Unable to get off the ground in the charter plane on which they flew to Krasnoyarsk due to a technical issue, the European Professional Club Rugby organised for the squad to return on scheduled airlines, but must travel in three different groups to accommodate the entire party.
All are travelling through Moscow to Dublin, with the first two groups of players having left Siberia at 7am (midnight Irish time), before splitting in Moscow, with one travelling through Amsterdam and the other through London Heathrow, arriving in Dublin at 5.40pm. A third group, mainly management, was due to leave three hours later, travelling via Paris, with arrival after 9pm.
An added complication was the invalidity of the squad’s visas, which were out of date as a result of the delay, an issue to be dealt with by Moscow customs officials.
Coach Pat Lam said while it was not ideal for the squad having to return home in different planes, it was better than being stuck in Russia not knowing when the charter would be available to return.
It has been a difficult six days for the Connacht team that began with a 10-hour flight from Shannon last Tuesday evening. Severe cold and the first fall of snow had hit the city the previous day, and temperatures continued to drop throughout the week, as low as minus 26 on the day of the historic first European game against a Russian team.
After their impressive 31-14 win, Connacht left immediately and were ready to board their flight when advised that an engine part needed replacing, necessitating another two nights at different hotels in the Siberian city.
Whlle the win has put Connacht in a strong position ahead of Brive’s visit in the second pool one fixture on Saturday, the squad’s preparation has been seriously hampered.
“We had a game plan for these few weeks, because we knew the effect of the travel and transition, so the boys at home have been working on that and these guys will need to recover, and then get in a good week’s training. By the end of the week, we will be ready to be back at the Sportsground and we are looking forward it, said Lam.
After a tough opening half in which both sides took time to adapt to the freezing conditions, Connacht led 6-0 through AJ MacGinty’s boot, but they took control of the second 40 minutes and finished with a four-try flourish
Tries: A Polivalov (2); Con: I Kushnarev (2)
Tries: N Adeolokun, J Muldoon, D Leader, R Parata; Con: D Leader; Penalties: AJ MacGinty (3)
D Leader, R Parata, N Adeolokun, B Aki, P Robb, N Adeolokun, AJ MacGinty, I Porter, D Buckley, S Delahunt, F Bealham, U Dillane, A Muldowney, J Muldoon, J Connolly, G Naoupu.
R Loughney for D Buckley (50), S O’Brien for Muldoon (57), C Blade for Porter (60), C Ronaldson for Aki (64), D Heffernan for Delahunt (64), D Qualter for A Muldowney and C O’Donnell for Bealham (67).
Y Kushnarev, M Babaev, D Kcharava, D Gerasimov, D Simplikevich, R Gaisin, J Baranovs, A Bezverjhiv S Selskiy, I Zykv, U Saulite, V Krasylinyk, V Orlov, A Temnov, D Krotiv.
A Shcherban for Baranovs, A Polivalov for A Bezverkhov (49), J Baranovs for Chcherban (58).