Friend: Champions Cup hopes hinge on Gloucester battle

Connacht produced a frustrating and sloppy performance on their way to a bonus point victory over Southern Kings in the PRO14 on Saturday.

Friend: Champions Cup hopes hinge on Gloucester battle

Connacht produced a frustrating and sloppy performance on their way to a bonus point victory over Southern Kings in the PRO14 on Saturday.

A winter chill was seeping its way into the 5,146 spectators on College Road, and the rugby on show did little to warm their hearts.

Southern Kings bossed the early action but a mauled try — of all things — from Bundee Aki put Connacht ahead. Kings soon equalised before another mauled effort from Finlay Bealham and two John Porch scores either side of half time.

Four of Connacht’s 18 lineouts went awry, they missed 19 tackles and lost out on the possession and territorial statistics.

One of the only bright spots ahead of next week’s vital Champions Cup clash with Gloucester was their return to second place in Conference B after the victory.

“Sometimes those things happen, you get nights of rugby that just don’t click for you. To have a night like that but still pick up a bonus point, it’s not a bad sign,” said Friend.

“We tried to reset at half-time, we talked about the frustration we had there. I said: ‘Let’s get back to doing the basics well, carrying to break, getting our linespeed up with two men in the tackle, be more physical there’. I thought we started that second-half well but then again we started to try and force things too much.”

Connacht are now only one point behind Munster at the top of Conference B , and next Sunday they will seek another positive result in Europe on their trip to Kingsholm to face Gloucester. Friend realises their hopes of reaching the knockout stage will have disappeared if they don’t win away from home.

“It’s massive. I thought the Montpelier win here was brilliant to get. The 60-minute performance against Toulouse was very good. We didn’t complete that performance, so we are there or thereabouts.

Our Champions Cup will depend upon who wins next weekend, so if we can get an away win then we are very much in the hunt there. If we don’t do that, then I think we can probably kiss that goodbye.

Scorers for Connacht: B Aki, F Bealham, J Porch 2 tries; C Fitzgerald 2 cons.

Scorers for Southern Kings: E Cronje, S Van Breda tries; S Van Breda con.

CONNACHT: M Healy; N Adeolokun, K Godwin, B Aki, J Porch; C Fitzgerald, C Blade; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham; U Dillane, Q Roux (C); E Masterson, C Fainga’a, P Boyle.

Replacements: J Carty for Fitzgerad (51), S Delahunt for McCartney (58), J Butler for Boyle (58), A Lloyd for Blade (60), M Burke for Buckley (65), D Robertson-McCoy for Bealham (65), J Maksymiw for Dillane (70), P Robb for Godwin (70).

SOUTHERN KINGS: S van Breda; C Hollis, E Cronje, H Mnisi (C), Y Penxe; JT Jackson, S Ungerer; J Schoeman, J du Toit, P Scholtz; J Sexton, A Fortuin; M Burger, T Bholi, E Louw.

Replacements: R Lerm for Burger (36 HIA), S Sithole for Minsi (46), T Maree for Ungerer (47), B de Wee for Fortin (56), DJ Terblanche for Scholtz (69), C Solomon for du Toit (73), X Vos for Schoeman (73), S Masuku for Jackson (73).

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).

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