While Gregor Townsend’s outfit are one win away from a home semi-final, Saturday’s result means Connacht’s Champions Cup hopes are perilously poised.
Defeat in Galway means Connacht have dropped to eighth for the first time this season and out of the reckoning for Europe.
“We have controlled our destiny from September to now. We have lost that, and all we can do now is go to Zebre and get a win, and a good win, and see what happens,” says a disappointed Lam. “It’s certainly not over at all. “These guys have a lot of pride.
Connacht may have played some of their best rugby in the opening 20 minutes but they could only manufacture a 6-0 lead. With a dominant scrum, they left opportunities behind, including a scrum penalty on their opponents’ line which should have provided greater reward for their efforts. While Glasgow coughed up a series of penalties, Connacht’s first on 22 minutes provided the visitors with their opening opportunity, and left wing Fijian Niko Matawalu made it count with the opening try. The pattern re-emerged after Connacht had missed two penalties — Stuart Hogg crossed and Matawalu’s intercept try established a 19-6 lead for the visitors.
“We were happy to be 6-5 down the way the opening 30 minutes went, so to be 19-6 up at half time was fortunate,” admitted Townsend. “Our discipline was poor, but we looked really good in the last quarter, and the changes we made helped take away Connacht’s strength at the scrum. We defended well close to our line, but we were in that area on too many occasions,” he conceded.
The second half replicated the first — Connacht making all the moves with five successive penalties before Aly Muldowney secured their only try after Robbie Henshaw was held up on the line on 52 minutes.
When Carty missed a third penalty, the gap was still to 13-19. Glasgow, content to soak up the pressure, were as happy to feed off Connacht’s mistakes, and Adam Ashe and Tommy Seymour sauntered through for two more tries before the end, putting paid to Connacht’s hopes of maintaining the automatic qualification place.
“Sixth place has been our goal, it’s where we want to be playing, and we have been punching above our weight,” says Lam. “We have to look at ourselves. How many chances did we create? Our energy and commitment and all of that stuff was good, but anyone can pass ball, even my seven year old girl can pass a ball. It’s who can do it under pressure.
“Everyone loves playing rugby at this time of year, but when there is a collective of experienced internationals, they can do it a lot better. And that has been the big lesson for us.”
T O’Halloran, D Poolman, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, K Marmion, D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You, U Dillane, A Muldowney, J Muldoon (cpt), E Masterson, E McKeon.
Replacements, J Cooney for Marmion (49), A Browne for Dillane (54), D Leader for O’Halloran (54), M Nikora for Carty and G Naoupu for Masterson (62m), R Loughney for Buckley and F Bealham for Ah You (68), S Delahunt for McCartney (74).
S Hoggs, T Seymour, R Vernon, P Horne, N Matawalu, F Russell, H Pyrgos, J Yanuyanutawa, F Brown, E Murray L Nakarawa, J Gray (cpt), R Harley, C Fusaro, A Ashe.
Replacements, R Grant for Yanuyanutawa and J Welch for Murray (41), K Bryce for Brown (51), T Swinson for Nakarawa and J Strauss for Harley (52), D Weir for Russell (68), L Jones for Matawalu (70), P Murchie for Strauss (72).
M Mitrea (Italy).