Craig Ronaldson kicked 10 points to guide Connacht to a 23-15 win against the Cheetahs at the Sportsground in Galway on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The result sees Connacht claim victory for just the third time this season, while it also marks the first time they’ve won back-to-back games.
The hosts started off brightly and were in control from the outset. After securing turnover possession and launching a counter-attack, Connacht took the ball deep into Cheetahs territory, and when they won a penalty centre Ronaldson was on target with a successful kick at goal.
Playing in his first game of the season, wing Niyi Adeolokun extended Connacht’s lead with a brilliant try that saw him skin Luther Obi on the outside and then round the last defender to score. Ronaldson added the extras and a second penalty to push Connacht into a 13-0 lead.
The visitors won a penalty on the stroke of half-time and wisely opted to take the points on offer. Fullback Fred Zeilinga made no mistake off the tee as the Cheetas trailed 13-3 at the break.
Much as during the opening half the Cheetahs were flat on attack and devoid of any real scoring opportunities.
Connacht drove home their advantage when hooker Tom McCartney went over for their second try of the game for a 20-3 scoreline. The match went into a lull thereafter.
The Cheetahs finished with a flourish as late tries by Shaun Venter and Makazole Mapimpi added some respectability to the scoreline.
But replacement kicker Steve Crosbie’s penalty, which was sandwiched between the Cheetahs tries, ensured that Connacht stayed at least two scores ahead until the final whistle.
Connacht – Tries: Niyi Adeolokun, Tom McCartney. Conversions: Craig Ronaldson (2). Penalties: Ronaldson (2), Steve Crosbie.
Cheetahs – Tries: Shaun Venter, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga. Penalty: Zeilinga.
Connacht – 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Niyi Adeolokun, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Eoin McKeon, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 James Cannon, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Subs: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Gavin Thornbury, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 Conor McKeon, 22 Steve Crosbie, 23 Matt Healy.
Cheetahs – 15 Fred Zeilinga, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Jasper Wiese, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Dennis Visser, 20 Rynier Bernardo, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Aji Mgijima, 23 Shaun Venter.