Connacht’s love affair with France goes on

Their PRO14 form is dodgy to say the least, but Connacht’s pedigree in the European Challenge Cup is obvious and on Saturday night they took a big step not only towards securing a quarter-final spot, but ensuring that they will enjoy home advantage in the last eight.

Connacht’s love affair with France goes on

The win, in a remarkable game which flowed one way, then went the other, was notable for a number of things.

Brive became the 12th French side Connacht have beaten away from home. Eleven of those wins have been in the Challenge Cup, with that famous Heineken Cup victory over Toulouse in Pat Lam’s first season set to remain one of their greatest milestones.

The 38 points posted at Stade Amédée-Domenech on Saturday is the most Connacht have managed on French soil — they beat Oyonnax away 43-14 in October but that game was played in Geneva.

Brive had won the two previous ties between them at Stade Amédée-Domenech without scoring a single try. They scored five on Saturday and still lost, having made a dozen changes to the side which defeated Oyonnax in a crunch relegation battle a week earlier.

Brive looked set for their eighth home Challenge Cup win in a row when they opened up a 19-3 lead after 25 minutes, posting 14 points when John Muldoon was in the bin after referee Craig Maxwell Keyes lost patience with a 7-2 penalty count.

But Connacht kept their composure and tries from internationals Ulan Dillane — his second in 49 appearances — and Kieran Marmion cut it to 19-17 at the break.

“No, I didn’t feel it was going to go away from us,” said Connacht coach Kieran Keane. “We didn’t have a great start. But I was confident - as long as we didn’t panic. ”

Keane said he felt that the match had turned back in their favour by the interval. “When I arrived at the changing rooms they had already decided that things were okay.” The lead changed hands three times in the opening nine minutes of the second-half.

Man of the match Jack Carty edged Connacht back in front with a penalty and then when Brive hooker Mike Tadger got his second try, Carty breaking from deep for a stunning try.

Cian Kelleher wrapped up the bonus point after being set up by the impressive Tiernan O’Halloran as Connacht sealed a deserved win.

Scorers for Brive:

tries: M Tadjer (2), F Cazenave, J Brugnaut, G Namy; conversions: G Germain (3).

Scorers for Connacht:

tries: U Dillane, K Marmion, J Carty, C Kelleher; conversions: J Carty (3); penalties: J Carty (4).


G Germain; N Megdoud, S Galala, B Petre, G Namy; T Laranjeira, F Cazenave; J Brugnaut, M Tadjer, D Bamba; J Snyman, J Uys; P Luafutu, D Waqaniburotu, P Hauman.


F Sanconnie for Luafutu (40), J Johnston for Bamba (48), A Mafi for Galala (55), SP Chauvac for Brugnaut (60), P Marais for Snyman (63), D Delarue for Cazenave (66), M Ugalde for Germain (66), L Martin for Tadjer (72).


T O’Halloran; C Kelleher, P Ahki, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, S Delahunt, F Bealham; U Dillane, Q Roux; C Gallagher, E Masterson, J Muldoon.


C Carey for Bealham (49), P McCabe for Buckley (60), T McCartney for Delahunt (63), D Leader for O’Halloran (72), J Cannon for Roux (77).


Craig Maxwell-Keys (England).

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