Glasgow Warriors 8
Connacht took their chances with aplomb and upped their defensive effort by several notches to hold out visitors Glasgow Warriors for a well deserved win on Friday night.
They lived on the edge throughout, but they survived to post their first win of this season's Magners League and put some much-needed momentum into their home account.
Coach Michael Bradley had bemoaned Connacht's inability to take their chances in previous games, but they certainly made amends in the first half of a fixture already billed as a must-win.
Glasgow ruled 70 per cent of possession and territory, and squandered numerous chances, but Connacht, with a little luck on their side and a lot of character in defence, made their slim pickings count to take the spoils.
If the opening try from Fionn Carr proved pivotal, then the second, scored by Brett Wilkinson, was the most creative on the night. That, combined with a huge defensive effort, allied to their ability to respond to the building pressure of a must-win performance, ensured Connacht reaped the reward.
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 was also 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. It was a try rehearsed on the training pitch and developed by Mike McCarthy and Andrew Farley. I suspect, however, in the second half we were a bit nervous, and we did not seem to execute efficient clearning in the red zone."
Glasgow had controlled the opening 30 minutes, and the signs were ominous from the second minute when outhalf Dan Parks kicked his side into an early lead. Under pressure in that early period a rampant lock Opeta Paletoi and No 8 Kelly Brown were doing damage in the tight, while fullback Stortoni, and wingers Hefin O'Hare and Thom Evans were carving space through the middle. New Scottish squad member prop Moray Low came closest to extending that lead when barging through from the back of a line-out, but Connacht's defence held firm on that occasion despite the home side's inability to enter their opponents' 22.
Parks, however, missed an 11th-minute penalty, while Liam Bibo and Fionn Carr stopped Thom Evans shy of 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 on to spurn another two kickable penalties.
The game turned in a moment of magic from Carr. Glasgow were once again on the attack in the 22, but when Graeme Morrison mis-fired his pass out wide, 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, and in a move rehearsed on the training pitch, crossed the whitewash for a second. Scrumhalf Frank Murphy set up the try, taking Farley's tap and rocketing through the back row before Brett Wilkinson burst through from the ensuing ruck to touch down.
Keatley's conversion 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.
They could have extended that lead soon after the restart when Carr was denied a second try with a knock-on at the line. Instead Glasgow once again took control - except at the try line. Thom Evans was the chief protagonist, but on each occasion Connacht's defence stood up to the task, with a series of crunch tackles, and crucially they won at least five penalties when camped on their own line to relieve the pressure.
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 wavered in their defensive effort. Instead replacement outhalf Andy Dunne added an 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 ).