|Pro14: Connacht v Southern Kings|
|Connacht (19) 24|
|Tries: Aki, Bealham, Porch 2 Cons: Fitzgerald 2|
|Southern Kings (12) 12|
|Tries: Cronje, Van Breda Con: Van Breda|
Connacht secured a 24-12 bonus-point Pro14 win over Southern Kings in a scrappy contest in Galway.
After agreeing a new Connacht contract on Friday, Bundee Aki’s try gave the Irish side an early lead but Erich Cronje’s score helped Kings level.
Tries from Finlay Bealham and John Porch put the home side 19-7 up before Scott van Breda’s reply reduced the margin to seven by half-time.
Porch’s second try secured Connacht’s bonus point in an error-ridden display.
Connacht’s performance lacked accuracy as their set-piece malfunctioned on numerous occasions in a performance littered with handling errors and penalty concessions.
But Kings, despite having 65% possession and 66% territory in the first period, were unable to punish Connacht’s sloppiness as they wasted several promising positions.
Connacht’s win moves them to within a point of Conference B leaders Munster while Kings remain in bottom spot after only one win in their opening seven games, which came in their previous contest at Ospreys.
The visitors failed to make early pressure count with wing Yaw Penxe failing to hold a Van Breda pass when a score seemed on the cards and they were made to pay as Ireland centre Aki finished off a Connacht maul to score in the 13th minute.
King were on terms within four minutes as centre Cronje finished off a period of sustained attacks from the restart with a close-range finish, as Van Breda matched Conor Fitzgerald’s Connacht extras.
But Connacht soaked up further pressure during the first half and with one exception – when Matt Healy knocked on a glorious try-scoring chance – made their own limited forays into Kings territory count.
Prop Bealham finished off another maul to score Connacht’s second try on 26 minutes and lively fly-half Conor Fitzgerald’s burst, following his exchange of passes with superb flanker Colby Fainga’a, set up up Porch’s first touchdown three minutes later with Aki also involved.
However, Connacht continued to struggle for fluency as full-back Van Breda finished off another period of Kings pressure in first-half injury-time.
A slick passing move involving Aki, scrum-half Caolin Blade, Fitzgerald and Matt Healy yielded Porch’s bonus-point securing try two minutes after the break.
That proved the final score of the evening as both sides continued to labour when presented with scoring chances, with Connacht opting to bring on Ireland fly-half Jack Carty to kick for territory in the closing stages.
Connacht: Healy; Adeolokun, Godwin, Aki, Porch; Fitzgerald, Blade; Buckley, McCartney, Bealham, Dillane, Roux (capt), Masterson, Fainga’a, Boyle.
Replacements: Delahunt for McCartney 58 mins, Burke for Buckley 65, Robertson-McCoy for Bealham 65, Maksymiw for Dillane 69, Butler for Boyle 58, Lloyd for Blade 59, Carty for Fitzgerald 50, Robb for Godwin 69.
Southern Kings: Van Breda; Hollis, Cronje, Mnisi (capt), Penxe; Jackson, Ungerer; Schoeman, Du Toit, Scholtz, Sexton, Fortuin, Burger, Bholi, Louw.
Replacements: Solomon for Jacques du Toit 72, Vos for Schoeman 72, Terblanche for Scholtz 67, De Wee for Fortuin 56, Lerm for Burger 35, Maree for Ungerer 47, Masuku for Jackson 72, Sithole for Mnisi 45.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)