Connacht Eagles host first British & Irish Cup fixture tomorrow
By Linley Mackenzie
Dubarry Park will host the first home fixture of the Connacht Eagles tomorrow evening (7.45pm) when English outfit Newcastle visit for the second round of the B&I Cup.
In Connacht’s first entry into this competition, the Eagles, coached by Nigel Carolan, will face current pool leaders Newcastle in pool four, which also boasts Cross Keys.
Newcastle will be tough opponents - they comprehensively defeated Cross Keys in last week’s opener by 52 - 5 at Kingston Park. Not only were they dominant in the scrum, but in outhalf Luveniyali, centre Suka Hufanga, and new prospect Zach Kibirig, they had players who tore the Welsh outfit’s defence apart.
Connacht’s defence will need to be on its toes, but will hope a strong home crowd will play its part. Senior players, centre Brian Murphy and backrows Eoin McKeon and TJ Anderson are returning from injury, and Carolan could expect to name them in his squad for tomorrow evening’s fixture.
Last weekend the Eagles had their first taste of the competition and just came up short, losing away to Newport by 18 - 14.
There was little between the two sides in the opening half, but the Eagles looked to have the edge, and were particularly dangerous on the counterattack. However Newport defence held firm, and it came down to the kickers. In the first 30 mins the home side kicked one from three attempts, while Connacht’s Tadhg Leader also converted a penalty.
However the home side, through forward pressure, grabbed an opening try, but Leader landed another penalty to close the gap to 10-6 at the break, and within minutes of the restart potted another. Connacht continued to create opportunities, and a superb try from wing Matt Healy on the counterattack gave Connacht a deserved four-point lead.
Although Newport added a penalty, Connacht looked like closing out the game with a one-point victory until Newport centre Will Richard grabbed a winning try on the stroke of full-time.
Connacht Eagles v Newport: S Leyden; J Loxton, C Finn (D Leader 70), T Leader, M Healy (S Macauley 60); J Carty, M Walsh (M Dolan 70); B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright (K O'Byrne 64), JP Cooney (P Reilly 67); M Kearney (U Dillane 60), D Qualter; D Heffernan, E Grace, J Gardiner (A Conneely 50).