10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Trailing by 10 points after 9 minutes, the signs looked ominous yet Connacht refused to bow to the continued Llanelli pressure. At the end of the first half they were rewarded with a Conor O'Loughlin try under the posts, which was duly converted by Paul Warwick.
Connacht began the second half as they finished the first with a supurb solo effort from winger Ted Robinson, finishing under the posts. The conversion by Paul Warwick put them ahead for the first time in the game at 14-13. With the wind now firmly behind them, Connacht now clearly had the upperhand and moved further ahead on 59 minutes when Conor McPhillips scored in the left corner after a 3 on 2 blindside move.
Four minutes later Gareth Bowen pulled back a penalty for Llanelli to make it 19-16 for the home side and 11 minutes from time Daffyd James, a late call up after skipper and Irish international, Simon Easterby was injured in the warm up, crossed for a dubious try.
But Connacht refused to bow to the intimidating home crowd and 6 minutes from time Mark McHugh landed a trademark penalty from just inside the half way line, to put Connacht 22-21 ahead. Connacht then rubbed salt into Llanellis open wound four minutes into stoppage time when Michael Swift dived over to add a bonus point to another memorable visit to Stradey Park. In the process he deprived Llanelli of anything from a game which they expected to win.
After murduring "The Fields of Athenry" once again in the dressing room, a rather hoarse Michael Bradley stressed the importance of the win for Connacht as they've had trouble beating the welsh sides in the past year.
"This performance also increases confidence among our players", he added, "who showed tonight that they can take on a side of internationals and come out on top. Our players showed plenty of youthful energy and desire and weren't in any way overwhelmed by the occasion". The coach went on to say "Lets hope this win will encourage more sporting people to come out and support the Connacht colours at their home games. This is a side which deserves their support".