Sport Rugby

Sunday 28 May 2017

Elwood hoping French win can lift Connacht

Bayonne 21
Connacht 35
Amlin challenge cup

Ian Keatley was in impressive form for Connacht in France on Saturday.
Ian Keatley was in impressive form for Connacht in France on Saturday.

John Fallon

Connacht coach Eric Elwood is hopeful that his side's shock win in France on Saturday will change their fortunes for the rest of the season.

Connacht ended a nine-match losing run in Bayonne and Elwood hopes that this victory will inspire them as they bid to climb from second-last place in the Magners League table.

It was their ninth win on French soil and while they were already out of contention for a place in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals, Elwood says the result will give them renewed confidence when the Magners League resumes next month.

Connacht's pool chances had ended long before this fiery contest at Stade Jean Dauger kicked off, but they used the occasion to produce a display that delighted Elwood.

"There have been so many matches this season which we had within our grasp and let slip," he said.

Response

"I feared it might happen again when we conceded tries either side of half-time but the response from our lads was great and we pushed on to win the match.

"That's what we have not been doing all season so hopefully now this will turn things around."

His fired-up men stunned a Bayonne side who had not lost at home since October and who had entered the game very much in the hunt for a quarter-final spot.

Connacht's early pressure was rewarded when they were awarded a penalty try after 16 minutes when Fionn Carr was taken out as he chased a kick from Brian Tuohy. Ian Keatley added the extras.

Bayonne -- needing victory to make their trip to Harlequins next weekend a winner-takes-all clash -- hit back with a third penalty from scrum-half Julien Audy.

Tempers were never far below the surface and Connacht's Andrew Browne and Bayonne centre Sebastien Fauque were unlucky to be the pair picked out and yellow carded after a mass punch-up in midfield.

Keatley made the home crowd even more incensed by landing a penalty from distance and then pushed Connacht 22-9 in front seven minutes from the break with his fifth penalty.

However, Bayonne hit back just before the interval when centre Thibault Lacroix burst through several tackles to touch down, with Audy adding the conversion to leave the score 22-16 at the break.

Bayonne came out with all guns blazing after the restart and it looked like it would be a long night for Connacht when the home skipper Marc Baget broke through some weak defending for a 43rd-minute try.

But it was Connacht who extended their lead when Keatley took his haul to 20 points with another penalty after 58 minutes, to leave it 25-21 going into the final quarter.

Connacht finished on the offensive and were rewarded when Sean Cronin put Tuohy in for the decisive score seven minutes from time.

And then Carr sealed the win with a breakaway try in the dying moments.

Bayonne finished with 14 men when replacement Jean Jo Marmouyet was red-carded.

Connacht will conclude their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign when they entertain Italian side Cavalieri Prato at the Sportsground on Saturday.

Bayonne -- P Elhorga; G Ziegler, T Lacroix, S Fauque, J Pietersen; B Boyet, J Audy; T Lea'aetoa (P Lafond 59), A Heguy, D Avril (W Desmaison 63); R Linde, C Treloar (R Filipo 59); G Bernad, D Haare (J Marmouyet 59), M Baget (F Carillo 67).

Connacht -- F Carr; S Monahan (M Nikora 70), E Griffin (K Matthews 52), N Ta'auso, B Tuohy; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson (R Loughney 70), S Cronin, J Hagan (R Ah You 63); B Upton (M Swift 50), M McCarthy (A Flavin 68); A Browne, J O'Connor (S Conneely 29), M McComish.

Ref -- P Allan (SRU).

Irish Independent

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