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Tom Farrell's stoppage-time try sees Connacht clinch bonus point win against Cheetahs

Andy Friend’s side coughed up a nine point lead but pushed late for a dramatic win on Saturday.

Connacht 24

Cheetahs 22

John Fallon reports from the Sportsground

CONNACHT SECURED A dramatic win in the fourth minute of stoppage time when they were rewarded for their bravery with a try which ended the Cheetahs’ perfect start to the season.

The hosts, trailing by three points, opted for a scrum and after a reset replacement centre Tom Farrell got over for his second try of the night to not only secure the win but also a bonus point.

kieran-marmion-runs-in-to-score-a-try Kieran Marmion runs in to score a try. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Connacht coughed up a nine points lead as the Cheetahs maintained their winning start to the season after a hugely entertaining contest at the Sportsground.

It was the one game when the home side might have hoped for more inclement weather in Galway but an Artic wind was the extent of the difficulty of the conditions, with both sides thriving on a dry ball on a fast surface.

Connacht enjoyed the bulk of possession in the opening half and led 14-5 at the break. The South Africans defended well but they were finally opened after 14 minutes after a good break by out-half Conor Fitzgerald was followed by eight phases before Fitzgerald sent Niyi Adeolokun through for his first try in the competition in over a year.

But the Cheetahs hit back after 29 minutes when a couple of penalties to the left corner ended with hooker Joseph Dweba squeezing over for a try which Ruan Pienaar was unable to convert.

tom-farrell-scores-a-try Tom Farrell scores a last-gasp try at The Sportsground. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Connacht finished the half strongly with Adeolokun turning creator with a superb break down the right to send scum-half Kieran Marmion over for a try in his first start of the season after his World Cup omission.

Fitzgerald added the extras to lead by 14-5 at the break, with wind advantage to come in the second-half. Pienaar pulled back a penalty for the Cheetahs five minutes after the restart and they hit the front after 56 minutes when Rhyno Smith scored his sixth try of the campaign with a superb run through the home defence, with Pienaar converting to make it 15-14.

The Cheetahs grew in confidence from there and pounded the home line with 18 phases before John Porch intercepted and ran the length of the field to score but the try was ruled out when the TMO deemed Kyle Godwin to be offside.

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The Cheetahs opted for a scrum and were rewarded a few phases later when right winger Clayton Blommetjies raced through to score a converted try to lead 22-14 after 63 minutes.

Connacht were given an opening nine minutes from time when centre Dries Swanepoel was sent off for a head tackle on Caolin Blade. Connacht went to the corner with the penalty and replacement centre Farrell got over for the try. Fitzgerald was off target with the conversion to leave three between them.

Connacht failed to get anything from two penalties to the left touchline in the closing minutes but they never gave up and from a third one with the clock in the red they had the composure to snatch a thrilling win.

Scorers for Connacht: Tries: Niyi Adeolokun, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell 2 Conversions: Conor Fitzgerald 2 / 4

Scorers for Cheetahs: Tries: Joseph Dweba, Rhyno Smith, Clayton Blommetjies
Penalties: Ruan Pienaar 1 / 1 Conversions: Ruan Pienaar 2 / 3

CONNACHT: Stephen Fitzgerald; Niyi Adeolokun (Darragh Leader ’65), Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb (Tom Farrell ’61), John Porch; Conor Fitzgerald, Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade ’57); Denis Buckley (Matthew Burke ’69), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’61), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy ’57); Gavin Thornbury (Ultan Dillane ’44), Quinn Roux (Cillian Gallagher ’52); Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle.

CHEETAHS: Rhyno Smith; Clayton Blommetjies, Dries Swanepoel, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Anthony Volmink (William Small-Smith ’65); Tian Schoeman, Ruan Pienaar; Ox Nche (Boan Venter ’73), Joseph Dweba (Wilmar Arnoldi ’74), Aarnos Coetzee (Luan de Bruin ’65); Sintu Manjezi, Walt Steenkamp (JP du Preez ’75); Gerhard Olivier, Junior Pokomela (Sias Koen ’74), Jasper Wiese.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).

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About the author:

John Fallon

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