Tuesday 24 October 2017

Parks keeping feet on ground after high of second Toulouse raid

Dan Parks, Connacht, in action against Toulouse
Dan Parks, Connacht, in action against Toulouse

John Fallon

Wise Toulouse fans might have had a sense of foreboding when Dan Parks slotted a 16th-minute drop goal on Sunday for, the last time they lost a Heineken Cup match at their fortress Stade Ernest Wallon, the wily Aussie did the same.

That was in January 2009 when Parks led the charge as a Glasgow Warriors side, who were out of contention in the pool, stormed the citadel and stunned Toulouse 33-26, with their out-half kicking 18 points.

The former Scottish international, who declared for the land of his maternal grandfather after initially leaving New South Wales for Leeds Tykes in 2001, holds many scoring records and joins an elite group of players to win at Stade Ernest Wallon with two different clubs.

He is into his second season in Connacht and knows more than most the significance of Sunday's 16-14 upset.

Parks (right) has been through it all on the international scene, yet he admitted he was stunned when the final whistle went.

"I just can't explain what I felt. I stood there at the end of the game and looked around and just thought to myself 'this is unreal'. There are a lot of players that come to France in the Heineken Cup and never win," said Parks (35). "I did it four years ago with Glasgow and to do it again was pretty special.

"It was a special night with the Glasgow lads and it is something I will always remember. But now we've done it again. It was a very special night. I'm just so delighted to see the guys so happy.

"The feeling once that ball went down and John Muldoon jumped on it and we scrambled and the referee called time... wow, what a feeling that was. It's a special moment for the Connacht people and players and the fans."

Parks was worried beforehand and felt his side weren't right, but that fear was dispelled from the outset with the ferocity of the Connacht charge.

"It's funny, because I don't know if we had the best of warm-ups, it didn't quite feel as good as it usually does. Maybe it was because people were really feeling the atmosphere and were a bit within themselves.

"But certainly once the game started, we came out firing. Although we did a lot of defending there was really limited times they came into our half."

Now the task will be to back it up on Saturday at the Sportsground but Parks says they will keep their feet on the ground.

"It's always difficult when you come out the back of a high like this, but it is also very exciting. We are very privileged to be able to play against a team like Toulouse and that's how you get up for these games and we certainly got up for it. It'll be no exception next Saturday."

SOLDIERED

One man who knows the significance of the win is Muldoon, who has soldiered away with Connacht for over a decade. The veteran flanker insists that he was always confident they were going to do it. They were going to leave dismal results in the Pro12 behind them and slay Toulouse.

"Honest to God we thought we were going to win. We did. We don't think we deserve to be bottom of the league table, we are playing better than that," said the Portumna native.

"They're one of the top teams in Europe. We knew that, we understood that they were going to throw the kitchen sink at us early. We had to be resilient. We worked hard on our defence all week. We worked on ourselves in regards to where we were going to be, the state of mind we had to come into this with.

"We spoke a lot in the last couple of weeks about adversity and how you react to adversity. We are extremely happy that we won, it has to be right up there as the best yet."

Irish Independent

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