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Connacht stage recovery to claim bonus point win

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Toulon replacement Anthony Belleau celebrates after scoring the late match-winning try against Bath at Stade Felix Mayol. Photo: Getty Images

Toulon replacement Anthony Belleau celebrates after scoring the late match-winning try against Bath at Stade Felix Mayol. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Toulon replacement Anthony Belleau celebrates after scoring the late match-winning try against Bath at Stade Felix Mayol. Photo: Getty Images

Connacht looked to be dead and buried when they trailed by 16 points to Brive in the opening half, but they took control to record a 38-31 victory and had the bonus point in the bag by the 57th minute of this Challenge Cup Pool 5 clash, writes John Fallon.

They are now poised to secure a home quarter-final and should nail another five points when a disinterested Brive side come to the Sportsground next Saturday.

Brive didn't score a try in either of their two previous Challenge Cup wins over Connacht at Stade Amédée-Domenech, but they had three on the board by the end of the opening half last night.

But it was Connacht who made the brighter start and good early pressure yielded a sixth minute penalty from Jack Carty.

However, Connacht's indiscipline proved costly and with the penalty count climbing to seven to two after just 14 minutes, English referee Craig Maxwell Keyes inevitably lost patience and binned John Muldoon. Brive posted 14 points when they had the extra man with tries from Portuguese hooker Mike Tadjer and scrum-half Florian Cazenave.

Connacht, with the game slipping away from them, rallied before the break and full-back Tiernan O'Halloran set up Ultan Dillane for what was only his second try for Connacht in 49 appearances.

Carty converted to make it 19-10 eight minutes from the interval and that score kicked them into action.

They were rewarded for going to the left corner with a penalty just before the break and after a take from Muldoon, scrum-half Kieran Marmion spotted a gap to dash through and score under the posts. Carty converted to leave it 19-17 at the interval.

The lead changed hands three times in the opening nine minutes of the second-half, with Carty landing a penalty, then Tadjer got his second try for Brive before the game turned when Carty scored a superb try, breaking from midfield and then throwing a dummy pass before racing through to score from distance, with his conversion leaving it 27-26 to Connacht after 49 minutes.

Kelleher sealed the bonus point 18 minutes from time when he slid home in the right corner after the final pass from O'Halloran in a crossfield move.

There was still ample time for another twist as Brive scored from inside their own 22 in a move that was finished in the left corner by Guillaume Namy for their fifth try but Connacht deservedly held on.

Meanwhile, Bath were dealt a double blow as Taulupe Faletau suffered a knee injury during a 24-20 Champions Cup defeat at Toulon. A moment of individual brilliance from Toulon's new France international Anthony Belleau atoned for Chris Ashton's howler, which almost gifted Bath a notable away win.

Playing at full-back for the French giants, former England wing Ashton handed the visitors a try in the 62nd minute with a complete miskick from behind his posts, which allowed Jonathan Joseph to snap up the ball and score.

Rhys Priestland's conversion made it 20-17 but Belleau, a 72nd-minute replacement for the injured Francois Trinh-Duc, put his side back in front with a kick-and-chase try from five metres out. Wales and Lions number eight Faletau injured his left knee at a ruck in front of his own posts when he was cleaned out in the 48th minute.

In the same group, Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac was a relieved man after his side scored two tries in the final four minutes to snatch a 33-28 victory over Benetton Treviso at Parc y Scarlets - the Welsh side's first European win of the season.

In the all-French encounter in Munster's Pool 4, Castres edged out Racing 92 16-13 thanks to a second-half try from number eight Maama Vaipulu and 11 points from Benjamin Urdapilleta.

In Pool 3, Ospreys breathed life into their ailing season with 43-32 defeat of Northampton in an 11-try extravaganza at Franklin's Gardens. The Welsh visitors led 17-3 at the break and eased to the bonus point despite a Saints rally.

Sunday Indo Sport