CONNACHT RECORDED THE greatest result in their 128-year history, last week, by hobbling four-time Heineken Cup champions Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon.
Pat Lam made three changes to his team but the flu that nixed full-on training sessions midweek thankfully spared the starting XV. Toulouse were hoping to cause to headaches of their own.
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Connacht 9-30 Toulouse
17.08 – Good evening from overcast but reasonably dry Galway. We are an hour away from kick-off but there is already some drama at the Sportsground. Connacht have been forced to make two late changes to their bench and are without a designated scrum-half as back-up for Kieran Marmion.
Here is the squad that will take on the French side:
Connacht (v Toulouse): Robbie Henshaw; Fionn Carr, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Matt Healy; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Jason Harris Wright, Rodney Ah You, Mick Kearney, Craig Clarke (c), John Muldoon, Jake Heenan, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Sean Henry, Denis Buckley, JP Cooney, Andrew Browne, George Naoupu, Darragh Leader, Craig Ronaldson, Gavin Duffy.
17.11 – Here is the Toulouse matchday 23:
Toulouse (v Connacht): Clément Poitrenaud; Yoann Huget, Florian Fritz, Yann David, Maxime Médard; Lionel Beauxis, Jean-Marc Doussain; Schalk Ferreira, Christopher Tolofua, Census Johnston, Romain Millo-Chluski, Yoann Maestri, Yannick Nyanga, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Louis Picamoles.
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Gurthro Steenkamp, Yohan Montes, Joe Tekori, Gillian Galan, Gael Fickou, Hosea Gear, Sébastien Bézy.
That’s some collection of surnames and rugby talent.
17.13 – Here’s what unfolded so memorably six days ago in France:
YouTube credit: nemetonSPORT
17.39 – The Munster win over Perpignan has been announced over the P.A system in Galway and it has got a rousing cheer from the Connacht fans. Nice touch.
17.41 – Injured prop Ronan Loughney was chatting to the Connacht Clan in the Clan Bar a few moments ago. Unsurprisingly, he predicted a home win.
Credit: Patrick McCarry (TheScore.ie)
17.55 – Toulouse are done with their pre-match work-out. Dusautoir looks pumped up while Picamoles is a sweaty mess and Census Johnston looks pretty laid-back. No change there so.
18.01 – Fair play to Connacht. I’m slap, bang on the halfway line. There’s William Servat, told to get off the pitch and into his coaching patio chair by an ERC official. Bless.
18.05 – Connacht 3-0 Toulouse (Parks ’2)
Superb start from Connacht and Toulouse go offside in their eagerness to get after Marmion. Parks slots the penalty over from 40 metres out.
18.14 – Superb feet from Fionn Carr gets Connacht up and out of their half as Toulouse press. Muldoon takes it as far as he can and grubbers on, forcing Medard to slice out of play. They have Marmion well scouted this week and two men take him down.
Moments later, looks like Medard has scored after outpacing Griffin up the left wing.
18.07 – Connacht 3-3 Toulouse (Beauxis ’4)
We are level again as the scrum penalty is given against the home side. Beauxis picks up the tee and jogs back into position even before the ball bisects the posts.
18.09 – Henshaw 1, Poitrenaud 0 as the young fullback claims a high ball under pressure after Parks kick for touch was 10 yards too right.
18.16 – TRY. Connacht 3-10 Toulouse (Medard ’11)
The video official confirms what the crowd knows. Connacht caught on the counter-attack and, with Henshaw committed, Medard outpaces the covering Griffin to dive on the ball over the Connacht whitewash.
18.17 – DROP GOAL: Connacht 6-10 (Parks ’13)
Parks bites back. Connacht pile into Toulouse at the restart and the out-half takes advantage of the space to slot over from 35 metres out.
18.19 – Early change as JP Cooney replaces the crocked Rodney Ah You. The prop was in the Eagles [A team] yesterday but is now suddenly thrown into Heineken Cup action.
18.20 – That was just a blood sub. Ah You is strapped up and rummages back onto the field and into a scrum on the Connacht 22.
18.23 – Beauxis will get another early sighter as Toulouse force another penalty at the scrum. The out-half is on the 22, five metres in from the touchline, but misses to the right of the posts.
18.32 – Looked like an aimless, yet long, kick from Henshaw but it results in Poitrenaud slicing his return. Lineout on halfway but Harris-Wright is penalised for passing it straight to Wilkinson at the front of the line. Scrum to the French on halfway.
Wilkinson’s shoulder was dropping but Connacht managed to steal it on the other side. Parks wastes possession with a kick straight down Poitrenaud’s throat. He marks but his kick only advances his team 15 metres. The Galway wing at it again!
18.34 – TRY: Connacht 6-15 Toulouse (Medard ’25)
The same man wreaks havoc again. Too much pace. Connacht drawn into defending the ruck in numbers and a crossfield kick does them. It bounces up for Medard, on the charge. He holds on and beats Henshaw to the line. Conversion is missed.
18.36 – Maestri pinged for veering offside to hold up a Connacht maul in his 22. Parks opts to hit the line. They NEED some points from here.
18.39 – DROP GOAL: Connacht 9-15 Toulouse (Parks ’33)
They leave with three as Parks chips over a simple one from 15 metres out, straight in front of the posts. He has a tendency to do that, whereas other 10′s would allow play to develop. Important to keep that scoreboard ticking over, one supposes.
