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PREVIEW: Connacht still in quarter-final hunt

Thursday 22nd January 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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En voyage sur le littoral Atlantique samedi à 18h30

En voyage sur le littoral Atlantique samedi à 18h30

Connacht will hope to take advantage of La Rochelle’s worst run in the Challenge Cup to book their place in the quarter-finals.

La Rochelle have lost their last three fixtures– 14-0 against Bayonne and 41-17 and 36-10 in their double header against Exeter – which is their worst run in the competition. But their struggles could prove to be Connacht’s gain as they look to secure one of the best runners-up spots in the knock-out stages.

Connacht’s 33-24 home defeat to Exeter Chiefs in round five secured qualification for the Aviva Premiership side as they top pool two with 20 points. The Chiefs face Bayonne at home this weekend hoping to seal a home quarter-final but Connacht can still move to 20 points with a bonus point win over Rochelle and that should be enough to see them through.

Connacht have a formidable record against French sides in the Challenge Cup in recent times, having won 10 of their last 11 games averaging 30 points per match.

Head coach Pat Lam signed a new three-year deal to remain at Connacht this week and with speculation over this future finally put to bed that should give his side a welcomed boost.

They do however have some concerns over the fitness of Ireland international Robbie Henshaw for the crucial clash against La Rochelle. Henshaw suffered a low grade ankle sprain against Exeter and he could miss Saturday’s game in France. 

Match Facts

  • Connacht inflicted La Rochelle’s heaviest ever European defeat earlier this season.
  • If Connacht manage 27 points they will reach the 2500 point mark in the Challenge Cup; if the Irish province let in two more tries however it would take them to 250 conceded in the tournament.
  • La Rochelle have lost their last three games in the tournament, their worst ever run in the competition.
  • Connacht have won 10 of their last 11 Challenge Cup games against French sides, averaging 30 points per game in this run.

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REPORT: Connacht fight back to reach last eight

Saturday 24th January 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Connacht booked their place in the European Challenge Cup last eight

Connacht booked their place in the European Challenge Cup last eight

Connacht booked their place in the European Challenge Cup last eight, coming from behind to earn a 30-20, bonus point victory at La Rochelle.

Tries from Kieran Marmion, Eoin McKeon, Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy sealed the win and secured the eighth and final quarter final place for the Irish side, who qualify from Pool 2 with 20 points in second place behind Exeter Chiefs.

Connacht made a flying start through Marmion’s second minute try but could not get going in a tight first half. Jack Carty and Jean-Pascal Barraque traded penalties before two tries from the French side meant Connacht trailed 20-11 at the break.

A 32nd minute penalty try for the hosts and back row Albain Meron’s  effort, which was converted by Barraque just before the interval, gave Pat Lam’s team an uphill struggle in the second half. But an outstanding turnaround after the break was ignited by flanker McKeon.

The young back-rower crashed over on 46 minutes, but Carty could not make the conversion. And it was not until the 74th minute that the Irish side grabbed a dramatic victory through replacement wing Adeolokun’s superb, solo try.

Carty converted to make it 23-20 to the visitors before Healy ran in another try just two minutes later to clinch maximum points for Connacht and complete an impressive turnaround in fortunes. Carty once again kicked the extras and the Irish province joined Leinster in reaching the knock-out stages in European competition.

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