Connacht’s Adam Byrne breaks free to score a try. James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht rest several key players but still earn deserved Challenge Cup win

The Irish side were too good for Newcastle Falcons.

Connacht 22

Newcastle Falcons 8

John Fallon reports from the Sportsground

CONNACHT MAY have rested captain Jack Carty and their five current Irish internationals, but Andy Friend’s side still had enough to carve out a deserved Challenge Cup win at the Sportsground.

They never really looked like getting a bonus point but this wasn’t a bad way to begin their 20th Challenge Cup campaign and they will head to Brive next weekend hoping to take another step towards nailing down a knockout place without too much fuss.

Connacht started and finished the opening half strongly but in between Newcastle’s bulkier pack gave the Falcons plenty of possession.

The Irish outfit defended well and, rarely for this season, made the most of what they created to touch down early and late in the half.

Paul Boyle, one of just three survivors from last weekend’s starting side against Benetton, picked up where he left off against the Italians when he drove over after three minutes after good ground was made by scrum-half Caolin Blade.

David Hawkshaw slotted the conversion but Newcastle regrouped and built the phases and it took a good intercept from the experienced Tiernan O’Halloran to hold the visitors at bay just when it seemed the Falcons were about to get in after eleven minutes.

Out-half Tian Schoeman pulled back a penalty after 19 minutes to get Newcastle off the mark and they hit the front six minutes later.

Schoeman used a penalty advantage to float an excellent crosskick which was taken by the twice-capped English international Adam Radwan over Blade’s head and he passed for former England U20 player Nathan Earle to come around on the loop off the other wing to score. Schoeman missed the conversion from the right but led 8-7 approaching the break.

Then Adam Byrne, belatedly making his first Connacht start after his summer move from Leinster, announced his arrival at the Sportsground with a jinking sprint from outside the 22 to score an excellent try.

Hawkshaw added the extras to take a 14-8 lead into the break but he was off target with a penalty from distance eight minutes after the restart.

However, he made no mistake with another one much closer to the posts to lead 17-8 going into the final quarter as both sides emptied their benches, with Ballinasloe native Oisin McCormack coming on to make his senior competitive debut at flanker.

Impressive winger Diarmuid Kilgallen got over for Connacht’s third try four minutes from the end when he collected a crosskick from replacement out-half Conor Fitzgerald to score, but they were unable to add a fourth to claim the bonus point.

Connacht scorers:

Tries: Boyle, Byrne, Killgallen

Conversions: Hawkshaw (2/3)

Penalty: Hawkshaw (1/2)


Newcastle Falcons scorers:

Tries: Earle

Penalty: Schoeman (1/1)

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Adam Byrne, Tom Daly (rep: Tom Farrell ’64), Cathal Forde (rep: Conor Fitzgerald ’64), Diarmuid Kilgallen, David Hawkshaw, Caolin Blade (rep: Colm Reilly ’69), Peter Dooley (rep: Dennis Buckley ’60), Dylan Tierney-Martin (rep: Shane Delahunt ’60), Jack Aungier (rep: Sam Illo ’60), Josh Murphy (rep: Leva Fifita ’40), Niall Murray, Jarrad Butler, Shamus Hurley-Langton (rep: Oisín McCormack ’64), Paul Boyle.

Newcastle Falcons: Alex Tait, Adam Radwan (rep: Ewan Greenlaw ’68), Matias Moroni, Tom Penny, Nathan Earle, Tian Schoeman (rep: Josh Thomas ’60), Sam Stuart (rep: Josh Barton ’66), Conrad Cade (Adam Brocklebank ’53), Jamie Blamire (rep: Charlie Maddison ’53), Mark Tampin (rep: Richard Palframan ’60), Greg Peterson (rep: Josh Peters ’53), Sebastian De Chaves, Matty Dalton, Tom Marshall, Callum Chick (rep: Mark Tiffin ’64).

Referee: Luc Ramos (France)

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