Connacht will bank on their home form as they look to return to winning ways when they face Benetton at the Sportsground on Saturday.
The Irish province suffered defeat to Scarlets on the opening weekend but have only lost once at home in any competition in 2019 – a 31-24 defeat to Munster on 5 January.
Andy Friend’s team were sloppy in possession last time out and are in a bit of a Guinness PRO14 rut, having lost their last three matches in the competition, but Connacht have triumphed their last four encounters with Benetton since the Italian side’s single-point victory at Stadio Monigo in April 2016.
Benetton were spirited in a narrow defeat with 14 men to Leinster in Round 1, a performance they will be looking to build on in Ireland.
The Kieran Crowley-led outfit, though, are on a worse run in the Guinness PRO14 than their opponents – having lost five of their last six matches.
Kick-off: The Sportsground, Galway | 19:35 UK, Saturday 5 October
How to watch: Live on TG4, Premier Sports 1, Super Sport 2 & DAZN
Players to watch out for: Eoghan Masterson (Connacht), Derrick Appiah (Benetton)
Connacht’s only try-scorer last weekend, Eoghan Masterson, was a bright spark for the Irish province.
The flanker burrowed over at the end of a series of powerful drives, while he also registered 12 tackles and gained 15 metres, and he will be looking for more in the familiar surroundings of Galway.
Benetton prop Derrick Appiah was his typical bulldozing self as he dotted down against Leinster and the Italian will be one to look out on Saturday.
Key stat: Benetton’s only previous victory in Galway was 15-13 in December 2011.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade, Paddy McAllister, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Sean Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Stephen Fitzgerald
Benetton: Luca Sperandio, Leonardo Sarto, Joaquin Riera, Alberto Sgarbi, Monty Ioane, Ian Keatley, Luca Petrozzi, Toa Halafihi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Marco Lazzaroni, Eli Snyman, Niccolò Cannone, Michele Mancini Parri, Tomas Baravalle, Derrick Appiah
Replacements: Engjel Makelara, Cherif Traore, Filippo Alongi, Marco Fuser, Lodovico Manni, Charly Trussardi, Ian McKinley, Ignacio Brex
Connacht earned their first win of the Guinness PRO14 season after a dominant 41-5 victory over Benetton Rugby.
The Italians were only narrowly beaten by Leinster in the opening weekend but could do nothing to stop the likes of Caolin Blade and Tom McCartney, who scored two tries each in Galway.
The bonus-point win lifts Andy Friend’s side off the bottom of Conference B and snaps a three-match losing streak in the league.
Connacht raced out of the blocks and had their first try on the board courtesy of a brilliant solo effort from Kyle Godwin.
The hosts then put up a strong defence to keep Benetton at bay before a quick-fire double from scrum-half Blade and McCartney gave them a 22-point lead to take into half time.
Two minutes into the second half Blade’s turn of pace enabled him to find a gap and earn his side a bonus point.
Benetton did eventually notch a try through Luca Sperandio to follow up his score from last time out against Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster.
McCartney then added a second try of his own to reassert the Irish outfit’s dominance and Kieran Marmion hammered it home as Godwin nailed the conversion to nudge the greens over the 40-point mark.
One player in green stood out head and shoulders above the rest on a dominant night for Connacht – Caolin Blade.
The scrum-half took both of his tries exceptionally well and kept the ball moving fast through the hands at the Sportsground to leave Benetton all but helpless.
Blade picked up the second half exactly where he had left off in the first and before the Italians even knew what hit them the No.9 was already over the whitewash.
After spotting a tiny gap to squeeze through he turned on the afterburners, leaving the Benetton defenders in his dust and sealing a bonus point for his side in the process.
Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!
General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.