Connacht stunned by bitter twist of fate
Brive 21 Connacht 18
Connacht blew a glorious chance to secure a quarter-final in the Challenge Cup in France last night in a dramatic finale. It looked as if John Muldoon had secured the win for Connacht when he tapped and went with a penalty to score his second try of the night, just two minutes from the end.
That levelled the sides but then Jack Carty missed the conversion and from the restart Connacht were penalised in a scrum after they knocked-on and Thomas Laranjeira stepped forward to land his seventh penalty on the night.
It leaves Connacht hoping Brive slip up in Newcastle next weekend and that they beat Russian side Enisei-STM at the Sportsground. But they have only themselves to blame for letting qualification slip out of their hands after a display in France that was littered with errors.
Connacht coach Pat Lam knew that a good start was vital if they were to add Brive to the other ten clubs they have defeated in France and he couldn't have wished for a better start.
There were just 40 seconds on the clock when Rory Parata raced through for his third try of the campaign and Danie Poolman had made the initial break down the right and captain John Muldoon made the opening which put the centre through.
AJ McGinty was unable to add the conversion and he didn't enjoy much good fortune in the opening half, missing a penalty from 35 metres after 13 minutes and skewing several kicks from the hand.
Brive made Connacht pay for the errors and should have been more than 9-5 in front at the break.
The French, beaten only once at home all season, got off the mark with a penalty from centre Thomas Laranjeira after six minutes.
He edged them in front with a penalty after MacGinty knocked-on and Muldoon went offside and the centre then made it 9-5 after 28 minutes.
Brive, getting on top up front, opted to go to the corner with a couple of penalties but Muldoon led the Connacht rearguard superbly and they survived.
Brive had an opportunity to extend their lead just before the break but Laranjeira pulled a penalty from 22 metres on the left and they had to be content with a 9-5 advantage at the interval.
MacGinty kept his nerve to give Connacht a promising start to the second-half and cut the gap to 9-8 with a penalty from 24 metres three minutes after the restart, before Laranjeira cancelled that shortly afterwards.
Connacht made good ground with a string of pop passes and when MacGinty cut inside, Muldoon came up to finish it, stretching in the tackle to get the touchdown. MacGinty hit a post with the conversion so it remained 13-12 to Connacht.
Poolman just did enough to nudge Benito Masilevu's left foot into touch just before the winger touched down in the left corner.
But the reprieve was brief. Rodney Ah You knocked on as they tried to clear their lines and then Jack Carty was pinged for a high tackle on Masilevu and Laranjeira kicked his fifth penalty to lead 15-13 going into the final quarter and then added another to lead by five.
Muldoon's second try had the Connacht supporters on their feet but then disaster with the missed conversion and the concession of the penalty which won it for Brive.
Scorers - Brive: T Laranjeira 7 pens. Connacht: J Muldoon 2, R Parata tries; AJ MacGinty pen.
Brive: R Sola; G Namy, T Laranjeira, C Tuatara (A Mignardi 55), B Masilevu; M Ugalde (N Bézy 74), JB Pejoine (T Iribaren 57); G Shvelidze (D Lavergne 52), T Acquier (G Ribes 52), K Buys (Y Tuncer 40); V Lebas, A Mela (W Steenkamp 71); W Whetton (P Luafutu 52), F Sanconnie (P Luafutu 27-38), S Koyamaibole.
Connacht: T O'Halloran; D Poolman, R Parata (P Robb 75), B Aki, M Healy; AJ MacGinty (J Carty 55), I Porter (C Blade 60); R Loughney (D Buckley 48), J Harris-Wright (T McCartney 29), R Ah You (F Bealham 70); U Dillane, A Muldowney; S O'Brien (E Masterson 59), J Connolly (G Naoupu 70), J Muldoon.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU).
Sunday Indo Sport