Conor McKeon, who landed a match-winning kick for Lansdowne in the Ulster Bank League last weekend, repeated the trick when he slotted a late conversion to guide Connacht Eagles to a 26-24 win over Ulster Ravens in Thursday’s ‘A’ interprovincial match.
‘A’ INTERPROVINCIAL MATCH: Thursday, October 2
ULSTER RAVENS 24 CONNACHT EAGLES 26, Deramore Park
Scorers: Ulster Ravens: Tries: Ross Adair, Jack Owens 2, Sam Arnold; Cons: Sean O’Hagan 2
Connacht Eagles: Tries: Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade, Ciaran Gaffney, Peter Robb; Cons: Shane O’Leary, Conor McKeon 2
Eoghan Masterson, who captained the Eagles from number 8, splashed over for the visitors on six minutes to give them an early advantage. Shane O’Leary made no mistake with the conversion for a 7-0 scoreline.
However, Ulster Ravens responded quickly. Slick hands from the backs and a nice offload from Michael Allen to Ross Adair put the in-form Ballynahinch winger clear and he dived over in the corner to score the hosts’ first try of the match.
Under-20 out-half Sean O’Hagan failed to convert, but even better was to come from the Ravens. Jack Owens gave them the lead following great work by Luke Marshall who created space to set the young right winger free. O’Hagan added the extras for a 12-7 lead.
Connacht Eagles hit back strongly and put the Ulstermen under pressure in their own 22. After conceding a series of penalties, referee David Wilkinson sin-binned Owens for hands in the ruck.
With the Ravens down to 14 men, Masterson and Peter Robb almost created a second score for Nigel Carolan’s young side in the 35th minute. They broke from their own line and were halted just five metres from the Ulster whitewash.
In first half injury-time prop Dave Ryan, who joined Ulster in the summer from Zebre, made a great break. He was supported by Neil McComb who offloaded to Owens and the Ireland Under-19 international (pictured below) did well to stretch for the line and score. O’Hagan’s successful conversion made it 19-7 at the break.
The Eagles started the second half as they began the first – with a try. Lively scrum half Caolin Blade dived over from close range for an unconverted try.
The westerners managed to draw level with ten minutes remaining when full-back Ciaran Gaffney – a match winner himself for Galwegians last Saturday – went over in the right hand corner.
Replacement Conor McKeon added the extras this time for the visitors, landing a difficult kick from the touchline. That made it 19-all but just two minutes later, the Ravens went ahead again. A superb individual effort from centre Sam Arnold gave the home team a 24-19 advantage.
However, in injury-time there was joy for the Eagles as bustling centre Robb scored to level the match before McKeon brilliantly held his nerve to kick the winning conversion from wide out.
The Ravens had one final chance to win the match but O’Hagan’s drop goal effort missed the target, meaning the victory was Connacht’s.
The result gives Carolan’s charges a big boost ahead of their British & Irish Cup opener away to Bristol on Sunday week (October 12). The Ravens start their cup campaign the previous day when they visit Aberavon.
ULSTER RAVENS: Ricky Andrew; Jack Owens, Michael Allen, Luke Marshall, Ross Adair; Sean O’Hagan, David Shanahan; Callum Black, John Andrew, Dave Ryan, John Donnan, Neil McComb, Sean Reidy, Clive Ross, Mike McComish;
Replacements: Kyle McCall, Johnny Murphy, Ricky Lutton, James Simpson, Frankie Taggart, John Creighton, Josh Bingham, Sam Arnold, Ryan Campbell, Jonny Rosborough, Charlie Butterworth.
CONNACHT EAGLES: Ciaran Gaffney; Conor Finn, Shane O’Leary, Peter Robb, Dwayne Corcoran; Miah Nikora, Caolin Blade; JP Cooney, Pat O’Toole, Finlay Bealham, Cian Romaine, Daniel Qualter, Steve McVeigh, James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements: John Healy, Jacob Walshe, Jamie Dever, Josh Pim, Marc Kelly, Conor Lowndes, Conor McKeon, Aidan Moynihan.
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)