Connacht let it slip late

Connacht 14 Scarlets 17

Come the end of the season and Connacht could well be left to rue this winnable Magners League fixture against the visiting Scarlets.

Having put in all the hard work over the Christmas with massive performances against Munster and Leinster, Connacht looked set to back up those displays with another home win. Yet once again they contrived to lose it, letting a 14-3 lead slip as the Welsh outfit took control in the second half to post two tries. And although they had the opportunity to level with a 76th-minute penalty and a 78th-minute drop goal, outhalf Ian Keatley was wide of the mark with both.

"The opportunities were there for us," said coach Michael Bradley. "We could have won it comfortably, won it just, got a draw. Instead we ended up getting a bonus point."

Connacht deservedly held a 6-3 half-time lead, having dominated the half with purposeful play after overcoming an intense start from the visitors, who were rewarded with a fourth-minute penalty from outhalf Rhys Priestland.

But with the pack working hard, and scrumhalf Frank Murphy, who was again at the heart of Connacht's attack, they established control, with Murphy, Niva Ta'auso, and Keith Matthews always probing. In defence they were equal to the chances Scarlets created and although Keatley’s two first-half penalties seemed small rewards for their efforts, the initiative was definitely with the home side, particularly with the second half wind.

It was not long before they capitalised. Mike McCarthy started the move, and Keatley showed his speed to slice through the cover on the angle to touch down. When Keatley added the drop goal on 53 minutes for a 14 - 3 lead, Connacht looked set to continue their fine home form.

Yet in the next 20 minutes the Scarlets upped the pressure, and Connacht somewhat bewilderingly failed to get out of their own half. When McCarthy conceded an unnecessary penalty, it led to the Scarlets first try from prop Deacon Manu, and although the final try in the 74th minute may have included a forward pass, replacement outhalf Stephen Jones got the touchdown and the conversion to take the lead and the points.

CONNACHT: G Duffy; F Carr, N Ta'auso, K Matthews, L Bibo; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, R Morris, M McCarthy, A Farley, J Muldoon (capt ), R Ofisa, C Rigney. Replacement: M Swift for McCarthy (67 mins ).

SCARLETS: M Stoddart; D Daniels, R King, J Davies, G Morris; R Priestland, M Roberts; P John, M Rees, D Manu, D Day, V Cooper, S Easterby (capt ), J Edwards, D Lyons. Replacements: S Jones for Regan (temp ), Stoddart (h-t ), I Thomas for John, L Reed for Day (both 49 mins ), K Owens for Rees (50 mins ), Y N'Gog for Morris (69 mins ), D Jones for Easterby (70 mins ), G Cattle for Roberts (76 mins ).

Referee: J Jones (Wales ).


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