Thursday 22 March 2018

Connacht's Euro rivals inflict defeat on Madigan

Ian Madigan. Photo: PA
Ian Madigan. Photo: PA

John Fallon

Toulouse may be the only side to win both of their opening games in the Top 14 but Connacht, who host them at the Sportsground on the opening weekend of the Champions Cup in October, won't be shaking in their boots when they view their 22-17 win over Ian Madigan's Bordeaux-Begles.

Toulouse, who were also at home when they defeated Montpellier last week, started with 13 internationals and sprung another four from the bench but Connacht, if they can carry on where they left off last season, should be well capable of defending their bish-bash rugby.

Connacht, who created one of the biggest shocks in the Heineken Cup when they won against Toulouse in Stade Ernest-Wallon in 2013, will have seen plenty of power but little imagination in the French side's opening two games.

But Toulouse did enough to inflict a first defeat on Madigan since his move to Bordeaux.

He started on the bench as they made wholesale changes to the side which defeated champions Racing 92, but was drafted before the break when former French international Lionel Beauxis was injured.

"Lionel is a really good player, a proven French international. The first game of the season was tough so they rotated quite a lot of guys, nine changes in all," said Madigan.


"Lionel went well in pre-season and deserved his start but unfortunately I think he has now picked up a bang on his quad so that will have to be assessed and see how he is. It is a very long season and you have got to rely on your squad.

"You have 26 regular season then, hopefully, another three knockout games and then throw in Europe on top of that and you are getting into the thirties so you need to be able to rotate your squad and rely on the 40 guys you have got there. But it was nice to get on early. I feel really good, I've no injuries, it's a fast track and good weather, a good dry ball, so I was delighted to get out there.

"We were happy to come away with a point from a position where we were ten points down with ten minutes to go away from home, to score a late try and get a losing bonus point was a positive for us."

It was a poor weekend for the Irish in France, although Ronan O'Gara's Racing 92 got off the mark with a 29-16 home win over promoted Lyon. But Bernard Jackman's Grenoble fell to a second defeat, this time going down 22-19 at home to La Rochelle, with Brock James impressing for the visitors after his move from Clermont.

Former Ulster centre Chris Farrell and Connacht lock Aly Muldowney started for Grenoble, who led 13-12 at the break.

Pau, coached by former Munster assistant Simon Mannix, also fell to a second defeat when they lost 22-18 at home to Toulon. Former Munster players Paddy Butler and James Coughlan started in a back-row which was completed by England exile Steffon Armitage, playing against his former club.

Irish Independent

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