” Tries at the start and finish of the opening half set Connacht up for the win but in between Newcastle’s bigger pack caused some difficulty. Paul Boyle gave them a perfect platform when he drove over after three minutes after good ground was made by scrum-half Caolin Blade. Out-half Tian Schoeman pulled back a penalty after 19 minutes for Newcastle and they hit the front six minutes later. Schoeman used a penalty advantage to float an excellent crosskick which was taken by the twice capped English international Adam Radwan over Blade’s head and he passed for former England U-20 Nathan Earle to come around on the loop off the other wing to score. But that was as good as it got for Falcons. Adam Byrne, belatedly making his first Connacht start after his summer move from Leinster, announced his arrival at the Sportsground with a jinking sprint from outside the 22 to score an excellent try.
David Hawkshaw added the extras to take a 14-8 lead into the and he pushed it out to 17-8 going into the final quarter. Impressive winger Diarmuid Kilgallen got over for Connacht’s third try four minutes from the end when he collected a crosskick from replacement out-half Conor Fitzgerald to score, but they never looked like getting the bonus point. Friend said they need to keep the URC game against Ulster on Friday week in mind as they plan their trip to Brive.
Match Preview Connacht send strong starting team to Newcastle
“That’s not in the back of our mind, let’s just see what we’ll do next week, ” added Friend. “We want to go over to France and win that game. So if we can do that, we can start to see what everything looks like. “Last year, we didn’t rotate as much as we have done this year already. Again, for a couple of different reasons. It was a very piecemeal season. We had a couple of games postponed for Covid so we could rest players. “And we got pretty strong feedback from the players asking us to trust them, to give them opportunities. And we’ve done that. And that’s a complement to Pete Wilkins. He selects that team. I need to rubberstamp it but I’m happy with the way he’s going with it.
And also giving other players opportunity. That’s really important. We have two wins in a row now, after the seven game block where we finished with the Scarlets and Ospreys win so it would be nice to have three wins in a row. ” Aside from the trip to France this week, they will face a return match in Newcastle in January but if they secure enough match points across those four pool games, they could find themselves at home all the way to the final in Dublin next May.
Newcastle Falcons - Connacht Rugby live - 21 January 2023