La Rochelle 20 Connacht 30: European Chellenge Cup Pool 2: A "bit of X-factor" combined with a huge team effort is what vLam credits for Connacht’s dramatic four-try bonus win over La Rochelle, which sealed their quarter-final place as last seeds in this season’s European Challenge Cup.


“It’s one of the reasons I have stayed here. These guys never give in. They just keep going and going and I am extremely proud of them,” Lam said. “All the tries were team tries, with a bit of X- factor from Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy.”

Down 20-16 with six minutes remaining and hopes of a seventh Challenge Cup quarter-final rapidly dwindling, Lam says he was always confident his players could grab the two tries needed in the remaining six minutes.

“No, never doubted them. The thing is I know these guys and they won’t give in till the end. I knew if we could control the ball and get possession... because I could see La Rochelle were out on their feet and the holes were there. But it was just about being patient and looking after the ball. I thought ‘any time’.”

With his first touch, former Trinity player Adeoloukun, took off from inside the La Rochelle half, putting his foot on the accelerator to race through for the third try. Jack Carty’s conversion made it 23-20.

Immediately on the restart, Connacht grabbed possession and Matt Healy twice kicked ahead before winning the race for the line to claim the crucial fourth bonus try.

“At the end of the day, it’s an outcome we have achieved on the back of hard work and we can’t forget the team that went to Bayonne,” reflected Lam, “because without them it wouldn’t have been possible.The boys can be well proud of themselves.”

After the perfect start, when scrum-half Kieran Marmion bagged a try within three minutes, Connacht kept their noses in front with a Jack Carty penalty. La Rochelle’s out-half Jean-Pascal Barraque reduced the deficit with two penalties, but Nathan White’s yellow card provided the home side with the momentum up front and they made it count with a penalty try which Barraque converted for a 13-8 lead.

Although Carty stroked a penalty through the posts, a lapse in concentration resulted in No 8 Albain Meron crashing over, with Barraque’s conversion giving the French side a 20-11 lead at the break.

Connacht started the second half with greater intensity and were rewarded when flanker Eoin McKeon crashed over from a penalty kicked to touch. But the Top 14 strugglers then forced Connacht on the defensive for 10 minutes.

That storm was weathered with an immense defensive effort, before two late moments of individual brilliance booked a clash with tournament favorites Gloucester.

LA ROCHELLE : A Alofa; A Cestaro, C Bouldoire, E Roudil, D Cler; J Barraque, J Berger; V Pelo, H Forbes, B Bourrust, L Cedaro, M Tanguy, B Guyot, N Djebaili (c), A Meron.

Replacements: Julien Audy for Berger (41m), L Kaulashvili for Bourrust, L Goujon for Meron and Uini Atonio for Tanguy (all 44), F Fortassin for Bouldoire (55), A Vulivuli for Alofa (67), H Vaslin (Pelo (68).

CONNACHT: M Muliaina (c); D Leader, D Poolman, C Finn, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; R Loughney, T McCartney, N White, Q Roux, A Browne, E McKeon, W Faloon, G Naoupu.

Replacements: J Muldoon for Faloon ((14), JP Cooney for Loughney (41), C Blade for Marmion (51), D Qualter for Browne (64), D Heffernan for McCartney (69), N Adeolokun for Muliaina (74).

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland).

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