Wasps come from 14 points down to beat Connacht

Kieran Keane’s team fade away after promising first half at Ricoh Arena

Connacht’s Jack Carty and John Muldoon tackle Nathan Hughes of Wasps at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Wednesday night. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht’s Jack Carty and John Muldoon tackle Nathan Hughes of Wasps at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Wednesday night. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Wasps 40 Connacht 22

Wasps enjoyed their second pre-season win over Irish opposition with a 40-22 victory over Connacht at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Wednesday night.

Having edged Ulster in last weekend’s friendly at Kingspan, they overcame Connacht courtesy of five second-half ties, two in the final five minutes, to put some gloss on the scoreline.

However, new coach Kieran Keane will take heart from Connacht’s first half, with his team taking a 12-5 lead into the break. But he will be disappointed with defensive errors in the second half.

“A really good first half,” Keane said. “ We started a little tentatively, took a few big hits and then came back really strongly. I thought the first-half team did particularly well.

“I’m a little disappointed with the second half result. Defensive lapses allowed the opposition to grow in confidence, they had the ball all day and they put 35 points on us, so some of the boys will be disappointed around their defence.”

Missing players through injury and Ireland camp, Keane had travelled with a squad of 29, providing opportunities for each to “stake a claim” ahead of their Pro14 opener against Glasgow.

And with four new starters, he was pleased with his side’s bright opening when they struck two tries in the opening six minutes.

A penalty to touch paid dividends when hooker Tom McCartney touched down in the corner. Centre Craig Ronaldson missed the sideline conversion.

Initiative But he struck his second conversion perfectly after Connacht debutant and former Ulster winger Rory Scholes crossed in the left corner six minutes later.

Wasps hit back with an unconverted try within minutes from Christian Wade. It gave some impetus to Dai Young’s side, but sterling defence from Connacht kept them out before the break.

With a host of changes after the restart, Connacht initially regained the initiative with replacement Stacey Ili influential grabbing his side’s third try after a superb break on the left.

Crosbie converted to put Connacht 19-5 ahead, and it worsened for the hosts when centre Gaby Lovobaluavu was yellow-carded after an early challenge at the restart.

Although Wasps had a try disallowed, they struck a timely blow when capitalising on another penalty. Danny Cipriani found touch before their pack marched over with replacement Tom Cruse finishing off.

Cipriani converted to narrow the gap to 12-19 after 60 minutes.

Connacht kept the scoreboard ticking over with a three-pointer from Crosbie, but Wasps struck a major blow with two tries in three minutes.

Wade showed his pace, breaking from inside his own half, before a Connacht turnover resulted in replacement Josh Bassett crossing, putting his side ahead for the first time, 26-22. They then sealed the deal with two tries in the last five minutes to finish 40-22 winners.

Connacht: D Leader, R Scholes, E Griffin, C Ronaldson, M Healy, J Carty, J Mitchell, P McCabe, T McCartney, C Carey, J Cannon, A Browne, E Masterson, J Butler, J Muldoon. Replacements: C O’Donnell, S Delahunt, D Robertson McCoy, P Claffey, G Thornbury, E McKeon, J Connolly, S O’Brien, C McKeon, S Crosbie, M Byrne, S Ili, C Brennan, C Kelleher.

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