THERE WERE MANY impressive individual performances at Dubarry Park yesterday as Connacht hammered Wasps in a pre-season friendly, but two names that floated around the Athlone ground in particular afterwards were Kyle Godwin and Paul Boyle.
New Australian signing Godwin had enjoyed game time off the bench in last week’s win against Brive in France, but this was his first start for Connacht and he played the full 80 minutes for Andy Friend’s side.
Godwin supports a Tom Farrell carry. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
From his very first involvement, Godwin’s excellent technical skills stood out. Low chop tackles, rapid and aggressively firm wraps of his arms in those tackles, patience at the right time when drifting across the pitch in defence – all familiar traits.
In attack, Godwin’s handling ability was clear with a number of accurate catch-and-passes under pressure, none more so than his assist for a Cian Kelleher try in the second half.
The 26-year-old carried well and made good decisions on the ball, while his mature communication was highly audible at Dubarry Park as he organised team-mates early and confidently, despite being just weeks into his time with Connacht.
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Godwin is coming off a strong end to the Super Rugby season with the Brumbies and has picked up where he left off in Australia to underline to Connacht fans how fine a centre he is.
With word about Godwin’s character and attitude off the pitch also being positive, the western province look to have bagged themselves an excellent signing.
“He’s a quality footballer, we’ve seen it in Super Rugby,” said Connacht head coach Andy Friend after the win over Wasps.
“It’s great to see him wear the Connacht jersey and do some of the things that we’ve seen him do before in a Brumbies jersey or a Force jersey. He was blowing there, he knew he needed the 80 minutes.
Andy Friend was pleased with Connacht’s performance. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
“I said to him afterwards, ‘I probably won’t play you for that long next week’ but it’s good to blow out the cobwebs. He’s a quality individual and he will add real starch to us.”
One of the other standouts for Connacht was 21-year-old Boyle, who has experience across the back row but started at blindside flanker yesterday.
The Wexford native, who came through Gorey RFC as a youngster, joined Connacht’s academy ahead of the 2017/18 season, having spent time in Leinster’s sub-academy while playing with Lansdowne.
Boyle, who captained the Ireland U20s in 2017, played club rugby with Buccaneers last season and got his senior debut for Connacht off the bench against Munster in the Pro14, but it looks like this season will be his real breakthrough.
Having evidently developed as an athlete over the last year, Boyle was superb against Wasps. Another whose tackling stood out, the flanker’s work rate was insatiable and there was notable aggression in his physical contributions.
The second half saw Boyle demonstrate his mobility in attack too as Connacht played with width. Very often positioned in the left-hand 15-metre channel within the westerners’ shape, Boyle handled and carried intelligently.
His draw-and-pass at pace on the left edge to put Rory Scholes away for a try was particularly impressive, a fine example of simple skills executed sharply at pace.
Boyle [right] impressed for Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
“Boyler is a young bloke but he didn’t look like a young bloke out there,” said Friend afterwards.
“He hit hard, he ran hard, his talk on the field was very good too.”
The real tests for Godwin, Boyle and every other Connacht player lie ahead, of course, but they have made an encouraging start to life under Friend.
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