Keane seeks more structured attack as South Africans make first visit to the Sportsground

Connacht's Finlay Bealham is undergoing return to play protocols for a head injury and will miss Saturday's historic first fixture against South Africa's Southern Kings.

Connacht's Finlay Bealham is undergoing return to play protocols for a head injury and will miss Saturday's historic first fixture against South Africa's Southern Kings.

A mouth-watering and historic first Guinness PRO 14 fixture between Connacht and South African side Southern Kings takes place at the Sportsground on Saturday (7.35pm ).

It is a first visit to Ireland of the Port Elizabeth-based outfit in the new competition, and the first cross-conference fixture for both teams this season.

Having suffered opening day defeats, both sides will be determined to make amends in front of an expected full house at the Sportsground.

Connacht, having disappointed against Glasgow, losing 18-12 in miserable conditions at the Sportsground last weekend, need to make home advantage count, and new coach Kieran Keane says he will be "disappointed" if Connacht fail to turn things around on Saturday, having had both "philosophical and other discussions" about last weekend's performance.

"We have addressed all the things that flew out the window on game day. I think the weather tripped us up a little bit, which is ironic being a Galway team, and we have addressed all those sorts of issues," he says.

"We didn't score enough points in that first half. We missed three serious opportunities to score tries, one of which you would argue was scored anyway, so there were enough points gathered with the wind. We have reflected on that, and the means and mechanisms to make those things happen. On the day for whatever reasons, we just choked."

Keane says Connacht lost their way by forgetting the structures of their attacking play.

"We are giving players responsibility and opportunity, but unfortunately on this day the structure of our attacking game went out the window."

That, says Keane, is what the squad calls "MSU".

"You won't get an answer what that stands for, but we had a lot of MSU going on, and we never recovered from that. What we practised for three weeks went out the window and MSU took over."

The Kings lost their opening day fixture to the Scarlets by 57-10, but Keane believes if Connacht are "not on song", it could be a tough evening.

"I have no doubt they will be up for it, hurting after their first game. They are a very physical side, have a lot of physical prowess in their front eight and back seven, so they are fairly expansive, quite brutal.

"They bring a lot of threats, they love to play and love to give the ball a bit of air, so I imagine if we are not on song, things could be turned around by them quite quickly, but of course, we want to turn things around too, big time."

"People will be excited because they will really enjoy their style. They are extremely quick, have athletes all over the park, and it will be exciting for people to see them. They bring a great brand of rugby, a joie de vivre."

Keane still has some injury worries. Prop Finlay Bealham is the latest to join the list and is undergoing return to play protocols for a head injury. Still absent is fullback Tiernan O'Halloran, who has returned to training after knee surgery - "structurally fine, and we will put a bit more pressure on his joints and see how he comes through". Lock Andrew Browne is expected to be out for a "number of weeks" with an Achilles tendon injury, while centre Peter Robb is sidelined until December following surgery on his hip. Scrumhalf Caolan Blade is reintegrating into team training this week following a hamstring injury.

The South African visitors have had little time to prepare, having been "thrown" into the competition, but they have already sampled Irish culture, arriving on Sunday evening amid Galway 's hurling celebrations.

"We got here Sunday night, got stuck in hurling traffic and it took out another two hours for us, but it was awesome to see. We had a pitstop at a dining stop and talked to some of the Galway fans - a good experience, it was amazing," says prop Schalk Ferreira.

Assistant coach Barend Pieterse, says this first year in the PRO 14 will be a learning experience, "but come next year, we want to compete and get into the play-offs, that is our long term [goal]."

That is also Connacht's goal, and an improvement is needed after last weekend's performance.

Although the scoreline was considerably closer than last year's 41-5 defeat, it was still a tough night for Connacht who led 9-3 at half time. It never looked sufficient given the incessant rain and wind that was at their backs.

Outhalf Jack Carty struck the first as early as the second minute, a reward for some strong counter-rucking by the Connacht pack close to the Warriors' line, but they struggled to make an impact, with their set piece coming under pressure. It gave Glasgow a platform to counter with three points from outhalf Peter Horne, who had missed a previous effort from a scrum penalty.

Connacht regained the initiative and carved out a scoring opportunity after fullback Darragh Leader launched a counter inside the Warriors' 22, and concerted pressure from the pack resulted in new cap Jarrad Butler appearing to have grabbed an opening try at the posts, only to be denied by TMO. Carty struck a second penalty after 18 minutes, but despite enjoying the lion's share of possession, Connacht could only muster a third penalty on the stroke of half-time.

It did not take long for Glasgow to reduce the deficit, adding a penalty and try within two minutes. From the back of a scrum, Adam Hastings provided a great ball to Peter Horne who caught the defence napping, and Ali Price finished off, with Horne adding the extras.

Connacht kept in touch with a fourth penalty after 60 minutes, but they squandered a couple of penalties in a period of domination. Glasgow, despite flirting with offside throughout, particularly at ruck time, produced the greater cohesion in both attack and defence, striking the winning blow when left wing Lee Jones crossed after Price had delivered a superb cross-field kick.

Connacht: D Leader, C Kelleher, E Griffin, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, KMarmion, D McCabe, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane, J Cannon, EMasterson, J Butler, J Muldoon ©. Replacements, T Farrell for Griffin and S O'Brien for Masterson (48m ),C Carey for Bealham (56 ), C Ronaldson for Carty (70 ).


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