Kieran Keane pleased as Connacht begin to look the part

Matt Healy scores four tries as province complete back to back wins over Brive

 Connacht’s Matt Healy scores his second try against Brive at the Sportsground. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Connacht’s Matt Healy scores his second try against Brive at the Sportsground. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Connacht 55 Brive 10

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for Kieran Keane’s Connacht squad. Ten points in the last two Challenge Cup games, top of pool five with a seven-point lead over Worcester, and both delivered with a huge helping of sublime rugby.

Life is certainly looking rosier for Keane’s developing squad as it heads into festive interprovincial fare fuelled with greater confidence.

The seven-try fest against Brive at the Sportsground was another demonstration of the squad’s burgeoning comfort with Keane’s heads-up rugby.

“They are starting to enjoy themselves, “ says Keane, “and we are reaping the rewards of that. They are feeling good about themselves, and I know we are not world-beaters in some people’s eyes, but it’s nice to see the boys express themselves and like what they are doing.

“As long as the boys are getting better, feeling better about themselves ,growing their game, getting competitive – those are the things I want to achieve. When you see a performance like that, it warms your heart, and I am happy to have a warm heart.”

A physical Brive side , as expected, made a game of it, and Connacht were only ahead 17-10 after a first half “tussle” before running away in the second half.

Matt Healy – the first Connacht player to record four tries – was a worthy man of the match and opened his productive tally after five minutes.

Assured display

But it could as easily have been outhalf Jack Carty “one of the hardest-working men in the team”, according to Keane, who produced another assured display with 25 points from a 32nd minute try – notable for a super offload from Shane Delehunt – two penalties, and seven conversions.

Healy started the second half as he did the first, finishing a rehearsed move from an overthrown lineout, replacement Kieran Marmion completed a super line break from replacement Tom Farrell.

Pita Ahki, who gets married next week in New Zealand and will miss the next two games, set up Healy’s fourth, and Farrell finished the try fest, courtesy of another super Carty crossfield kick.

“This is just part of the stepping stones, “ says Keane.” With three interpros over the Christmas spell, this will give us a lot of confidence. Brive is a very big physical side and Ulster is no different, and let’s see how it rolls.

“Ulster can have their backs to the wall and come out on top – tip your hat to them for having that resolve. It will be a huge challenge, but we’ll be at home and have the Clan behind us, and that will help.”

Scoring sequence: 5m M Healy try, Carty con 7-0; 12m Carty pen 10-0; 29m G Germaine try and con 10-7; 32m Carty try and con 17-7; 39m Germain pen 17-10; HT 17-10. 41m Carty pen 20-10; 49m Healy try, Carty con 27-10; 57m Healy try, Carty con 34-10; 60m K Marmion try, Carty con 41-10; 69m Healy try, Carty con 48-10; 74m Farrell try, Carty con 55-10.

Yellow card: Brive M Tadjer (52m),

CONNACHT: D Leader; C Kelleher, P Ahki, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, J Mitchell; D Buckley, S Delahunt, F Bealham, U Dillane, Q Roux, C Gallagher, J Connolly, E Masterson (C). Replacements: P McCabe for Buckley (35) ,T McCartney for Delahunt and C Carey for Bealham (45), J Cannon for Dillane (64), K Marmion for Mitchell (58), T Farrell for Aki (58).

BRIVE: G Germain; N Megdoud, A Mignardi (C), B Petre, F Romanet; M Ugalde, F Cazenave; V Devisme, M Tadjer, D Bamba, J Snyman, J Uys, P Narisia, D Waqaniborutu, E Herjean. Replacements: S Koyamaibole for Narisa (HT), K Asieshvili for Devisme and J Johnston for Bamba (45), G Namy for Romanet (51), T Laranjeira for Germain (59), D Waqaniborutu for M Tadjer (62), J Le Devedec for Snyman (67), D Delarue for Cazenave (67).

Referee: Ian Tempest (England)

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