Connacht off to strong start as they take down Bordeaux-Begles
Kyle Godwin scores two tries as hosts win Challenge Cup opener at the Sportground
Connacht’s Kyle Godwin scores a try during the Challenge Cup match against Bordeaux-Begles at the Sportsground. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Conditions dictated this was no show-stopper, but Connacht will be relieved to have secured victory in this season’s European Challenge Cup opener at the Galway Sportground.
As expected, French visitors Bordeaux-Begles provided a stern early test in what was an underwhelming match, but Connacht’s mobile forwards faced up to the visiting Bordeaux bruisers to secure a home victory.
It took 13 minutes before Connacht opened the scoring and it was thanks to a solid scrum where Peter McCabe got the better of his opponent to win a penalty inside the Connacht half. A superb kick from outhalf Jack Carty set up field position inside their opponents’ 22, Quinn Roux secured the line-out, and after some crisp passing, in which McCabe’s two bursts were influential, man of the match Kyle Godwin was quickest to secure possession from a ruck, and dart over for the opening half’s sole try.
Carty added the extras, and seven minutes later he once again put Connacht into the scoring zone when Bordeaux leaked a second penalty at the scrum. Although the home side failed to secure possession from the line-out, Bordeaux gifted Connacht possession when attempting to run the ball out of their 22, and an ensuing penalty was struck between the posts by Carty, extending the lead to 10-0 after 24 minutes.
The visitors, however, grabbed territorial control after sending a 27th minute penalty to touch, and it provided the French outfit with a period of domination. Although Connacht snuffed out Bordeaux’s first opportunity to get some points from a penalty to touch, a forward pass from Connacht on the exit provided the visitors with a real chance from a scrum 10 metres out.
Once again Andy Friend’s side withstood the pressure as Bordeaux tried to engage their opponents in an arm wrestle, and it looked like Connacht had survived until Quinn Roux’s attempted clearance from a ruck, in which scrumhalf Caolan Blade was buried, flew over the head of Godwin which had the pack scrambling inside their own 22. From the ensuing ruck, Connacht were penalised for not releasing, providing outhalf Lucas Meret with a simple kick in front of his posts to open their account at the break, 10-3.
As the rain returned to the Sportsground, Connacht took advantage of two successive penalties, replacement prop Conan O’Donnell and Shane Delahunt combining to force a penalty at the breakdown and from a scrum Godwin did well to score his second try with a superb pick-up, Carty adding the extras.
However Bordeaux kept themselves in contention, capitalising on a poor clearance kick, which was exacerbated when Connacht No 8 Robin Copeland was yellow carded. Replacement backrow Afa Amosa took advantage, charging through for a try, which outhalf Meret converted, and it gave the visitors a real impetus as Connacht struggled to get their hands on the ball.
Eventually, however, the home side regained control, their scrum once again paving the way, and Ireland international Finlay Bealham bagged a well deserved 66th minute try.
Connacht, who introduced youngsters Colm De Buitlear, Conor Fitzgerald, Conor McKeon and Joe Maksymiw, were forced to finish the match with 14 players after McKeon damaged his shoulder and was forced off.
“Heartbreaking for McKeon”, said coach Andy Friend. “In his first start this season, he was only on the field for four minutes and did his shoulder.”
“One of the most pleasing things from a team point of view is that we didn’t have a pretty session Tuesday and we didn’t have a pretty session on Thursday, but we solved the problems when we were out there. When we were down to 14 men and we didn’t have a halfback, we solved the problem, and these are important moments and positives as we build for other teams.”
Connacht: C Kelleher; N Adeolokun, E Griffin, B Aki, K Godwin; J Carty, C Blade; P McCabe, S Delahunt, C Carey; J Cannon, Q Roux; J Butler, C Fainga’a, R Copeland. Replacements, C O’Donnell for McCabe (35m), J Connolly for Copeland (62m), C De Buitlear for Griffin (50), F Bealham for Carey (54), T McCartney for Delahunt (57), J Connolly for Copeland (63), C McKeon for C Blade (68), C Fitgerald for Carty (68), J Maksymiw for Cannon (69).
Bordeaux-Begles: S Desaubies; N Ducuing, J Dubie, U Seuteni, G Tilsley; L Meret, Y Lesgourgues; T Paiva, C Maynadier, L Tabidze; M Galarza, C Cazeaux; L Braid, C Woki, B Gorgadze. Replacements, L Lebrand for Meret (44m to 50), J Gimbert for Lesgourgues (48), L Delboubles for Paiva (50), A Amosa for Gorgadze (50), F Dufour for Maynadier (56), V Afatia for Tabidze (58), M Lamothe for Braid (66), L Lebraud for N Ducing (76).
Yellow card: Connacht, R Copeland (52).
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland).