Connacht become just the second European team to win in South Africa

See-saw contest against the Lions at Ellis Park decided by late Jack Carty penalty

Lions 30 Connacht 33

Connacht became only the second northern hemisphere URC team to claim victory in South Africa this season when they added the scalp of the Emirates Lions in an exciting encounter in Ellis Park.

Resilience and character were once again needed, particularly after the hosts drew level with 10 minutes remaining. And although outhalf Jack Carty missed a 72m minute penalty, three minutes later he produced the winner to ensure Connacht took victory.

Having beaten both the Bulls and the Stormers at the Sportsground already, it is a major boost for Andy Friend’s side to have taken the Emirates Lions’ scalp at Ellis Park, particularly after last weekend’s disappointing result against Leinster, and they now head to Durban to face the Cell C Sharks, beaten only by Edinburgh, in their bid to become the first team to beat all four South African teams.

That they did it with injuries was also all the more significant, says Friend. “We had injuries, and one couldn’t get back out there, so we had our battles out there to keep 15 on the park,” he says.

“Credit to attitude of the boys. As we know we’ve had lots of performances that haven’t resulted in wins, and lots of disappointment, but at the same time, never doubt the fire and energy within the group.

“One of things watching teams that played here, they often start well, but fade with 20 minutes to go. We talked about it all week, that we have to stay in the fight and keep working, and that is attitude and that is what we have in spades. We just need to tighten up some of the other areas we can control and when we do that, we will become a difficult team to beat.”

Connacht delivered the necessary fast start, but they were unable to take advantage. Spurning two great try scoring opportunities, which could have put them out of sight, they were forced to dig deep in the final 20 minutes to eke out the win.

A second minute try from Cian Prendergast, converted by Jack Carty, had set the tone after some hard graft from Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen. And it got better when Connacht were awarded a penalty try after eight minutes with prop Run Dreyer yellow carded for pulling down the maul.

While Connacht spurned an opportunity for goal, Jordan Hendrikse opened the side’s side’s account with a penalty, and it was not until the 38th minute the stalemate was broken when right wing Maxwane produced a timely try to close the gap to 8-14 at the break.

Both sides exchanged penalties before Carty kept Connacht’s noses in front with another three-pointer. As altitude started to take its toll, the home outfit raised the stakes and took advantage of a napping Connacht when scrumhalf Morne van den Berg broke through for a converted try, but once again Carty was successful off the tee to keep his side in front with 20 minutes remaining.

Crucially Connacht were next to score from a penalty to touch when Aki found his midfield partner Tom Daly who spun out of two tackles for the third try, with Carty adding the extras.

But in the see-saw nature of the game the hosts quickly replied - a floated pass from fullback Quan Horn found winger Edwill van der Merwe who had space on the outside to touch down, closing the gap to 23-30.

With all the momentum, they soon levelled through captain Burger Odendaal, but five minutes later Carty, having missed a penalty, showed great composure to slot the winner.

Scores: Prendergast try, Carty con 0-7; 8m penalty try 0-14; 18m Hedrikse pen 3-14;38m Maxwane try 8-14. HT 8-14; 42m Carty pen 8-17; 46m Hendrikse pen 11-17; 50m Carty pen 11-20; 53m van den Berg try, Hendrikse con 18-20; 60m Carty pen 18-23; 63m Daly try, Carty con 18-30; 66m can Der Merwe try 23-30; 70m Odendaal try, Hendrikse con 30-30; 75m Carty pen 30-33. FT 30-33.

Emirates Lions: Q Horn; R Maxwane, W Simelane, B Odendaal (capt), E van der Merwe; J Hendrikse, M van den Berg; S Sithole, PJ Botha, R Dreyer; R Schoeman, R Nothnagel; F Horn, V Tshituka, E Tshituka.

Replacements: C Sadie for Tshituka (10-19mins), P Smith for Sithole and Sadie for Dreyer (47 mins), J Visagie for Botha (57 mins), Ruan Venter for Schoeman (60 mins), Andre Warner for van den Berg (64 mins).

Connacht: M Hansen; J Porch, B Aki, T Daly, A Wootton; J Carty, C Blade; D Buckley, D Heffernan, J Aungier; O Dowling, N Murray; C Prendergast, C Oliver, J Butler.

Replacements: S Bolton for Aki (17-28 mins), G McGrath for Auger (45 mins), L Fifita for Dowling and C Oliver for Boyle (50 mins), D Tierney-Martin for Heffernan and J Duggan for Buckley (60 mins), K Marmion for Blade (63 mins) C Fitzgerald for Wootton (78 mins).

Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)

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