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Saturday 23 September 2017

Connacht crestfallen at final hurdle in France

Toulouse 19 Connacht 10

John Muldoon of Connacht Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
John Muldoon of Connacht Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Courageous Connacht came up two points short of the losing bonus-point needed to qualify for their first Champions Cup quarter-final.

"It is tough to take," said captain John Muldoon.

"We just didn't look after the ball. We didn't want to give them opportunities and, unfortunately, we gave them too much."

It all began with a juggernaut start by Toulouse. There was a worrying opening surge that lasted three minutes as they worked their way from deep inside their own 22 for prop Cyril Baille to be held up over the line by Nepia Fox-Matamua.

From the scrum, the French powered to a penalty. The tap-and-go from number eight Francois Cros eventually led to Gael Fickou splashing down for Jean Marc Doussain to convert in the fifth minute.

It wasn't a time for panic. Connacht moved into the right areas twice only for Jack Carty to inexplicably kick the ball away.

They paid a heavy toll when Yoann Huget flew through an alarming gap in midfield to feed wing Arthur Bonneval for a flying finish.

Fly-half Doussain converted from the touchline for 14-0 in the 19th minute.

It took a leaping intervention from John Muldoon to foil Fickou. A miraculous turnover from Denis Buckley handed Craig Ronaldson a shot the centre took from 40 metres in the 34th minute.

All the while, they were making too many mistakes and Quinn Roux's cynicism deserved his yellow card.

Connacht could have narrowed the deficit further. But, Ronaldson was off target from distance.

Lock Roux returned from the bin in time for Tekori to rumble home from a maul for 19-3 in the 47th minute.

They needed an outlet and it came from a penalty for crossing - Tekori was the culprit - and Ronaldson's regal touch-finder.

Connacht had it in them to spring Robb forward and Muldoon was on hand to steam over for Ronaldson to kick the extras.

Muldoon charged back with the restart and floored Fickou in the tackle.

Out-half Carty exploited space with the boot. James Cannon and Roux stole successive lineouts.

Muldoon was in again on the poach, Thierry Dusautoir returning the compliment.

The Irish were growing into it, the ball sticking. Healy rifled a grubber inside the 22 and almost clutched Carty's long pass.

In the end, they just couldn't crack the code to Toulouse's defence.

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