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23rd Apr 2022

Connacht keep URC playoff hopes alive with big South Africa win

Patrick McCarry



Scenes in the Connacht dressing room, after a tense away encounter at Ellis Park, will show you what this victory means to the Westerners.

Connacht needed to rally late but they secured another big win over South African competition in the United Rugby Championship.

Andy Friend’s side led 14-0 after only 10 minutes, through a converted Cian Prendergast score and a penalty try. The hosts were briefly down to 14 men, but won that 10-minute period 3-0 after a Jordan Hendrikse penalty. Just before half-time, the Lions got their first try through Rabz Maxwane but still trailed 14-8 at the break.

Jack Carty and Hendrikse traded some penalties, after the break, but Connacht were well placed in a 20-11 until a moment when many of their players switched off.

Having conceded a penalty near their tryline, centre Bundee Aki, who had an otherwise excellent game, ceded to the insistence of Lions scrumhalf Morne van den Berg. The No.9 pestered Aki to get the ball back and, when he did, sprinted to where the referee was standing and took a quick-tap penalty, only to crash over for a try.


Replays showed Aki and a few of his Connacht teammates literally did not see the score coming as their backs were to play as the scrumhalf dived over.

Bundee Aki and Connacht finish on a high

That converted try reduced Connacht’s lead to two points, but Jack Carty added another three off the kicking tee. Then Bundee Aki came up with a big play.

Playing in the 13 jersey, Aki came onto a Caolin Blade pass with intent, beat two men with a strong carry and offloaded for centre partner Tom Daly to dive over from close range. That put Connacht 30-18 clear but the Lions answered back with two tries in quick succession.

Carty looked to have missed a chance to be the hero when his late penalty went to the right of the posts. He got another chance, soon after, and made no mistake to put his side 33-30 clear. Aki also stepped up with a late, vital turnover.

The post-match ‘Fields of Athenry’ sing-song in the ‘Away’ dressing room showed a side celebrating a hard, hard-earned win.

It will still require more Connacht wins and rival sides faltering, but the Westerners are not out of the playoff picture yet.


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