Saturday 7 December 2013

Educational win for Connacht Eagles

Connacht Eagles 17- 8 Bedford Blues.

Paul O'Donohue clears from the base of a ruck. 
Rugby fans have been treated to some fantastic spectacles in the last few weeks, with South Africa - New Zealand, Wales - Australia and even Cardiff - Glasgow thoroughly entertaining those that watched. Unfortunately the action at the Sportsground was not to join those in the pantheon of great games to watch. The weather had a part to play, but overall the Eagles will be satisfied with the scrappy win that flattered them on the scoreboard.

A better team than Bedford would have been out of sight given all the linebreaks they had, but Connacht's defense held firm all but once, to ensure critical penalties were won in the dangerzone.

Connacht's forwards shone throughout, and gave them a platform from the off with some strong scrummaging from Finlay Belham especially. The back row of Masterson, Browne and O'Brien in particular were everywhere, getting through mountains of work, joining the second rows in the engine room. Despite this, Bedford had the best of the first half playing into the wind, eventually their best player on the day, Brendan Burke went over after a break from the hooker, Charlie Clare. Mike Le Bourgois was unable to add the extras.

Carty, who managed the game nicely, especially in the second half, got Connacht onto the scoreboard just before halftime, with Sean O'Brien's sinbinning the only other point of note in the first 40. Indeed, Connacht's discipline was poor, and this young side need to learn to adapt to the referee's interpretation much faster after they were penalised time and again.

The second half started just as the first left off, and Bedford were able to add to their lead with a penalty after Eoin Masterson was sinbinned for another penalty at the breakdown. This seemed to spark Connacht into life, and they will be enthused with their reaction. A good break from Carty led to a period of pressure on the Bedford line, with substitute hooker Dave Heffernan going over. Carty added  the extras as Connacht took the lead for the first time.

Connacht grew into the game from here, with Sean O'Brien to the fore. He was a physical beast, and as he gains experience, he will be able to effect the game more. If he was able to add some handling or offloading skills to his impressive arsenal, O'Brien would be one of the leaders of the Connacht first team.

A long period of pressure on the Bedford line brought another try, this time for Andrew Browne, which put a bit of gloss on the scoreline that perhaps flattered Connacht. They should learn a lot from this, as there were a few times when the wrong decisions were made, but they were able to win a game that it looked like they were going to lose for a very long time. Not a bad habit to get into.

Young players like Conor Finn, Shane Layden, Finlay Bealham and O'Brien had strong games, but my man of the match was Jack Carty.

Connacht Eagles: 15 Shane Layden, 14 David Panter, 13 Conor Finn, 12 Brian Murphy, 11 Steve Macauley, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Paul O’Donohoe; 1 Finlay Bealham, 2 James Rael, 3 JP Cooney, 4 Dave Nolan, 5 Danny Qualter, 6 Andrew Browne, 7 Eoghan Masterson, 8 Sean O’Brien

Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter Reilly, 18 Ultane Dillane, 19 Conor Kindregan, 20 Caolin Blade, 21 Tadhg Leader, 22 Marcus Walsh

Bedford Blues: 15. Mike Le Bourgeois, 14. Patrick Tapley, 13. Brendan Burke, 12. Ollie Dodge, 11. James Short ,10. Mark Atkinson, 9. Darryl Veenendaal; 1. Darren Fearn, 2. Charlie Clare, 3. Phil Boulton, 4. Mike Howard, 5. Paul Tupai (c), 6. Tom Jubb, 7. Matt Hankin, 8. Nick Fenton-Wells

Replacements: 16. TJ Harris, 17. Nico Steenkamp, 18. Tomas Gilardon Paz, 19. Ben Gulliver, 20. Tom Armes, 21. Ben Calder, 22. Jake Sharp

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