A WEEK BEFORE Connacht shocked Toulouse in the Heineken Cup, three Irishman played a key role in softening them up.
Grenoble, with Mike Prendergast and Bernard Jackman on the coaching staff and Jame Hart starting at out-half, defeated the four-time European Cup winners at Stade des Alpes. Jackman and Hart, two of the key architects of that 25-18 win, told TheScore.ie how the Connacht result has played out in France.
“I was at the game, commentating for RTE,” said Jackman. “I was delighted for Connacht as they were having a really tough start to the season. It is a massive result in their history. I think they were 25-1 to get the win and Toulouse were 100-1 on, in France, to win.”
“What impressed me most was the quality of rugby Connacht played. Technically and tactically they were great. It was very similar to Ireland’s jump in performance from the Australia and New Zealand games. Connacht had been beaten badly in Edinburgh the weekend before but you would not have been able to tell. They got the result they deserved,” he added.
“It’s not as if Toulouse performed badly. It was a huge result but those lads will know they need to back it up. Even more important, however, will be getting a win next time out in the Pro12.
“There are a lot of young Irish lads out there and Joe Schmidt will be delighted with how the attacking way they are playing the game.”
Hart, who kicked 20 points in Grenoble’s home win over Toulouse, feels Guy Noves’ side are still ‘trying to find themselves’ with half a season already in the record books. He highlights the injury to New Zealander Luke McAllister as the main reason the French side are struggling.
Injury to Luke McAlister (centre) has hindered Toulouse’s playing style but they have enough class, such as Census Johnston and Hosea Gear (pictured) to cause Connacht grief. Credit: @McalisterLuke)
“Toulouse looked flat against Connacht,” said the former Clontarf player. “They don’t have a 10, like McAllister, who is pulling the strings. He is such an attacking threat but he also brings others into space. Opponents have to hold on him as they know his danger so it opens up space for others.
“I was chatting to my mate [Toulouse out-half] Pascal Barraque before and after the game. He feels under pressure as he knows he needs to perform in McAllister’s absence. Lionel Beauxis, who replaced him in the second half, did not offer too much.”
Hart was impressed by the lively performance put in by fellow scrum-half Kieran Marmion against Toulouse and praises the smart, tactical kicking of Dan Parks. The Connacht forwards, he adds, can all be proud of the shift they put in against heavyweights such as Census Johnston and Yoann Maestri.
Connacht’s 16-14 win was big news in France, according to Hart and the return match has juumped up the sporting agenda. “It’s a massive game on Saturday,” the Dubliner says. “Toulouse were taken by surprise but they will have studied the last match closely. From talking to some of the lads at Toulouse, Noves isn’t the kindest guy during the week if results are not going well.
“They will come to Connacht with all guns blazing. Guys like Thierry Dusautoir and Louis Picamoles will not have enjoyed last weekend. However, once you put them under pressure at scrum defence and start-up plays, you take away their main attacking platforms.
“They have nothing to lose and should go out with the same attitude that served them so well last time out.”