshall (Marcus Watson ’67), Tom Penny, Chris Harris, Zach Kibirige; Craig Willis (Juan Pablo Socino ’66), Sonatane Takulua; Alex Rogers (Ben Harris ’71), Scott Lawson (Rob Hawkins ’66), Taione Vea; Will Witty, Mouritz Botha (Calum Green ’77); Richard Mayhew, Dan Temm, Ally Hogg.

Referee: Thomas Charabas (FFR).

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