Still in dreamland, Connacht feel pinch

They will need to close the blinds and put away the breakables when Connacht sit down to review this one at the Sportsground today. It will not be pleasant viewing, least of all for a squad who pride themselves on looking inward and taking responsibility.

It was almost as if Connacht decided to take all their errors from the entire campaign last season and unload them all in one go in the opening match of this campaign on Saturday.

It was truly astonishing but, paradoxically, it was so bad they won’t actually panic. They haven’t slipped that much in the space of just a few months.

It was one of those days everything went askew and Glasgow, beaten twice at the Sportsground at the business end of last season when they surrendered their crown, went gleefully for the throat with a quality display.

Champions in this competition don’t have a great habit of starting the defence of their crown well, with only six of the previous 14 title holders winning on the opening day of the following season. Prior to this, Munster’s 22-9 loss in Glasgow in 2010 was the biggest opening day defeat for new champions.

This was Connacht’s biggest home defeat since Pat Lam took charge over three years ago and having won 14 of their 15 matches at the Sportsground last season on their glory march, they will just hope this was a freakish performance and outcome.

They will take solace that on another day a few passes to hand — the sort of pop-passes they were doing with their eyes closed last season — would have resulted in scores, but whether they would have changed the outcome against a slick Glasgow side is unlikely.

Connacht only played one preseason friendly, a clash against Montpellier in France where they ran out 32 players, and they looked rusty on Saturday.

The loss of three of their cup final starting side to the transfer market — Irish star Robbie Henshaw, out-half AJ MccGinty and key lock Aly Muldowney — has left a big void while the likes of the league’s player of the season Bundee Aki, so often the incendiary device for Connacht last year, struggled to impose himself.

A disappointing crowd of 6,063, down almost 2,000 from those who attended the Glasgow games in May, added to the sense of deflation and many of them had headed out College Road long before the finish.

A dominant scrum in the opening half suggested Connacht would make hay when they had the gale behind them after the restart and an interval deficit of 13-5 seemed manageable. Former Ulster wing Tommy Seymour did the damage for a fired-up Scots side, finishing in either corner to punish soft tackling.

Connacht hit back when Glasgow No.8 Ryan Wilson was in the bin for a late tackle on out-half Jack Carty, with Niyi Adeolokun, earlier deprived by Seymour, showing a clean pair of heels to the otherwise impressive scrum-half Henry Pyrgos to score in the right corner.

Crucially, Glasgow got on top directly after the restart and while the home defence was solid initially, the probing of the likes of new signing Leonardo Sarto, the Italian wing, paid dividends with the outstanding Stuart Hogg scoring.

Lock Tim Swinson sealed the bonus point after 53 minutes and it just got worse from there and after a season where six Connacht players made their Irish debut, Joe Schmidt saw little from his seat in the Clan stand to add to that roster.

The key thing now will be to bounce back and coach Lam said they would hope to do that next Saturday evening when they entertain Ospreys, a side who will swagger into Galway on the back of a 59-5 win over Zebre.

“We knew one game last year wasn’t going to win us the championship and one game this year isn’t going to lose it.

"We don’t become a bad team overnight, but it does highlight that if you’re not quite on our game and you’re playing a quality side like Glasgow then you’ll come undone. There’s no doubt our prep going into last year was better but the expectation is that everyone knows their role.

"We’re only as good as how everyone knows their role. I think we just did not operate collectively as a group. We can’t just turn around and think it’s going to happen, we’ve to make sure we do the work and come back.

“We’re disappointed for our fans, it was a great turnout. I will say this, it’s disappointing when you see people leave early and that’s our own fault, but there’s a lot of pride when people are still chanting ‘Connacht’ as we came off, kids are high-fiving us. We will be back.”

Scorers for Connacht:

Try: N Adeolokun.

Scorers for Glasgow:

Tries: T Seymour (2), S Hogg, T Swinson, S Puafisi, S Lamont. Conversions: H Pyrgos (3), R Clegg. Penalty: H Pyrgos

CONNACHT:

C Kelleher; N Adeolokun, E Griffin, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham; U Dillane, D Qualter; E McKeon, N Fox-Matamua, J Muldoon (c).

Replacements:

K Marmion for Blade (48), R Loughney for Buckley (50), P Robb for Griffin (55), D Heffernan for McCartney (61), JP Cooney for Bealham (61), L Stevenson for Dillane (61), S O’Leary for Carty (66), J Connolly for Muldoon (72).

GLASGOW:

S Hogg; L Sarto, A Dunbar, S Johnson, T Seymour; P Horne, H Pyrgos; G Reid, P MacArthur, Z Fagerson; T Swinson, J Gray (c); R Harley, S Favaro, R Wilson.

Replacements:

L Wynne for Wilson (18-27, blood), C Flynn for MacArthur (50), R Grant for Reid (50), S Puafisi for Fagerson (50), S Lamont for Hogg (61), L Wynne for Favaro (64), R Clegg for Horne (64), A Price for Pyrgos (69), T Uanivi for Gray (69).

Referee:

Ian Davies (WRU).


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