Connacht 43 Lions 24
The apprentice overcame the master at the Galway Sportsground on Saturday night in Connacht’s bonus-point win over the Emirates Lions.
Outhalf Jack Carty became Connacht’s all-time top points scorer, displacing Eric Elwood’s long-held record.
Needing only six to equal Elwood’s 1,152, Carty, having missed an early kick, was on target with a penalty and two conversions by the 26th minute to overtake the record that had been in place since 2005.
“It gave me goosebumps when I heard the crowd,” said Carty. “I didn’t think I’d feel anything, but the place means so much to me. To emulate someone like Eric and what he has done, to be spoken in the same sentence as him is something quite special. It is something when I’m finished and retired I will look back at with massive pride.”
On a rare night in Galway without wind or rain, the 26-year-old admitted a missed first kick is something he has learned to not let affect him.
“If that was at the start of the season when I hadn’t been kicking well, I probably would have seen it as a thing ‘here we go again’, but I’ve done a lot of work with Mossie [Lawler]. I was too relaxed when kicking, so now I’m trying to sing a song when kicking. It seems to help and it’s an enjoyable thing to do. I had lost sight of that since Brive, so hopefully it keeps going.”
And it was not just his kicking that found favour, with Connacht coaching director Andy Friend hailing his performance as “outstanding”.
“The way he attacked the ball and carried the ball square gave so many options for us. He managed the game well, and to beat the great Eric Elwood is no mean feat, so that’s a huge honour for him, and he has a lot more points to score too.”
In an all-action opening half in which five tries were scored, Connacht had the upper hand, leading by 29-17 thanks to a fast start and a set piece that delivered.
Within a minute the home side created a scoring opportunity from a penalty to touch, and on this occasion Friend’s side was content to go through the phases before right wing Diarmuid Kilgallen found his way over the line.
Carty missed the conversion, but after both sides exchanged penalties, Connacht led 8-3, and the kicking record was down to four.
Connacht did not have everything their own way, and the visitors, in their second entry into the 22, capitalised from a penalty, and from forward momentum prop Asenathi Ntlabnakanye touched down, with 20-year-old outhalf Jordan Hendrikse adding the extras. However, the home side replied similarly with Shane Delahunt delivering the second try, Carty’s conversion making it 15-10, and left only one point between him and making history.
The Connacht crowd did not have to wait long. Prop Jack Aungier provided the impetus before scrumhalf Caolin Blade forced his way through the defence to score. Carty added the two points to make him Connacht’s all-time leading points scorer.
It did not distract the visitors, who capitalised on two successive penalties before centre Henco Van Wyk skipped through and Hendrikse added the conversion, narrowing the deficit to five. However tries each side of the break from Tiernan O’Halloran and Blade put Connacht into a 36-17 lead before man-of-the-match Blade notched his hat-trick – Connacht’s third in three matches.
The visitors, keen to get something from the fixture, scored a 66th-minute try through centre and captain Marius Louw, which Hendrikse converted, but it was Carty and Connacht’s night
SCORING SEQUENCE – 3 mins: Kilgallen try, 5-0; 4: Hendrikse pen, 5-3; 7: Carty pen, 8-3; 11: Ntlabakanye try, Hendrikse con, 8-10; 15: Delahunt try, Carty con, 15-10; 26: Blade try, Carty con, 22-10; 32: Henco van Wyk try, Hendrikse con, 22-17; 34: O’Halloran try, Carty con, 29-17; 43: Blade try, Carty con 36-17; 63: Blade try, Carty con 43-17; 66: Louw try, Hendrikse con 43-24.
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; D Kilgallen, T Farrell, C Forde, J Porch; J Carty (capt), C Blade; P Dooley, S Delahunt, J Aungier; D Murray, N Murray; J Murphy, C Oliver, J Butler.
Replacements: S Hurley-Langton for Oliver (8-18 mins), D Tierney-Martin for Kilgallon (38-43), D Tierney-Martin for Delahunt, O McNulty for O’Halloran (both 57), S Hurley-Langton for Murphy (58), J Duggan for Dooley, D Robertson-McCoy for Aungier, T Daly for Forde (all 61), K Marmion for Blade (63), L Fifita for D Murray (68).
Yellow Card: S Delahunt (32 mins).
EMIRATES LIONS: Q Horn; S Pienaar, H van Wyk, M Louw (capt), E van der Merwe; J Hendrikse, A Warner; JP Smith, PJ Botha, A Ntlabakanye; W Alberts, Darrien Landsberg; S Sangweni, E van Heerden, E Tshituka.
Replacements: M van den Berg for Warner (50 mins), P Jansen van Vuren for Lansberg, M Rass for Van Wyk (both 51), M Naude for JP Smith (57), J Kriel for Tshituka (62), M van den Berg for Warner, and R Smith for Ntlabakanye (both 64), A Coetzee for Pienar and P Jansen van Vuren for PJ Botha (both 66).
Referee: Paul Williams (NZR).