Friday 15 December 2017

Westerners fall short of their Challenge

gloucester 14 connacht 7

Connacht went out on their shield to Gloucester in The Challenge Cup quarter-final at Kingsholm last night.

The carrot here was the reward of a home semi-final against the winners of tonight's quarter between Exeter Chiefs and Newcastle Falcons.

The dire kicking of out-half Jack Carty and malfunctioning lineout early on handed The Cherry & Whites first-class field position.

A sustained period of pressure ended with wing Tiernan O'Halloran taking Charlie Sharples into touch by the ankles.

Connacht's insistence on lashing the ball loosely downfield was bound to hurt them, James Hook countering for Sharples to finish with ease and Greig Laidlaw to convert.

The lead was doubled when centre Billy Meakes latched onto Hook's bobbling grubber and Laidlaw kicked the extras for 14-0 in the 32nd minute.

Connacht had to make something happen quickly. Their scrum made unexpected gains. The lineout generated momentum too. They just lacked the detail to crack Gloucester.

Second row Aly Muldowney was prominent and the scrum crushed out a penalty. It was all to no avail. Jack Carty's penalties to the corner just weren't working.

Close to a full quarter of almost total possession yielded zero points and it wasn't long before O'Halloran got them out of trouble by forcing a penalty out of Jonny May.

Eventually, Gloucester had the opportunity to close it out in the 62nd minute, Laidlaw's penalty shaving the wrong side of the left upright.

Connacht were given a lifeline when a motoring maul was hauled down for a penalty try converted by Carty in the 67th minute.

They ended their campaign on the attack, but out of time.

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