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Connacht Complete Worcester Double

Connacht Complete Worcester Double

Connacht extended their lead at the top of Pool 2 in the Amlin Challenge Cup, following a deserved 19-7 victory over Worcester Warriors at the Sportsground in icy conditions on Friday.

Connacht coach Michael Bradley kept the same starting line-up which beat Worcester 26-21 last Saturday, and it reaped dividends as the westerners ground out a 12-point win to earn their fourth Amlin Challenge Cup win in succession.

In contrast Worcester made ten changes to their side from that game, but it failed to make a difference as the resilient hosts maintained their unbeaten cup run.

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Tries from Ireland Internationals John Muldoon and Gavin Duffy in either half proved crucial for the hosts against a Warriors outfit that faded as this game progressed.

Both sides were gifted plenty of potential scoring opportunities in the opening stages, but failed to turn the pressure into points.
Worcester pressed Connacht hard with team captain Muldoon forced to pull off a fine fourth minute tackle for the hosts, after Marcel Garvey broke free inside the 22 following a pass from Jake Abbott.
Connacht made a their second crowd-pleasing break in the 10th minute after Muldoon passed to Frank Murphy who made a bursting run from his own 10 metre-line up to the visitors’ 22 with some clever play also from bustling centre Niva Ta’auso.
However Ta’auso was crowded out by the Worcester cover and the visitors, eager to atone for last Saturday’s result, quickly went on the offensive once more.

Connacht had the upper hand in both the scrummage and lineout stakes in the opening quarter, but it was Mike Ruddock’s Warriors who opened the scoring. 
Off scrum ball in the Connacht 22, the Warriors maintained possession with out-half Matthew Jones linking with full-back Chris Pennell who broke over the try-line just under the stand.

The momentum was certainly with Worcester at this stage as Jones slotted over the conversion to push his side into a 7-0 lead with 25 minutes gone.

But Connacht showed great urgency as they won their first kickable penalty off the restart for offside and the composed Ian Keatley split the posts to cut the gap to four points.
Bradley’s charges were rewarded for a period of sustained pressure with Muldoon again leading by example as he secured the hosts their first try of the night, six minutes before the break. 
Murphy, Keatley and young centre Aidan Wynne took the ball on before Keatley used a gap in the Warriors’ back-line to gain ground and draw the defender before offloading to Muldoon who evaded a tackle and crashed over in the right corner.

Keatley failed to land the resulting conversion from a difficult angle, and then four minutes later he kicked a penalty wide of the posts from 32 metres out..
Worcester continued to pile on pressure before the interval but Connacht held firm to take a hard-earned 8-7 interval lead.

The slender advantage was not reflective of Connacht’s solid first half showing, with the hosts keen to quickly add further scores on the restart.

And Connacht began the second half at a canter with great fluidity of movement. They got their just reward in the 49th minute when full-back Gavin Duffy crossed for the hosts’ second unconverted try of the night.

Scrum half Murphy quickly took a tap penalty, breaking ahead with Keatley and Ta’auso quickly in tow. Connacht’s excellent forwards rumbled up to five metres from the Warriors’ line, and Ta’auso popped the ball to inrushing Duffy who made it over in left corner to give his side a six-point cushion.

There were try-scoring chances aplenty for Connacht as the third quarter came to a close, with replacement Troy Nathan and winger Fionn Carr making bursting runs, but both were halted halfway inside the visitors’ 22.

Keatley bounced back to his usual kicking form in the closing stages with a 71st minute penalty kick, where in contrast his opposite number Jones was off target with his second place-kick of the night.
Both sides threatened the whitewash in the closing stages but to no avail. However Connacht confirmed an impressive win with a Keatley drop goal in the dying minutes, with Worcester’s woes compounded by a late sin-binning for their replacement flanker Tom Wood.