Pro14: Connacht come from behind to end Cheetahs winning streak
|Pro14: Connacht v Cheetahs|
|Connacht: (14) 24|
|Tries Adeolokun, Marmion, Farrell 2 Cons: C Fitzgerald 2|
|Tries: Dweba, Smith, Blommetjies Cons: Pienaar 2 Pen: Pienaar|
Connacht halted the Cheetahs' winning start to the Pro14 with a thrilling 24-22 comeback victory in Galway.
The hosts led 14-5 at the break thanks to tries from Niyi Adeolokun and Kieran Marmion, while Joseph Dweba scored for the visitors.
Cheetahs took the lead in the second half with tries from Rhyno Smith and Clayton Blommetjies.
A red card for leading with the head for Dries Swanepoel turned the game and Tom Farrell scored two late tries.
In a thrilling night at the Sportsground, both sides produced exciting end-to-end rugby.
Connacht fly-half Conor Fitzgerald made a big break early on to take his side into Cheetahs territory before Adeolokun found a gap and slipped out of a tackle for a stunning first try.
Adeolokun stars for Connacht
Cheetahs responded with some powerful drives and after a couple of penalties entrenched them in Connacht's 22, Dweba scored from the back of the maul.
Man-of-the-match Adeolokun again showcased his attacking game when he received the ball in his own half and used his pace and step to beat a couple of defenders and put Marmion in for a try.
After the break Cheetahs found their edge and produced some of the fast-paced rugby that has run Pro14 defences ragged this season.
The Cheetahs backs cut loose and Rhyno Smith slashed through Connacht's defence for a try.
More slick running and handling took the Cheetahs back into Connacht's 22 before Clayton Blommetjies found space to dash in and score.
With a 22-14 lead and all the momentum, it seemed like the Cheetahs would be the comeback winners but with less than ten minutes to go, the game turned.
Dries Swanepoel charged Caolin Blade from the ruck, leading with his head, and referee Ben Whitehouse showed him a red card.
Suddenly Connacht had the momentum and powerful substitute Farrell tracked his forward colleagues to score off the back of the maul.
When they won a penalty in injury time, they elected for a scrum metres from the Cheetahs line.
Cheetahs powered Connacht off their own ball but illegally, and Connacht chose to scrum again.
This time the ball came out and Farrell muscled over again to secure the bonus point and a rousing win for his side.
Fitzgerald's conversion bounced off the upright but with the Field of Athenry ringing around the Sportsground it did not matter on a brilliant night for Connacht rugby.
Connacht: Fitzgerald, Adeolokun, Godwin, Robb, Porch, Fitzgerald, Marmion; Buckley, McCartney, Bealham, Thornbury, Roux, Masterson, Butler, Boyle.
Replacements: Heffernan, Burke, Robertson-McCoy, Dillane, Gallagher, Blade, Farrell, Leader.
Cheetahs: Smith, Blommetjies, Swanepoel, van Rensburg, Volmink, Schoeman, Pienaar; Nche, Dweba, Coetzee, Manjezi, Steenkamp, Olivier, Pokomela, Wiese.
Replacements: Wilmar Arnoldi, Boan Venter, Luan de Bruin, JP du Preez, Sias Koen, Tian Meyer, George Whitehead, William Small-Smith
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
Assistants: Sean Gallagher (IRFU) and Gwyn Morris (WRU)
TMO: Sean Brickell (WRU)