|Connacht (19) 24|
|Tries: Oliver, Forde 2, O’Halloran Cons: Carty 2|
|Sharks (0) 12|
|Tries: Van Rensburg, Bleuler Cons: Cronje|
Connacht recovered from back-to-back defeats over the festive period by beating a depleted Sharks side 24-12 in wintry and windy conditions in Galway.
Tries from Conor Oliver, centre Cathal Forde and Tiernan O’Halloran helped the hosts to a 19-0 half-time advantage.
Forde went over for his second touchdown to secure a bonus point but Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Dian Bleuler then crossed for the visitors.
Sharks had left many frontline players and coach Neil Powell back in Durban.
Squad rotation saw the South African side retain only three starters from their 47-20 victory over the Bulls.
Those three first-half tries laid the foundations for a much-needed United Rugby Championship win for Connacht at the Sportsground.
The strong wind made for an error-strewn start, obstruction by Josh Murphy at a lineout robbing Connacht of their first real opportunity but they made no mistake midway through the first half.
A Kieran Marmion break led to a penalty and from the lineout, a surging maul saw flanker Oliver ground the ball in the left corner.
The post denied Jack Carty’s conversion but he was on target when adding the extras to Forde’s first of the evening, the 21-year-old being the beneficiary of Tom Farrell’s gobbling up of a Mack Hansen kick over the top.
Turnovers cost the Sharks in their attempts to respond, and full-back O’Halloran got on the scoresheet with a crisply-executed move just before the interval.
Turning into the wind, Connacht came through Shane Delahunt’s sin-binning unscathed. Indeed, only a Farrell knock-on ruled out what would have been a tremendous team try finished off by Carty.
The bonus point was secured when player-of-the-match Forde blocked down a Nevaldo Fleurs kick to widen the gap to 24 points in the 55th minute.
Centre Van Rensburg got the Sharks on the board on the hour mark, bursting through a gap for replacement Lionel Cronje to make it a seven-pointer.
Kerron van Vuuren, another of the South Africans’ bench players, had a quick-fire try ruled out for Grant Williams being offside from a charge-down.
Bleuler did burrow over for some late consolation, but it was too little, too late from the Joey Mongalo-coached side.
Connacht: O’Halloran, Porch, Farrell, Forde, Hansen, Carty, Marmion, Buckley, Delahunt, Bealham, Dowling, D. Murray, J Murphy, Oliver, Hurley-Langton.
Replacements: Tierney-Martin, Duggan, Robertson-McCoy, Fifita, Prendergast, Blade, Fitzgerald, Ralston.
Sharks: Volmink, Penxe, Koster, Janse van Rensburg, Potgieter, Fleurs, Wright, N. Mchunu, Mbatha, Sadie, Bholi, Hugo, J Venter, H Venter, Gumede.
Replacements: van Vuuren, Bleuler, K. Mchunu, Barnard, Rahl, Williams, Cronje, Hooker.
Referee: Adam Jones (WRU)