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PREVIEW: Newcastle ready for key games against Connacht

Wednesday 9th December 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Leader de la poule 1 d'European Rugby Challenge Cup

Leader de la poule 1 d'European Rugby Challenge Cup

Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards is braced for a ‘tough encounter’ in Galway against Guinness Pro12 high-flyers Connacht.

These teams have vast experience of the European Rugby Challenge Cup but have made vastly contrasting starts to the season.

Falcons claimed their only success of the campaign so far when they defeated Russian outfit Enisei-STM 55-7 last time out in this tournament.

That disappointing run, extended by defeat to Saracens last week, has left them 11th in the Aviva Premiership and now – following defeat in the opening round to Brive – facing crunch games against Connacht, starting at the Galway Sportsground.

Director of rugby Dean Richards said: “It is frustration because for 55 or 60 minutes we were in with a shout of beating Saracens.

“I thought our boys acquitted themselves well but we just need that little bit more accuracy and to understand the consequences of one or two little mistakes. There is plenty to build on for next week.

“Connacht are a good side and are in a rich vein of form in the Guinness Pro12, even having lost at Cardiff Blues on Friday. They will be a hard side to beat over there and they will be gunning for it.”

Opposite number Pat Lam is delighted with his side’s start despite suffering only their second defeat in 11 games at Cardiff Blues last weekend.

They are counting the cost of that defeat having lost back-row Eoin McKeon (elbow) and lock Quinn Roux (ankle) with further concerns over key pair Craig Ronaldson and Kieran Marmion (both concussion) as well as Ian Porter.

However Lam could at least welcome back veteran Andrew Browne and Danie Poolman this week.
The men from Galway are second in the Pro12 and have a track record for qualifying for the nock-out stages of the Challenge Cup.

However they have recently struggled against English opponents having lost their five Anglo-Irish ties, including home games in this competition against Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs.
Match Facts

  • The home side has triumphed on the previous three occasions these sides have met in the Challenge Cup with Newcastle emerging victorious in two of those games and Connacht winning one.
  • Connacht Rugby have won eight of their last 11 matches in the Challenge Cup, including both matches so far this season.
  • Connacht Rugby haven’t beaten an English side in the Challenge Cup since beating Worcester Warriors twice in the 2009/10 pool stage, losing all five games against teams from England since then.
  • A loss for Newcastle would be their third in succession away from home, equalling the clubs longest such run in the Challenge Cup.


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REPORT: Connacht out muscle Newcastle

Friday 11th December 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Connacht Rugby are in control of Challenge Cup Pool One after out-muscling Newcastle Falcons to claim a 25-10 victory in a tight encounter at the Sportsground.

It was a battle of the boots as Jack Carty outscored Craig Willis four penalties to one in the first-half. Newcastle finally broke through with a try from Richard Mayhew, but Carty struck twice more to close the match out before Danie Poolman danced ov.er

Connacht now have 13 points from three rounds ahead of their trip to Kingston Park next week.

It was always going to be a tight first 40 minutes between the pool one rivals on a cold night at the Sportsground. But it was the hosts who snatched an early advantage through the boot of Jack Carty with a penalty. Matt Healy, who shifted to full-back after Tiernan O’Halloran had pulled out in the warm-up, was tackled late on 15 minutes. And Carty was on-hand once more to slot over from close range for a 6-0 lead.

The Falcons built momentum and forced the Irish side to pull down a maul, and Craig Willis was on-hand to cut the gap to 6-3. But Carty was on-target once more to give Connacht a 9-3 lead at half-time.

It was more of the same after the break in this tight, tetchy affair as Carty stretched the lead to nine points, before Willis missed the chance to claw it back to six. The try-scoring deadlock was finally broken by the visitors after 56 minutes. The Falcons threw to the front of a close-range line-out and drove Mayhew over. Willis landed the touchline conversion to cut the gap to 12-10 and make it a nervy ending for the Connacht faithful.

But Carty was on-hand again to kick a pair of penalties to give Connacht breathing space again before Poolman put the gloss on the victory with Connacht’s first try.

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