Connacht comeback stuns Scarlets
September 10, 2011
Eric Elwood has now seen his Connacht side win their opening two games of the season
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Connacht sit proudly in third place of the RaboDirect PRO12 after maintaining their impressive start to the new season by coming from behind to defeat the Scarlets 13-11 at the Sportsground on Saturday evening.
The Westerners kicked off their campaign by travelling to the Stadio di Monigo, one of the toughest venues in the league, and coming away with a deserved 11-9 victory over Treviso. However, they soon found themselves behind, the Scarlets, who opened with a win over Aironi, taking the lead with a penalty from Dan Newton.
The Scarlets fly-half doubled the visitors' lead when he struck again at the tail end of a turgid opening half but opposite number Matthew Jarvis replied in kind just before the break to leave just three points between the two sides.
Aaron Shingler crashed over for the Scarlets seven minutes in to the second half and while Newton failed to convert, the game appeared to be there for the taking for the Welsh region but then both sides were reduced to 14, with Michael Swift and Rob McCusker both sin-binned for about of fisticuffs.
Connacht coped better whilst a man down, dragging themselves right back into the game with a try through Mark McCrea which was promptly converted by Jarvis. Niall O'Connor came on for Jarvis just after the hour and the replacement fly-half then won the game for Connacht when he landed a penalty with just nine minutes to go.
The Scarlets were first to threaten, their new scrum-half Ruki Tipuna maintaining a high tempo and Rhodri Gomer-Davies and Newton attacking off quick ruck ball.
Newton punished John Muldoon for not rolling away in the ninth minute. Connacht had a quick chance to reply but newcomer Jarvis drew his first penalty effort well wide from inside his own half.
The home support seated in the new Clan Terrace roared on Tiernan O'Halloran as he broke into the Scarlets 22, however the move petered out.
Connacht gave away a number of penalties at the breakdown and in scrums and just when it looked like the Scarlets might strike for a try, a solid hit by Ray Ofisa produced a knock-on.
The hosts were falling foul of Marius Mitrea, a new referee at this level. The concession of another penalty robbed them of a promising position after Duffy's flicked pass had released Samoan Henry Fa'afili on the left wing.
Good work from the industrious Josh Turnbull led to a penalty which Newton turned into three points, but Connacht raised the tempo coming up to half-time.
The Llanelli side were whistled up for crossing and Jarvis opened Connacht's account. Yet the tricky wind got the better of him in injury-time after a well-executed lineout maul had created a late scoring chance.
Nigel Davies' men seized back control on the resumption though. After Ben Morgan broke from a close range scrum, a ruck was set up and passes between Tipuna, Emyr Phillips and Iestyn Thomas put Shingler over in the left corner. Newton could not add the extras and tempers flared a couple of minutes later when Michael Swift and Rob McCusker threw punches at each other, leading to a double sin-binning.
When play resumed Connacht put together some of their best phases, with man-of-the-match George Naoupu and Rodney Ah You both carrying well.
Fa'afili then tied in a couple of defenders on a surge up the right and passed one-handed for McCrea, who picked a lovely angle, to glide over to the right of the posts.
Jarvis converted to put just a point between the sides. Territorially, Connacht were on top now and a ruck offence from Turnbull allowed O'Connor kick them ahead for the first and final time.
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