Wednesday 26 July 2017

Lam era ends in disappointment for Connacht

Northampton 21 Connacht 15

Niyi Adeolokun scores a try for Connacht. Photo: Sportsfile
Niyi Adeolokun scores a try for Connacht. Photo: Sportsfile

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

The Kieran Keane era in charge of Connacht will kick-off next season in the Challenge Cup after a brave effort came up short at Franklin's Gardens.

Pat Lam's four years in charge came to an end but for long periods it looked like there would be another spin next Friday and that they would host Stade Francais in the Champions Cup play-off final.

Connacht's Andrew Browne is tackled by Saints' Rory Hutchinson. Photo: Robin Parker/Sportsfile
Connacht's Andrew Browne is tackled by Saints' Rory Hutchinson. Photo: Robin Parker/Sportsfile

But while Connacht put Northampton to the pin of their collar, they were unable to fashion a late winner despite ample possession.

It didn't look like Connacht would be in contention at the end when Harry Mallinder crossed for the opening try after just a minute.

But Connacht responded well and were back on level terms by the fifth minute when Craig Ronaldson threaded a neat grubber through for Niyi Adeolokun to collect and slide over.

Connacht cut the gap to 13-10 at the break when Ronaldson landed a 38 metre penalty after 29 minutes after two kicks from Mallinder.

Pat Lam after the match. Photo: Robin Parker/Sportsfile
Pat Lam after the match. Photo: Robin Parker/Sportsfile

Saints scrum-half Nic Groom struck a massive blow after 57 minutes when he sniped over to make it 18-10.

Connacht again responded well and after going to the corner with a penalty, hooker Dave Heffernan scored to cut the gap to three.

Mallinder extended the lead to six points ten minutes from time before Connacht came with a massive late onslaught, but they were unable to find a winner in a hectic finish.

Scorers - Northampton Saints: H Mallinder, N Groom tries; Mallinder 3 pens, 1 con. Connacht: N Adeolokun, D Heffernan tries; C Ronaldson 1 pen, 1 con.

Northampton Saints: A Tuala, (M Haywood); B Foden, N Tuitavake, L Burrell (R Hutchinson 23), G North; H Mallinder, N Groom (L Dickson 67); A Waller (C Ma'afu 62), D Hartley, K Brookes (G Denman 62); C Lawes, C Day (A Ratuniyarawa 63); J Gibson, T Harrison (T Wood 59), L Picamoles.
Replacements: M Haywood, C Ma'afu, G Denman, A Ratuniyarawa, T Wood, L Dickson, S Olver, R Hutchinson.
Connacht: T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, D Poolman, C Ronaldson, C Kelleher (M Healy 3); J Carty, K Marmion (J Cooney 64); D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham (C Carey 67); Q Roux, J Cannon (U Dillane 49); S O'Brien, J Heenan (N Dawai 56), J Muldoon.
Replacements: S Delahunt, JP Cooney, C Carey, U Dillane, N Dawai, C Blade, J Cooney, M Healy.
Referee: M Raynal (France).

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