Connacht earn historic bonus point win over Enisei-STM

The European Rugby Challenge Cup teams have been named

Connacht overcame punishing jetlag and bitter cold to notch up a historic 31-14 victory in their opening Challenge Cup match on Saturday against Russian debutants Enisei-STM at r Central Stadium.

More than 6,000km from Ireland and with temperatures dropping to -18C (-0.4F) in an icy wind, Connacht were forced into a lively start against Enisei, the first Russian club to play in the group stages of a European competition.

“These are probably the toughest conditions we’ve ever played in,” Connacht manager Pat Lam admitted.

“We knew it would be tough but it was very important for us to come here to help Enisei to play their best rugby.

“And it as also very important for us to win as Enisei played really well today. They’re well organised, a physically strong team.

“It was a tough game for us, especially in the first 50 minutes. We’re happy.”

On his first start for Connacht, USA international fly-half AJ MacGinty kicked two first-half penalties at the snow-powdered pitch of Krasnoyarsk’s Central Stadium.

MacGinty’s Russian counterpart Yury Kushnarev missed an early chance before the American stretched the Irish province’s lead with a third penalty in the second period.

Connacht, perhaps better accustomed to the biting cold, then moved up a gear, winger Niyi Adeolokun and skipper John Muldoon each crossing for a try in two crucial minutes that took the visitors out to a 19-0 lead over Ensei, which started off life in the mid-1970s as the team of a hulking local factory churning out heavy machinery for the vast Soviet empire.

Enisei, spurred on by 4,000 fans in their 25,000-seater stadium, poured into attack, but to no avail against the weakest of the four Irish provinces.

Full-back Darragh Leader scored Connacht’s third try before replacement prop Andrei Polivanov made history when he crossed for Enisei-STM’s first try in the 73rd minute.

Kushnarev converted to reduce the arrears, but Connacht bagged a bonus point when Rory Parata went over for the visiting team’s fourth try, converted by Leader.

There was time, however, for the home side to have the final word, Polivanov notching up his second try, also converted by Kushnarev as the game wound down.

“The first half was almost even as we performed really well in defence,” Enisei head coach Alexander Pervukhin said.

“After the break we tried to boost our attacking performance but paid the price because of our own mistakes allowing Connacht to score two early tries.

“It was the turning point that decided the match.”

As the harsh Siberian winter sets in, Enisei will now switch their next two home group games against French club Brive and English side Newcastle Falcons to the considerably warmer climes of the resort city of Sochi, far to the west on Russia’s Black Sea coast.

Final Score Enisei-STM 14 (0) Connacht 31 (6)

Scorers

Enisei-STM
Tries – Polivalov (2)
Pen – MacGinty (3)
Con – Kushnarev (2)
Drop –

Connacht
Tries – Adeolokun, Muldoon, Leader, Parata
Pen –
Con – Leader
Drop –

Match Officials
Referee: Sébastien Minery (Fra);
Assistant referees: Arnaud Blondel (Fra), Sergey Murashkin (Rus)
Citing Commissioner: Richard McGhee (Scotland)

Teams

Enisei-STM: Iurii Kushnarev; Mikhail Babaev, David Kacharava, Dmitrii Gerasimov, Denis Simplikevich; Ramil Gaisin, Jurijs Baranovs (c); Aleksandr Bezverkhov, Stanislav Selskii, Innokentiy Zykov, Uldis Saulite, Viacheslav Krasylnyk, Vitalii Orlov, Andrey Temnov, Dmitrii Krotov

Replacements: Nazir Gasanov, Andrei Polivalov, Evgenii Pronenko, Evgeny Elgin, Sergey Kuzmenko, Alexey Shcherban, Dmitriy Simonov, Anton Rudoi

Connacht Rugby: Darragh Leader; Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb, Niyi Adeolokun; AJ MacGinty, Ian Porter; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (c), James Connolly, George Naoupu

Replacements: David Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Conan O’Donnell, Danny Qualter, Sean O’Brien, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Craig Ronaldson

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