Mike McCarthy is tackled by Damien Traille. ©INPHO/James Crombie

As it happened: Biarritz v Connacht, Heineken Cup

Eric Elwood’s men were hoping to make it three wins from four in Europe this season.

THE RAIN WAS sheeting it down in the south of France as Connacht went in search of their biggest Heineken Cup win yet.

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Biarritz 17-0 Connacht

It has been teeming with rain all day in France so, if this game does get the go ahead [and we think it will], there will be some dirty washing to do in the morning.

You can read a preview of the match, and all the weekend’s action, right here. We’ll start you off with the two teams:

Connacht: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks (c), K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, R Loughney; M Kearney, M McCarthy; A Browne, J O’Connor, E McKeon.

Replacements: E Reynecke, D Buckley, N White, D Qualter, G Naoupu, P O’Donohoe, M Nikora, M Jarvis.

Biarritz: I Balshaw; T Ngwenya, J.P Barraque, D Traille, A Brew; J Peyrelongue, D Yachvili; F Barcella, B August, F Gomez Kodela; E Lund, P Taele; W Lauret, R Lakafia, I Harinordoquy (c).

Replacements: J Genevois, W Blaauw, T Synaeghel, T Dubarry, M Lund, Y Lesgourgues, S Burotu, M Bosch.

Connacht will be hoping to arrive in France, take home a win and insult some snooty types – just like Bono did at the European Music Awards in 1995:

YouTube credit: VideosUltravioletU2

Here is what Eric Elwood has said pre-game to Sky Sports about the Mike McCarthy move [next summer] and the Biarritz challenge:

To be fair to Maccer, he’s been very open and upfront about it… we obviously want to build our team up and build it around the better players but Maccer has made his mind up.

We expect a backlash. It will be a tough occasion, obviously with the conditions tonight… We firmly believe that if we can win tonight it can keep our hopes alive.”

It is still beating down with rain and if they manage to get a full 80 minutes out of this it will be some achievement for the groundskeeping staff.

Willy Wonka really pushes those Oompa Loompas too much. (©INPHO/James Crombie)


Brett Wilkinson penalised for not rolling away so Biarritz kick for touch and have an attacking lineout that the bearded Lund takes. Bust-ups again – much like last week – but the end result is a simple penalty for the French side as Johnny O’Connor slaps down the ball as Yachvili takes it from the ruck. The scrum-half slots over his kick to make it Biarritz 3-0 Connacht

These two sides do not like each other. McSharry is in a dust-up but it is broken up by an irate ref. Scrums are one apiece on the penalty count but Connacht win the latest and Parks kicks for touch as fields of Athenry rings out from the sodden travelling support.

Some poor refereeing from Leighton Hodges as he allows Harinordoquy to snatch at Marmion as he places his hands on the ruck ball. He then fails to see three offside players. Dan Parks sends up an up-and-under but McSharry is penalised for chasing it from ahead of Parks. Mick Kearney is the next to hear the whistle for not releasing. Biarritz kick for the corner and set up a maul. Play eventually goes out wide right and Ngwenya slides over. TMO

NO TRY! Ngwenya misses the rugby equivalent of an open goal. He dived over the line but the ball bounced him up. When the ball finally touched back down he was out of touch. Close call.

Biarritz camped on the Connacht line after Henshaw – bad, good, bad – has multiple involvement in trying to fashion an escape. Lund tries to back the truck over the tryline but is held up. Attacking scrums chosen over penalty kicks.

Sweet relief for Connacht, on 17 minutes, as Parks hoofs out from behind his posts and Balshaw gets whistled for a forward toss when he tried to take a quick lineout. Harsh one on the English fullback.

Henshaw receives treatment but rejoins play as McCarthy claims a lineout. Early indications are Biarritz are going for the bonus point win as they were not taking clear kicks at goal. Backfiring for now on a swamp of a pitch.

Ronan Loughney is having a tough outing with Barcella at the scrum and Erik Lund is trying to pancake every Connacht player in sight. He slaps Wilkinson then clatters Henshaw, off the ball, after a fine break by the young fullback.

Barraque, the French outside centre, took 25 minutes to join the gang and get himself filthy.

Biarritz knock-on near halfway but the right winger turns out to be McCarthy so play slows down before Parks launches another high ball. He should try kicking for the touchline every now and then.

TRY: The scrum is rest a couple of times before Traille makes the crucial offload, Barraque draws in the remaining marker and slips Balshaw in to dive aquaplane over in the lefthand corner. Yachvili scutters one over the bar to make it Biarritz 10-0 Connacht

Marmion’s error almost sets Biarritz free but the ball holds up in a puddle so the chance is lost. Traille was unlucky there. Harinordoquy knocks on and it will be scrum time again. Sky Sports have a lovely image of O’Connor [below] that sums up the grubby conditions.

