Connacht become only the second Euro side to win on South African soil
Connacht moved one win away from completing a clean sweep of the United Rugby Championship’s South African sides as they edged the Lions 33-30 in a thrilling contest in Johannesburg.
The Westerners saw off the Bulls and the Stormers at home earlier in the season and Saturday’s victory at Emirates Airline Park was just the second win by a northern hemisphere side in South Africa this season.
Cian Prendergast’s early touchdown and a penalty try put Connacht in control but the Lions hit back through Rabz Maxwane and Morne van den Berg either side of the break.
Tom Daly touched down shortly after the hour mark and although Edwill van der Merwe and Burger Odendaal added further scores for the Lions, 16 points from the boot of Jack Carty – including the winning penalty – proved crucial.
Connacht started brightly and had the lead after only two minutes as Prendergast was released into space by Caolin Blade, with Carty adding the extras.
A penalty try quickly followed following a collapsed maul and a yellow card shown to Ruan Dreyer had Connacht 14-0 and a man up after 11 minutes.
Jordan Hendrikse got the Lions off the mark from the tee at the end of the first quarter before a fantastic line break from Wandisile Simelane created the chance for Maxwane to race over in the closing stages of the half.
Hendrikse missed the conversion to leave Connacht 14-8 in front at the interval and Carty stretched the margin to nine with a penalty early in the second half.
Home kicker Hendrikse and Carty exchanged penalties before Van den Berg took a chunk out of the deficit by bursting through the Connacht defence to touch down and Hendrikse’s conversion made it 20-18.
The fly-half was wide of the mark with a subsequent penalty and that missed opportunity to take the lead was compounded in a game of fine margins when Carty sent one over at the other end.
Bundee Aki offloaded to Daly to barge over for a try converted by Carty as Connacht moved 12 in front with 17 minutes to play.
Van der Merwe and Odendaal then crossed in quick succession for the hosts but Hendrikse was only able to convert one of the tries to level the scores at 30-30.
Although Carty missed a chance to kick Connacht back in front soon after, he was on target with his next to clinch the win.
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