|Connacht: (14) 22|
|Tries: Boyle, Byrne, Kilgallen Cons: Hawkshaw 2 Pen: Hawkshaw|
|Newcastle: (8) 8|
|Tries: Earle Pen: Schoeman|
Connacht cruised past Newcastle Falcons to open their European Challenge Cup campaign with a 22-8 win in Galway.
A Tian Schoeman penalty and Nathan Earle’s try cancelled out Paul Boyne’s early score and put Falcons 8-7 ahead, but Adam Byrne crossed before half-time to give the hosts a 14-8 lead.
Schoeman had a drop-goal charged down before David Hawkshaw’s penalty extended Connacht’s lead to 17-8.
Diarmuid Kilgallen then collected a cross-field kick to touch down late on.
Newcastle head coach Dave Walder made 10 changes to the starting XV that was beaten at London Irish last weekend, while Connacht also gave youth a chance, and both sides played their part in a hectic first half which mixed enterprise and errors.
Back row Boyne crossed under the posts after a series of close-quarter drives to give the hosts a third-minute lead.
Newcastle responded well, and after Schoeman reduced the arrears, the South African fly-half’s cross-field kick was collected well by Adam Radwan, who offloaded for wing Earle to score in the corner.
However, with the game becoming scrappy, Falcons failed to see out the half and their defence was found wanting as Connacht winger Byrne burst through lacklustre tackling to race in.
Schoeman’s drop-goal was charged down and a Hawkshaw penalty attempt drifted wide in an attritional start to the second half.
Falcons had to absorb mounting pressure, earning Hawkshaw another shot at goal, which he took to give the hosts a two-score lead.
Newcastle struggled to unlock a well-organised Connacht defence and Kilgallen put the seal on a deserved win by collecting Conor Fitzgerald’s kick to score in the left corner.
Cardiff are next up for Newcastle in Pool A at Kingston Park on Saturday (17:30 GMT), while Connacht head to France to take on Brive on Friday (20:00 GMT)
Connacht: O’Halloran; Byrne, Daly, Forde, Kilgallen; Hawkshaw, Blade; Dooley, Tierney-Martin, Aungier, Murphy, Murray, Butler, Hurley-Langton, Boyle.
Replacements: Delahunt, Buckley, Illo, Fifita, McCormack, Reilly, Fitzgerald, Farrell.
Newcastle: Tait; Radwan, Moroni, Penny, Earle; Schoeman, Stuart; Cade, Blamire, Tampin, Peterson, de Chaves, Dalton, Marshall, Chick.
Replacements: Maddison, Brocklebank, Palframan, Peters, Tiffen, Barton, Thomas, Greenlaw.
Referee: Luc Ramos