LESS THAN 24 hours before New Zealand produced a stunning comeback to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat Connacht tried and failed a similar feat.
Pat Lam’s men fell 24-9 behind Scarlets at the Sportsground on Saturday and rallied to a 24-21 deficit before falling short. It was the third time in eight defeats — including a Heineken Cup loss to Saracens — that Connacht have been within a score of victory.
Nonetheless, Scarlets survived to claim the spoils and leave Connacht with a losing bonus point. They had been depleted by call-ups to the Welsh national side and were reduced to 14 men at three different stages of the game. The Irish province remain bottom of the league and are away to Edinburgh this weekend.
The Connacht squad has been stretched by injury and Lam was forced to promote Academy player Eoghan Masterson straight into the starting line-up, at No.8, on his debut appearance. The home fans have been patient with the coach in his first few months on the job but there was an audible, negative reaction at the final whistle.
Lam told TheScore.ie: “There’s a lot of missed opportunities and points sitting out there that we didn’t take, particularly in the first 20 minutes. I felt we started well; physically we were direct and there were some opportunities that we missed.”
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Lam pointed to a missed scoring chance off the back of a rolling maul and felt his side should have went into the half-time break ahead, rather than 10-9 behind. Two early tries in the second-half ultimately settled the tie in the Welsh side’s favour. He added:
One was from a rolling maul and the first one came from a silly penalty, which gave them the field position and they too [advantage]. We got one back but… there were times when they were down [a player]. There’s a four-on-two and we’re not executing it well. It should be pass, pass, go and score. Things we’ve got to keep working on.”
Robbie Henshaw is the only Connacht player returning to the mix after the international break. He can share tales of late heartbreak with his provincial teammates this week as Lam’s men continue to search for the game that will turn their season around.
– Additional reporting by Aaron Turner of Connacht Clan
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