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Injury-ravaged Connacht slip to first European defeat of season at Newcastle

Pat Lam’s squad was stretched to the extreme, resulting in a heavy defeat.

It was a disappointing after for Connacht.
It was a disappointing after for Connacht.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Newcastle Falcons 29

Connacht 5

INJURY-RAVAGED CONNACHT suffered a nightmare second-half to fall to the first defeat of their Challenge Cup campaign.

An injury crisis, which ruled out 19 of the players registered for Europe, proved too much in the end as the Falcons turned the screw after the break, having turned around level.

And Connacht, who travelled with only 22 players, suffered more injury woe when centre Peter Robb and full-back Danie Poolman went off during the game.

It was a big blow to lose two more backs, not least as Pat Lam brought all nine fit backs in his squad with him to Kingston Park.

The pace at which Connacht started suggested a high-scoring game was in prospect with number seven Eoghan Masterson breaking for the try line from deep after less than 30 seconds.

But while he made it over the line, referee Ben Whitehouse adjudged a double movement after Falcons scrum-half Sonatane Takulua got back to tackle.

The strong swirling wind made it difficult for both sides and they turned around deadlocked at 5-5 each.

Connacht enjoyed the bulk of the possession in the opening quarter but it was Falcons who struck for the opening score when former London Irish and Saracens winger Marcus Watson put on the burners to escape several tackles and score an excellent try.

Craig Willis was unable to add the extras, his conversion missing the target by inches from the left.

Connacht, who earlier had to introduce Jack Carty after centre Robb went off for a head assessment injury, hit back six minutes from the break when a good lineout move on the left was moved swiftly for Poolman to burst through Watson’s tackle to score.

Niyi Adeolokun and Daniel Temm Connacht were unable to contain a rampant Falcons side. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Craig Ronaldson’s conversion hit the right post.

It all went sour for Connacht just after the restart when Newcastle piled on the pressure and were rewarded with a penalty try with Connacht flanker Masterson binned in the process as Takulua went for the line.

Then Connacht lost their own lineout deep inside their 22 and paid a hefty price as Argentine centre Belisario Agulla got over for Newcastle’s third try to lead by 17-5.

Suddenly, it was a damage limitation exercise for Connacht as Lam’s injury-ravaged side struggled to contain the Falcons.

Inevitably, Newcastle got the bonus point and it came from a second penalty try when Connacht were guilty of pulling down a five-metre scrum after 57 minutes.

They followed with a fifth try when a superb break from deep by full-back Simon Hammersley ended with Watson getting his second try.

Connacht’s injury crisis got even worse when full-back Poolman went off in a lot of pain with a rib injury.

Newcastle Falcons scorers:

Tries: Marcus Watson (2), Penalty try (2), Belisario Agulla
Conversions: Craig Willis (2)

Connacht scorers:

Try: Danie Poolman

Danie Poolman scores his side's first try Danie Poolman scored the visitors' only points. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Newcastle Falcons: Simon Hammersley (Tom Catterick ’31-39); Alex Tait, Belisario Agulla, Chris Harris (Juan Pablo Socino ’40), Marcus Watson; Craig Willis (Tom Catterick ’65), Sonatane Takulua (Micky Young ’56); Alex Rogers (Rob Vickers ’51), Scott Lawson (George McGuigan ’51), Jon Welsh (Taoine Vea ’58); Mouritz Botha, Sean Robinson (Calum Green ’58); Will Welch (capt), Dan Temm (Richard Mayhew ’65), Ally Hogg.

Connacht: Danie Poolman (Ian Porter ’63); Rory Parata, Peter Robb (Jack Carty ’12), Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun; Shane O’Leary, Caolin Blade (Ian Porter ’48-52); Conan O’Donnell (Saba Meunargia ’71), Jason Harris-Wright (Shane Delahunt ’57), Rodney Ah You (Finlay Bealham ’54); Danny Qualter, Andrew Browne (Aly Muldowney ’65); Sean O’Brien, Eoghan Masterson, George Naoupu (capt).

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).

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About the author:

John Fallon

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