Connacht 20 Ospreys 24
Connacht coach Pat Lam insists his side ‘won’t fear’ Sunday’s must win trip to Kingsholm as the battle to keep their Champions Cup dreams alive.
Having missed out on a top six finish in the Guinness Pro12 Connacht must now take the scenic route to remain in European competition beginning with a trip to Premiership outfit Gloucester next week.
Win that and they will play the Top 14’s seventh-place finisher at the Sportsground a week later with the victor securing a place amongst the rugby elite next season.
It was something of the same old story for Connacht last weekend. In Saturday’s final Pro 12 fixture against Ospreys, the concession of 24 first-half points, even given the strong wind, ensured only one outcome.
Yet in keeping the classy Welsh outfit scoreless in the second half, and achieving a bonus point, Connacht’s fighting spirit kept their hopes alive.
That prevalence for first-half failings will be even more relevant as they head to south west England where at Easter Gloucester scraped through the Challenge Cup fixture by virtue of Connacht’s opening-half jitters. However time is running out for Connacht to produce an 80 minute effort which will be demanded next Sunday.
“The boys won’t fear it, but we understand the quality their side, and this is it for them as well. It’s a great challenge. When you look at the big scheme, one of the things Michael Swift [retiring] and Dan McFarland [Glasgow-bound] talked about was they have loved their whole time here and they are excited about what is coming, and that will only come on the lessons we learn, the quality of games that people like Jack Carty, Darragh Leader, John Cooney, Kieran Marmion and Denis Buckley play - these sorts of games is massive for their development as we build for the years to come.”
Running short of time and players to achieve their seasonal goal, Lam will assess his latest injury woes on Monday, including scrumhalf Kieran Marmion who was replaced by John Cooney early on.
“It’s my biggest concern. There are a lot of walking wounded. If you look at the injury list, you could you name a pretty strong starting XV from them.”
Meanwhile Robbie Henshaw won the Connacht Rugby Players’ Player of the Year and Connacht Rugby Fans’ Player of the Year honours at the province’s annual awards ball in Galway on Saturday night.
He said: “Winning the Players’ Player award is something very special to me. I’ve had a fantastic year and to be acknowledged by my Connacht teammates for helping the team in what has been a great season is just massive.”
T O’Halloran; F Carr, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You; A Browne, A Muldowney; J Muldoon (c), E Masterson, E McKeon.
J Cooney for Marmion (20), G Naoupu for Browne (60), F Bealham for Ah You and M Swift for E McKeon (64), S O’Leary for Healy (69).
D Evans; H Dirksen, B John, J Matavesi, E Walker; D Biggar, R Webb; N Smith, S Baldwin, D Arhip, T Ardron, A Wyn Jones (captain), J King, J Tipuric, D Baker.
A Jarvis for Arhip (54), D Lydiate for King (60), S Davis for Evans (64), S Parry for Baldwin (75), J Spratt for Matavesi (80).
M Mitrea (IRU).
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