Fox-Matamua blow mars Connacht win
Connacht 21 Brive 17
Pat Lam's Connacht warmed up for next weekend's top-of-the-table clash with Munster in the Pro12 with a bonus-point win at the Sportsground, which also sees them top of their pool in the Challenge Cup. They had to come from behind to see off the French, but once they got moving, they oozed confidence as they made it eight wins from nine games in their best ever start to a season.
Connacht began with only three of the side which started in Siberia last week, but with most of the bench from Russia lining out, it was understandable that they were somewhat flat-footed early on after their three-day delay in getting home.
Brive were the better side in the opening half hour. But their decision to rest regular kicker Gaetan Germain was costly as Romain Sola fluffed two penalties before Brive hit the front, with hooker Thomas Acquier getting a try.
That score prompted a reaction from Lam's men, with Kieran Marmion and Robbie Henshaw leading the way. Jack Carty pulled back a penalty from 35 metres and then created the opening try with a superb cross-field kick, which was knocked down by Tiernan O'Halloran for winger Rory Parata to saunter over. Carty missed the conversion, but landed a penalty to lead 11-5 at the interval.
Ben Marshall marked his first Connacht start with a try six minutes after the restart after an initial drive at the line by Henshaw, but the Dubliner then had to go off with a head injury. Connacht coughed up a try to Brive winger Benito Masilevu to leave it 16-10, but they weren't long in taking charge again.
They got a third try after 50 minutes, when Marmion scored in the left corner to open up a 21-10 lead. They were unable to secure the bonus point and suffered a nervous finish when replacement scrum-half Teddy Iribaren got Brive's third try five minutes from the end. Connacht flanker Nepia Fox-Matamua could be out for the season after he picked up a suspected cruciate ligament knee injury, while second-row Andrew Browne is also a doubt for Munster becasue of a hand injury. Fox-Matamua was carried off 18 minutes from time
"That's such a gutsy effort from the squad after what we've been through," said Connacht coach Pat Lam. "To lose Nepia Fox-Matamua and Eoin McKeon and then Andrew Browne, he split his hand and he's going to theatre tonight. We ended up with three front-rows in an re-organised pack. It was a gutsy effort."
Scorers - Connacht: R Parata, B Marshall, K Marmion tries; J Carty 2 pens. Brive: T Acquier, B Masilevu, S Galala tries; T Iribaren con.
Connacht: T O'Halloran; R Parata, R Henshaw, B Aki (C Ronaldson 51), N Adeolokun; J Carty, K Marmion (I Porter 64); R Loughney (C O'Donnell 72), J Harris-Wright (D Heffernan 29-37 blood), N White (F Bealham 51); B Marshall (D Qualter 47), A Browne (R Loughney 73); E Masterson, N Fox-Matamua (D Heffernan 62), E McKeon (G Naoupu 62).
Brive: R Sola (A Mafi h-t, T Iribaren 54); M Bakaniceva (S Galala 51), B Petre, C Tuatara-Morrison, B Masilevu; M Ugalde, J Pejoine; D Lavergne (G Shvelidze 49), T Acquier (G Ribes 49), K Buys (G Jgenti 49); J Snyman, W Steenkamp (V Lebas 72); H Briatte, P Luafutu, W Whetton (S Hireche 49).
Referee: C Maxwell-Keys (RFU)
Sunday Indo Sport