Tuesday 24 January 2017

Lam: We need crowd behind us

John Fallon

Published 22/01/2016 | 02:30

Connacht's Finlay Bealham jumps over a muddy area, at the entrance to the training pitch, before the start of squad training. Sportsground, Galway. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Connacht's Finlay Bealham jumps over a muddy area, at the entrance to the training pitch, before the start of squad training. Sportsground, Galway. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

Connacht coach Pat Lam has called on their supporters to create a cauldron at the Sportsground as they look to oust Enisei-STM and qualify for the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup tomorrow (3pm).

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Connacht will still need results elsewhere to go in their favour but a successful outcome to the weekend will see Connacht qualify for the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup for the ninth time.

Connacht first made it through to the last eight in 1997-'98 when they went down 40-27 away to Agen.

It was another five years before they got that far and by then the format of the competition had changed when they went down on a home-and-away basis to Pontypridd.

That was the first of four successive seasons of reaching the quarter-finals. A year later, in the 2003-'04 campaign, they got past the quarter-final stage with wins at home and away to Narbonne, but went down 49-45 on aggregate to Harlequins in the semi-finals in a clash where both teams won their home ties. They got past Grenoble a season later in the quarter-finals but came a cropper against Sale Sharks in the last four.

The format changed the following season in the 2005-'06 campaign when they lost the quarter-final tie away to Newcastle Falcons.

In 2008-'09 they went down away to Northampton Saints in the quarter-finals and the following season beat Bourgoin in the quarter-finals but bowed out at home in the semi-finals against Toulon.

A year ago they lost the quarter-finals away to Gloucester by 14-7 but Lam believes that a fired-up Sportsground tomorrow could be the difference in them getting to knockout stages again this season.

"Personally, I still get goose bumps when I walk over from the Clan to the Main Stand for kick-off and I can't wait for that again. The Sportsground is massive for us and we are determined to get back to winning ways after just one loss this season here," he said.

"What makes the ground so special is the supporters and the atmosphere they create. It really makes a huge difference to the team. There is so much pride in representing Connacht and we can feel the support when we're meeting people in Galway during the week."

Irish Independent

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