Reversal of fortunes for Kildare’s rugby stars
By Daire Walsh
THERE was a reversal of fortunes for Kildare’s contingent in the Guinness PRO14 Championship as the second round of the competition took place this weekend.
After tasting defeat to Glasgow Warriors seven days earlier, Ballymore Eustace native Craig Ronaldson appeared off the bench in Connacht’s comprehensive 32-13 bonus point victory over Zebre at the Sportsground on Saturday.
In addition to a brace of tries from Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Eoin Griffin and Niyi Adeolokun also crossed the whitewash for the western province. They had already completed their scoring for the day by the time Ronaldson was introduced as a 70th-minute replacement.
He deputised for Kyle Godwin at inside centre and managed to execute three tackles in his short time on the field. While Giulio Bisegni’s late try for the visitors may have taken some of the shine off the overall performance, Connacht have now moved up to third place in Conference A.
Just behind them in the rankings are interprovincial rivals Munster, who suffered a 25-10 reversal to Glasgow at Scotstoun on Friday. Despite his impressive cameo against the Toyota Cheetahs on the opening weekend, Carbery was once again listed amongst the Red Army replacements.
He was joined on this occasion by Eadestown’s Tadhg Beirne, who made his Munster debut as a 41st-minute substitute for blindside flanker Dave O’Callaghan. Carbery soon followed in an out-half role that was initially filled by JJ Hanrahan.
It was not an ideal scenario for either player, though, given Glasgow had established a commanding 22-0 interval lead. Hanrahan finally act of the game was to open Munster’s account off the kicking tee and a Rhys Marshall try on 69 minutes offered them a glimmer of hope.
However, Glasgow remained in control and eventually cruised home with the help of a Stuart Hogg penalty.
Following their narrow success at the expense of Cardiff Blues last Friday week, Leinster found themselves on the opposite end of the result in an away encounter with Scarlets on Saturday. Fergus McFadden (Suncroft) was handed a start alongside Jordan Larmour and James Lowe in the back-three.
Although he got his name on the scoresheet in round one, Kill’s James Tracy had to be content with a place on the Blues’ bench. In recent seasons, Leinster and Scarlets have developed a strong rivalry in both the Celtic League and Champions Cup competitions.
The Welsh outfit raced into a seven-point lead courtesy of Ken Owens’ converted try, before McFadden responded with a five-pointer of his own on 24 minutes. Indeed, after Scarlets regained momentum through a Leigh Halfpenny penalty, Lowe crossed over in stoppage-time to give Leo Cullen’s men a 14-10 cushion at the break.
Yet, eager to bounce back from an earlier loss to Ulster, Scarlets were the sharper of the two teams on the resumption. A brace of Halfpenny penalties was supplemented by a Gareth Davies try in the latter stages.
Rhys Ruddock’s converted score set up a thrilling finale, but Leinster ultimately fell to a two-point defeat (23-21).