The players are calling for wattle bottles but not to drink – they are washing the mud from their eyes. Yachvili misses a kick at goal from near the left touchline, about 30 metres out. 38 minutes gone.

HALF-TIME after some kicks back and forth – everyone was clock-watching there. Dan Parks’ kicks have been a bit of a waste so far. Many going too long. An early score could give them belief.

What would you do at half-time if saturated?

Poll Results:

Mug of tea (108)
New jersey (90)
Stay soggy, stay keen (86)
Cry off with mystery thigh injury (45)

@andymcgeady has sent us in a picture that perfectly captures the antics in France:


Yachvili does a Jonny Sexton and spurns a kicking chance to take a tap and go. Nearly pays off but the final pass is astray. Connacht then penalised at the scrum.

Connacht almost pay for trying to run a tapped penalty out of their 22 but the gamble pays off as Benoit August is yellow carded for two infringements in less than 60 seconds. That’s a boon right there folks.

Here come the cavalry as Dan Park lines up a penalty. Kearney and Loughney off for Naoupu and White. The penalty skitters off right and wide. Connacht will be so eager to get a score on the board while they have the man advantage. 50 minutes gone.

Kieran Marmion told last week that Yachvili was one of his big heroes. He was 14 when the scrum-half played Munster in the Heineken Cup final in 2006.

Connacht pile forward as O’Connor and Naoupu carry for hard yards but a McKeon knock-on costs his side. Hodges is threatening another Biarritz yellow.

Marmion could not do too much better than to study Yachvili even in wretched conditions like this. His kicking game is so wily. Connacht have the ball as Harinordoquy forgets rivalries to assist a prone Connacht player. Head clash by the looks of it.

Denis Buckley, it turns out, has accidentally milled Danie Poolman’s head with a stray knee as he joined the breakdown. Stretchers are on but Poolman is moving. Very similar to this moment when Paul O’Connell knocked a galaxy of stars into Brian O’Driscoll.

Idiotic stuff from Paul O’Donoghue, on for Marmion, as he dogs Yachvili at the scrum – under the eyes of the ref – and tags him before the ball is released. Offside. Penalty kicked for touch. Biarritz claim the lineout but Lund is held up.

Good tackle, in fact, by O’Donohue (correct spelling!) to stop Lund. Biarritz still in possession and back to 15 men. Aled Brew soup spoons a horrendous pass that would have missed Balshaw if he was 9ft. Tiernan O’Halloran follows it up with a good kick and chase that earns his side a penalty. Parks kicks to the French 22.

Ok, game on here. Big push needed now for Connacht as Dubarry gets yellow carded by Hodges. Man advantage again but the lineout is lost. Drat. 64 minutes on the clock.

Barcella then rhinos up the right touchline and Connacht’s antics to slow him down yield a penalty – Jarvis, on as sub, does not release seconds after his poor kick put his side in trouble.

Parks finally finds his range after a good spell of running, brave Connacht rugby. It’s his last involvement as Miah Nikora comes on. 11 minutes to go.

Eoin McKeon has battled gamely and carried well tonight. Traille pins Connacht into the corner to punish Vainikolo for creeping forward. Meanwhile, Dubarry – in the bloody sin bin – is giving an interview to French TV.

Connacht get the lineout but are caught and dropped behind their tryline. Attacking scrum that could spell real game-over danger here.

Double shampoo and triple conditioning for Lund’s muddy beard tomorrow.

Biarritz make a dog’s dinner out of that scoring chance as they try a crossfield kick that skittles around on the soaked turf. O’Donohue catches, marks and clears. Four minutes to go and it would be great to get a penalty or DG to get a losing bonus point at this stage.

Biarritz had big boots in Balshaw and Traille with man-of-the-match Yachvili providing the craft. Connacht relied on Parks too much and it wasn’t all pretty.

TRY: After a clear as crystal [not mud] forward pass to Jarvis, Vainikolo gets the ball back and flobs a 20-metre kick right to Traille. He grubber kicks twice before finding Burotu. He dives over in the left corner and O’Donohue can’t stop him. Yachvili pings another beauty of a conversion to make it Biarritz 17-0 Connacht

FULL-TIME: That’s yer lot. Disappointing end but Biarritz were the deserved winners. Serge Blanco won’t be suspending anyone this week but his side, after four games, only sit on nine points and are close to elimination, as are Connacht on eight.

In the night’s other game, it finished Edinburgh 3-15 Racing Metro so no favours for Munster from Michael Bradley’s beleaguered troops. Cheers for the company but I must admit – I felt filthy just watching that.

Heineken Cup cheat sheet: Your guide to this weekend’s European rugby

McCarthy is not the only Connacht player to express an interest to come to Leinster – Schmidt

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