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Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

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Preview: Connacht v Southern Kings

Charlie Talbot-Smith 8 Sep 2017
O’Halloran back in Connacht starting team for historic clash with Southern Kings

Connacht meet Southern Kings at the Sportsground on Saturday evening with both sides still searching for their first win of the new Guinness PRO14 season. The hosts sit fourth in Conference A after gaining a losing bonus point in their narrow defeat to Glasgow Warriors in the season opener while the Kings are bottom of Conference B after their heavy loss to the Scarlets in their tournament debut.

What’s at stake? Connacht have now slipped to five successive Guinness PRO14 defeats since their 22-19 victory in Edinburgh in April. The post-Pat Lam era began with a narrow loss to the Warriors last time out in Galway and new boss Kieran Keane will be desperate to get up and running against their South African opponents. The Kings meanwhile went down to a 57-10 loss in Llanelli on their Guinness PRO14 bow and would love nothing more than to take a maiden victory home with them to South Africa for rounds three and four.

Team news (Connacht): Tiernan O’Halloran returns to action and is named at full-back in a side that sees three changes from the XV that started the opening round. Inside centre Tom Farrell and flanker Sean O’Brien are also included in the starting fifteen with Eoin Griffin and Eoghan Masterson taking their places among the replacements. In a positional switch Darragh Leader moves from full back to the wing as O’Halloran returns.

 Team news (Southern Kings): The Southern Kings have made just one change to their team. After the opening-round loss to champions Scarlets, head coach Deon Davids has promoted scrum-half Godlen Masimla to the starting XV with Rudi van Rooyen named on the bench.

Talking points: This will be the Kings first-ever trip to Ireland and after a week preparing in Galway, head coach Deon Davids will be confident of an improvement from round 1. The team will be again captained by Michael Willemse while out-half Kurt Coleman, winger Yaw Penxe and No 8 Andisa Ntsila were all prominent in the Round 1 fixture and will look to build on that in their second outing. Connacht – 2016 champions in the old Guinness PRO12 – know that a victory this weekend will build confidence and momentum ahead of a trip to the Dragons in round three before welcoming the Cardiff Blues in round four.

Key Battle: Kings winger Yaw Penxe wrote his name in the history books last weekend as the Kings first-ever try scorer in the Guinness PRO14 and was only denied a second by a superb covering tackle by Steff Evans in the South African side’s loss to Scarlets. His exploits will not have gone unnoticed in Galway ahead of this weekend’s clash but his opposite man Matt Healy is no stranger to the try-line. Top scorer in the 2015/16 season, the Ireland international will look to open his account this weekend for a Connacht side still waiting for their first try of the campaign.

Key stat: Southern Kings make their first ever visit to Ireland having lost their last two matches, at home to Cheetahs in Super Rugby on 14 July and in Llanelli last Saturday. 

Did you know? Connacht have lost their last three fixtures at the Sportsground but have not lost four in succession in the venue in the Championship since November 2013.

Connacht: T O’Halloran, D Leader, T Farrell, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, K Marmion, D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane, J Cannon, S O’Brien, J Butler, J Muldoon
Replacements: D Heffernan, D Coulson, C Carey, Q Roux, E Masterson, C Blade, S Crosbie, E Griffin

Southern Kings: M Banda, Y Penxe, B Klaasen, L Vulindlu, S Sithole, K Coleman, G Masimla, S Ferreira, M Willemse, R de Klerk, J van Vuuren, D van Schalkwyk, K Majola, V Sekekete, A Ntsila
Replacements: S Coetzee, L Pupuma, E Swanepoel, B de Wee, S Mdaka, R van Rooyen, O Zono, J Nel

TV: TG4/Supersport (KO 7:35pm)

Match officials – Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU). Assistant Referee 1: Keith Allen (SRU). AR2: Joy Neville (IRFU). TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU).

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Connacht up and running with victory over Southern Kings

Fiona Tomas 9 Sep 2017

Connacht ended a run of five successive Guinness PRO14 defeats as they secured their first win of the season with a 32-10 win over Southern Kings.

Both sides went into the game searching for their first victory of the new campaign, but it was the home side who enjoyed the brighter start.

The Kings, looking to bounce back from their opening round 57-10 defeat to champions Scarlets last weekend, saw winger Sibusio Sithole sinbinned in the opening ten minutes for dangerous play.

And the Irish outfit capitalised with the extra man as Tom Farrell raced under the posts for his first try of the season before Jack Carty converted.

More pressure on the Kings’ scrum ensured Carty slotted home a penalty to give his side a 10-0 advantage after half an hour.

It was Connacht who showcased more glimpses of expansive rugby, as Yaw Penxe – the historic scorer of the Guinness PRO14’s first try last weekend – could not match the occasional fiery breaks made by opposite man Matt Healy and the physicality of Bundee Aki.

But the South African outfit showed resilience by breaking into the Connacht’s 22 to pull a try back through Berton Klaasen, who showed enough strength to touch down and restore hope for the southern hemisphere newcomers.

But the home side responded almost instantly at the other end, after Carty timed his offload perfectly to find the fresh legs of replacement Eoghan Masterson for a simple try.

Carty added the conversion to restore Connacht’s 12-point lead.

And the home side added a third on the cusp of half-time, when Ultan Dillane charged over to put Connacht in the driving seat at the break with a 24-5 lead.

The western province started the second half in the same manner they had finished the first, pinning the Kings in their own 22 and were rewarded for their territory through a Carty penalty.

Finlay Bealham saw yellow for a cynical shoulder charge on Masixole Banda, but, as Connacht had done earlier in the game, the Kings could not capitalise on the extra player as Luvuyo Pupuma was held up on the line.

And Kieran Keane’s side ensured they grabbed a much sought after bonus point as the outreached arm of Darragh Leader was enough to beat Masixole Banda and Oliver Zono in the corner with ten minutes to play.

Despite struggling to convert points into possession, the Kings showed glimpses of already acclimatising to life in the northern hemisphere, characterised by the physical strength of Luvuyo Pupuma, who powered over for Deon David’s side late on.

But Zono missed the conversion as the Kings return to South Africa in search of their maiden win.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138