Glasgow Warriors 8
Connacht are off and running after clearing the third hurdle. A huge defensive effort, allied to their ability to take a couple of chances, ensured Connacht bagged their first win of this season’s Magners League.
It was a well deserved victory over a Glasgow Warriors outfit that, having dominated possession, spurned a host of chances.
The Warriors domination of possession and territory ensured Connacht lived on the edge throughout, but having conceded some seven tries the previous week against Llanelli, the home outfit upped their defensive effort and reaped the reward. Against a more physical side, such defending could well have taken its toll, but on Friday it was the Warriors who buckled, ensuring Connacht have secured some much-needed momentum for the campaign ahead.
Having scored a paltry two penalties in their previous two encounters, and having failed to post a try, two fine efforts on Friday night proved pivotal. The opening try from Fionn Carr against the run of play provided Connacht with the necessary pyschological boost, while the second, scored by prop Brett Wilkinson, was a most creative move established on the training field.
Michael Bradley described the performance as a "great test of character".
"Last week our defence was not as it should have been so we had spent time during the week working on it. Glasgow kept us pinned in their half for long periods of the match, but they did not take their kicks at goal, and we had the tenacity to hold them out. It was reward for the character which they continue to show.
While Connacht's defence was at the heart of this win, Bradley also was delighted that his side was also able to show their creativity.
"We were more creative than they were, and the second try was the most creative of the match - a try rehearsed on the training pitch. I suspect, however, that in the second half we were a bit nervous, and we did not seem to execute effcient clearing in the red zone."
Glasgow, in controlling the opening 30 minutes, were eight points ahead and the signs were ominous. As earlly as the second minute outhalf Dan Parks kicked a penalty, although the outhalf was to subsequently have a poor day with his goal-kicking and was replaced.
Lock Opeta Paletoi and No 8 Kelly Brown were at their bulldozing best early on, while fullback Stortoni, and wingers Hefin O'Hare and Thom Evans seemed to find space through the middle. They should have scored again when new Scottish squad member, prop Moray Low, barged through from the back of a line-out, but Connacht's defence held firm.
Parks, however, missed an 11th minute penalty, but they still controlled the game, and it took a huge effort from Liam Bibo and Fionn Carr to stop Thom Evans at the line. However the Scottish left winger took advantage minutes later when Connacht centre Gavin Duffy failed to deal with a high ball, giving Evans clear space to canter through from 40m out for an 8 - 0 lead after 22 minutes.
Parks' conversion hit off the upright, and although replaced in the second half, Glasgow went went on to spurn another two kickable penalties. At that stage Connacht had failed to put together a worthwhile phase of attacks, but a moment of magic from Carr turned the game around. Glasgow, once again on the attack in the 22, lost possession when Graeme Morrison miss-fired his pass out wide, and Carr turned defence into attack, scooping up the ball and racing 70m to open Connacht's account, with Ian Keatley adding the extras.
That score certainly provided Connacht with impetus, and with heads a little higher, they started to play with confidence. With only their second incursion into the Warriors' 22, Connacht capitalised on a penalty to touch. Scrumhalf Frank Murphy set up the try, taking Farley's tap and rocketing through the backrow before Brett Wilkinson burst through from the ensueing ruck to touch down.
Keatley's conversion too hit off the post to give Connacht a rare 12 - 8 half time lead, but given the paucity of possession, it was a lead well earned for having taken their chances.
Carr was denied a second try soon after the restart with a knock-on at the line,and although Glasgow once again took control, they failed to cross the whitewash again as Connacht's defence stood up to the task. A series of crunch tackles, and at least five turnover penalties when camped on their own line, relieved the pressure and demoralised the Warriors.
After missing a 52nd minute penalty, Glasgow began to look dispirited, particularly after turning down kicks at goal to seek the try line. It proved a mistake, as Connacht, with a slender lead never waivered in their defensive effort. Instead replacement outhalf Andy Dunne added a 86th minute penalty to stretch Connacht's lead to 15 - 8 and ensure their defensive efforts were rewarded.
Connacht: F Carr, L Bibo, G Duffy, K Matthews, J Hearty, I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, S Cronin, R Morris, M McCarthy, A Farley, J Muldoon (cpt ), R Ofisa, C Rigney. Replacements, A Dunne for Keatley (55 ), R Loughney for Morris (55 ), J O'Connor for Ofisa (60 ), A Flavin for Cronin (70 ), A Browne for McCarthy (76 ), M Deane for Duffy (80 ).
Glasgow Warriors: B Stortoni, H O'Hare, M Evans, G Morrison, T Evans, D Parks, M McMillan, J Va'a, D Hall, M Low, O Palepoi, A Kellock (cpt ), S Swindall, J Barclay, K Brown. Replacements: C Gregor for 10 (ht ), J Beattie for Swindall (55 ), E Milligan for Hall (60 ), K Tkachuk for Va'a (60 ), D Turner for Palepoi (60 ), A Henderson for M Evans (66 ), R Jackson for McMillan (66 ).
Referee: D Bodilly (Wales ).