ALL THINGS IRELAND: December 2012
IRELAND BEAT NEW ZEALAND FOR THE 1ST TIME 40-29 IN HISTORIC WIN IN CHICAGO...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

CONNAUGHT LOSE-OUT TO LEINSTER

Tries in each half from Ian Madigan and Jack McGrath helped Leinster overcome Connacht 17-0 to record their first victory in four matches.
Joe Schmidt's men ended 2012 on a winning note, with McGrath's 73rd-minute try - his first in this season's RaboDirect PRO12 - confirming the result at the RDS Arena.
Connacht had a strong wind at their backs in the opening half, but failed to register any score to reflect their dominance of territory.
It was left to out-half Madigan to clinically pick off a converted try closing in on the break, profiting from his own quickly taken penalty.
He added a second-half penalty and the extras to McGrath's late score as Connacht suffered their second festive derby defeat in a week.
Eric Elwood's side were unable to build on a fine early break from winger Danie Poolman as Leinster regrouped in a physical first 10 minutes.
Leinster's forwards grew into the contest, carrying well at close quarters, but the Michael Swift-inspired Connacht were finding holes in the hosts' defence.
Poolman just miscued a grubber kick as he latched onto a cross-field delivery from Dan Parks and Leinster snatched a crucial turnover after a dangerous catch and run from Robbie Henshaw.
Having gained ground in a scrum, Parks was presented with his first shot at the posts but pulled the 14th minute penalty to the left and wide.
Lacking any territorial hold, Leinster had to maintain their discipline in defence and Jordi Murphy and Ben Marshall put in some meaty challenges.
Smart running from Andrew Conway and Fergus McFadden got Leinster into firing range near the half hour mark, and they showed the visitors exactly how potent they can be.
Andrew Goodman and Dominic Ryan both barged defenders as the men in blue gained further momentum and a quick tap penalty from Madigan saw him break out of a tackle to score from close range.
The out-half added a tricky conversion from the right and boosted by the seven-pointer, Leinster continually got over the gain-line as half-time approached.
On the restart, Brendan Macken went close to intercepting a high pass from Parks as Connacht looked to move the ball wide.
There was no sign of the midfield traffic giving way until Leinster sparked a series of pick and goes with 50 minutes on the clock.
Dominic Ryan, McFadden and stand-in captain Isaac Boss were heavily involved before Devin Toner was held up over the try-line. Connacht held out though, winning a turnover from the resulting scrum.
Madigan did increase Leinster's lead with a well-struck penalty towards the end of the third quarter.
Connacht showed flashes of clever attacking play, most notably when scrum half Kieran Marmion broke from a ruck near halfway and chipped towards the corner.
However, solid Leinster defence and cheap turnovers kept Connacht away from the whitewash and without a score to show for their efforts.
Having turned down a kickable penalty, Brett Wilkinson knocked on a pass from the ensuing lineout.
Marshall then blocked an attempted kick from Parks and Leinster broke downfield.
The hosts pulled Connacht through phases of strength-sapping defence in the closing stages and the pressure told when McGrath, supported by Toner, thundered over to the right of the posts.
Leinster hunted for a third try in the dying minute with teenage replacement Adam Byrne threatening on the right wing, but they had already done enough to get their play-off push back on track.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

CONNAUGHT BEAT BIARRITZ IN GALWAY

Dan Parks was the driving force behind Connacht as they claimed the scalp of French giants Biarritz with a 22-14 win in their Heineken Cup clash at the Sportsground.


Parks kicked 17 points, including the conversion of Fetu'u Vainikolo's early try, to seal the province's second win in Pool Three.
Dimitri Yachvili kicked three penalties to leave the visitors 10-9 behind at the break, but Biarritz were decidedly brittle as Connacht's younger forwards outworked them.
Although Imanol Harinordoquy came off the bench to score an injury-time try, Yachvili missed the conversion for a losing bonus point.
It was a tremendous result for Eric Elwood's men, with Parks guiding a hard-running back-line and Mike McCarthy marshalling the young guns up front.
With Gavin Duffy, John Muldoon and Nathan White heading the province's 13-man injury list, Parks skippered Connacht and varied the play superbly early on.
After Yachvili nudged Biarritz ahead, Vainikolo struck for a superbly-taken try that really lifted his team-mates and the vocal home crowd.
David McSharry intercepted a pass from Charles Gimenez near halfway and offloaded for the Tongan winger to charge away for a score against the run of play.
Parks converted to put Connacht 7-3 ahead and the westerners missed out on a second try when Ireland lock McCarthy failed to spot Robbie Henshaw looping around him in plenty of space.
A series of penalties failed to budge the scoreline with the wind-backed Yachvili missing two shots at the posts, and Parks drifting a long-range attempt wide.
The Biarritz talisman was back on target at the midway point of the half, his second successful penalty following a decent bout of territory for the visitors.
But Connacht looked the more dangerous of the two sides off limited ball and Takudzwa Ngwenya had to concede a lineout as Tiernan O'Halloran chased hard.
The hosts pressed and Parks took the drop-goal option, in front of the posts, to reopen the four-point gap.
Biarritz looked lacklustre in thought and deed, and tigerish tackling from the likes of Willie Faloon, Michael Kearney and Eoin McKeon helped Connacht keep their defensive line intact.
However, the penalty count took its toll. Number eight McKeon was sin-binned for taking an airborne Iain Balshaw out and Yachvili snapped over a classy penalty to make it 10-9 at the interval.
Despite their greater experience and strength up front, Biarritz failed to hammer home their numerical advantage and Parks restarted the scoring in the second period with a penalty.
Connacht countered again moments later, tournament debutant Danie Poolman punching down towards the 22. Parks hung up a cross-field kick which O'Halloran was inches away from collecting.

Biarritz introduced the fit-again Harinordoquy as they tried to reassert themselves, but strong carries from McSharry and Henshaw preceded another Parks three-pointer.
Parks and company kicked cleverly to keep Biarritz pinned back and McCarthy and hooker Jason Harris-Wright kept the home forwards on the front foot.
They forced a scrum penalty that Parks missed to the right, yet further chances came and in the final 10 minutes the former Scotland fly-half landed an inspirational drop goal and a third and final penalty.
Biarritz's game descended into niggly phases, with their questionable attitude and temperament resulting in a couple of scraps between the forwards.
They did lift the tempo late on, powerhouse Harinordoquy piling over after O'Halloran was sin-binned during some desperate Connacht defence.
But Connacht deservedly failed to cough up the losing bonus point and they will head to south-west France for next week's return encounter with renewed confidence.