Wednesday 24 January 2018

Elwood's men on brink after Harlequins defeat

Harlequins 20
Connacht 9

Connacht's hopes of making it to the knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup were dealt a huge blow when they left the Twickenham Stoop last night with nothing to show for their efforts.

Connacht piled on the pressure in the closing moments in the hope of salvaging a bonus point, but their decision making proved their undoing.

Connacht, semi-finalists last year, now have a mountain to climb,as two defeats in their opening three games -- and with only the pool winners going through -- leaves them with little chance.

Bayonne's 65-7 demolition last night of Cavalieri Prato, put Connacht's shock loss in Italy in the opening round into context, and left them in a perilous position.

Connacht will be bitterly disappointed not to take something from London last night, not least as the two tries they conceded were soft. They enjoyed enormous possession in the opening half, but the concession of a soft try after eight minutes saw them go in trailing 13-6 at the interval.

The Connacht front row were superb,with fired-up displays from Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin and Jamie Hagan giving Eric Elwood's men a solid platform to work from.

But poor defending was punished as Tom Guest sauntered in from midfield after a quick throw for the opening try after just eight minutes.

Nick Evans added the conversion,and extended the lead with a penalty from 25 metres for a 10-0 lead after 16 minutes.

Miah Nikora pulled back a couple of penalties to make it 13-6 at the break.

Connacht took the game to Quins again after the restart, with Mike Swift and John Muldoon superb, but they never looked like getting in for a try.

They had a chance to reduce the deficit with a penalty from about 30 metres, but Frank Murphy tapped and Ian Keatley's pass was intercepted by man-of-the-match Tom Guest, who had full-back Mike Brown on his shoulder to finish the move and touch down.

Connacht never recovered. Nick Evans nailed the conversion to put 14 points between the sides.

Nikora reduced the deficit with his third penalty from the right after 56 minutes, but they needed a try to get back into contention and never looked like getting it.

Harlequins -- M Brown; G Camacho, G Lowe, T Casson (J Turner-Hall 62), T Williams; N Evans, K Dickson; J Marler (C Jones 50), J Gray (M Cairns 50), J Johnston (M Lambert 50); O Kohn, T Vallejos (P Browne 75); N Easter, C Robshaw, T Guest (C York 62).

Connacht -- G Duffy; B Tuohy, I Keatley, K Matthews, F Carr; M Nikora (T Nathan 72), F Murphy (C Willis 51); B Wilkinson (R Loughney 49), S Cronin, J Hagan (R Ah You 62); M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne (B Upton 62), J O'Connor (M McCormish 51), J Muldoon.

REF -- P Gauzere (France).

Irish Independent

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