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Report: Connacht 24-14 Bristol Rugby

Bristol Rugby rounded off their pre-season preparations with a hard-fought defeat at the hands of Connacht on Saturday.

David Lemi and Mat Protheroe scored either side of half-time in a 24-14 loss at the Galway Sports Ground.

Bristol now turn their attentions to the Greene King IPA Championship season, with Hartpury the visitors for the opening game of the season at Ashton Gate.


 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Connacht went in front inside two minutes when Peter McCabe crashed over from close-range for a converted score.

In a high-octane first period, David Lemi’s quick thinking levelled proceedings when the winger darted over following confusion in the home defence.

Connacht’s Matt Healy threatened to add a second try following a powerful break, while Soane Tonga’uiha went close for Bristol, but neither side could add to their tally before the interval.

Almost immediately after the restart, scrum half Kieran Marmion’s touch down from the base of a ruck edged Connacht back in front at 12-7.

Rhodri Williams escapes the attentions of the Connacht defence (via JMPUK)

On the hour mark, Steven Luatua was among a raft of replacements for his club debut and the All Black back rower made an instant impact, holding Jack Carty up over the whitewash.

Referee George Clancy did award a penalty try to Connacht following a spell of attacking pressure at scrumtime, but Bristol found a route back into the game courtesy of Mat Protheroe’s stunning effort.

The full back skipped past several defenders on his way under the posts for a converted solo try, while Searle converted to reduce arrears to 19-14.

With five minutes left on the clock, Rory Scholes burrowed over in the corner for the home side and, despite Tom Varndell inches away from dotting down late on, Connacht held out for a 24-14 victory.

David Lemi touches down on first outing of pre-season (via JMPUK)

PHOTO OF THE GAME

Pat Lam gives the orders on his return to Connacht (via JMPUK)

KEY MOMENT

Mat Protheroe's impressive solo effort - dancing his way through several defenders after patient build-up play - provided a glimpse of the attacking style supporters can expect from Pat Lam's team.

MAN OF THE MATCH

New arrival Protheroe - who joined in the summer from Gloucester - provided an attacking spark in the second period with several incisive line breaks and a sublime try on the hour mark.

THE TEAMS

Connacht Rugby:

Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Dan McCabe, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Andrew Browne, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (c).

Replacements from: Shane Delahunt, JP Cooney, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Eoin McKeon, Conor McKeon, Steve Crosbie, Bundee Aki, Stacey Ili, Rory Scholes.

Bristol Rugby:

Jordan Williams; David Lemi, Will Hurrell, Tusi Pisi, Tom Varndell; Ian Madigan, Rhodri Williams; Soane Tonga’uiha, Jason Harris-Wright, Sione Faletau, Joe Batley, Joe Joyce, Sam Jeffries (c), Dan Thomas, Nick Haining.

Replacements from: Max Crumpton, Jack Cosgrove, Tyler Gendall, Joe Latta, Steven Luatua, Jack Lam, Jordan Crane, Reiss Cullen, Billy Searle, Jack Tovey, Sam Bedlow, Luke Morahan, Mat Protheroe.