18.45 – TRY: Connacht 9-22 Toulouse (Tolofua ’37)
Waves of French pressure and Connacht can’t hold out the hooker as he scrambles over from close range. Beauxis nails the conversion this time.
18.44 – DROP GOAL: Connacht 9-15 Toulouse (Parks ’33) They leave with three as Parks chips over a simple one from 15 metres out, straight in front of the posts. He has a tendency to do that, whereas other 10′s would allow play to develop. Important to keep that scoreboard ticking over, one supposes.
18.46 – HALF-TIME
18.50 – Danie Poolman and Ronan Loughney walking the perimeter, throwing out signed training jerseys. The fans will need more than that to get their hopes up of a win. Not looking likely at the minute.
19.00 – The Cavan Rugby Club choir leave the field after showing off the pipes. Servat is back on the sidelines so we must be close…
Yeah, here come Toulouse.
Jake Heenan on the charge. INPHO/James Crombie
19.05 – Positive start but Henshaw can’t connect with the charging Carr on the left wing off the back of a scrum Connacht just about won. Dusautoir steals the ruck ball. Another false dawn.
19.07 – The home crowd are beginning to realise the enormity of the task. Another scrum goes to Toulouse. The Beauxis penalty almost causes a try as it drops 10 metres short. Parks has to spin the ball quickly to Henshaw for a clearing kick. They steal the lineout too, in their 22.
19.09 – Nyanga gets his final, final warning from Leighton Hodges but no yellow card brandished. The penalty is hoofed into French territory. Nyanga steals from Clarke mid-air but Toulouse spill forward. Big scrum coming up…
19.12 – Scrum-half Doussain is close to connecting with Medard with another crossfield kick. Fortunately for Connacht, it skitters out of play. Henry and Buckley ready to enter the fray.
There’s the Picamoles we know and respect. He fends off Muldoon on the left win and cuts inside. Harris-Wright looks to have turned the ball over but is penalised. Toulouse, going for their fourth (bonus) try, hit the line but their lineout is stolen again. 52 minutes gone.
19.16 – Jake Heenan! Boom!! He takes matters into his own hands and lays Nyanga out. Vital tackle as he was metres from the Connacht tryline.
Parks’ day is done. Warm applause as he is replaced by Ronaldson. The out-half stops to shake hands with Toulouse coach Guy Noves.
19.19 – BONUS POINT TRY: Connacht 9-27 Toulouse (Picamoles ’54)
The new lads in the Connacht front row hold their own and they kick clear. The French claim the lineout and pop the ball back to Picamoles, who has darted around to the front. He charges 15 metres and batters Carr out of his way to dot down.
19.20 – Oh, there was a TMO but no bother with that. Never in doubt. Must’ve been for a suspected forward pass. Beauxis’ conversion is comically wide. Missed by about 20 metres left.
19.23 – Darragh Leader is on for Craig Ronaldson. His evening’s work was about 90 traumatic minutes. 23 minutes to get at least one try.
19.25 – Leighton Hodges must not have heard of the concept of offside. Toulouse nearly in Connacht’s back pockets before the ball is even passed. Their slightly illegal pressure results in a turnover. Picamoles steals, busts the line and chips forward for Medard but Healy covers well.
19.28 – Wow! Medard almost wins a 70m footrace but Griffin sprints the whole way back to dive in to prevent his hat-trick. It all came from Fionn Carr getting picked up and slammed down in one swift, brutal movement by Picamoles.
This is the Toulouse European rugby knows and fears.
19.32 – McSharry off and Duffy on. Henry’s throwing off the mark for the second time but smart thinking from Duffy, after the ball rolls just about dead, brings play back into the French half.
There goes Medard. No hat-trick, or no meaty sideburns any more, but he was awesome tonight.
Darragh Leader looks handy in this second-half cameo. Bullet pass and a hefty boot. Healy and Muldoon have stood out for the home side too but there have been few real highlights. 10 minutes left. Can they get something?
19.41 – HIGHLIGHT REEL! Fionn Carr with a stunning break. He beats four men and gets a pass out the back door to Henshaw to keep the move alive. Buckley beats his man to get into the 22 and Henshaw is back for more. Toulouse slow it down again and concede the penalty. Plain ridiculous that Hodges is letting this slide. That was deliberate slowing down of play. Yellow card left in Wales?
19.44 – The video ref eventually tells Hodges there was a Connacht knock-on. Toulouse have the ball so the grandstand finish is not looking likely. Official attendance 7,761.
19.47 – PEN: Connacht 9-30 Toulouse (Beauxis ’72)
Hodges further infuriates the fans with that penalty call, which is slotted over. He got that one correct though, in my opinion. In from the side.
19.49 – Steal from Heenan just inside the Toulouse half. Gives Connacht one last chance to stage an attack.
19.52 – TRY: Connacht 9-37 Toulouse (Fickou ’79)
Hosea Gear tries to mash Carr’s face in with a fend off as Picamoles is named MOTM. Stunning break from Fickou is the nail in the coffin.
19.53 – FULL-TIME
19.55 – No arguments there. Fantastic comeback by Toulouse after defeat at home last Sunday. They are warmly applauded from the field. Connacht’s search for two wins in a row goes on.
Stay with us for more reaction and comments from the Sportsground and the Aviva.
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