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Dublin: 23 °C Monday 22 July, 2019


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Good afternoon and welcome along to our live coverage of Connacht’s season-defining Challenge Cup quarter-final against Gloucester from the Sportsground.

With their Pro14 form trailing off in recent weeks, this competition has taken on added significance for the western province and Kieran Keane admitted that it is now win or bust for his side.

It’s a gloriously sunny day in Galway and we’ll bring you all the action as it happens, with kick-off fast approaching at 1pm.

The scene is set at the Sportsground.

A general view of an EPCR branded flag and match balls Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Jarrad Butler in the dressing room before the game Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

TEAM NEWS: Kieran Keane has been boosted by the return of Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion for this afternoon, with the Grand Slam-winning pair joined in a strong XV by fellow internationals Tiernan O’Halloran, Finlay Bealham and Quinn Roux.

Jack Carty — the competition’s leading scorer this season — and Dave Heffernan are both poised to make their 100th appearances for the province, while John Muldoon captains the hosts from number eight.


15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Bundee Aki
12. Tom Farrell
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Gavin Thornbury
5. Quinn Roux
6. Eoin McKeon
7. Jarrad Butler
8. John Muldoon (captain)


16. Dave Heffernan
17. Peter McCabe
18. Conor Carey
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Eoghan Masterson
21. Caolin Blade
22. Craig Ronaldson
23. Darragh Leader.

TEAM NEWS: As for Gloucester, they’ve made six changes from the side which defeated London Irish last weekend, with internationals Ben Morgan and Ross Moriarty back to form a strong back row unit.

Former Ulster prop John Afoa makes his 100th appearance for the Premiership side, while Welsh out-half Owen Williams gets the hod ahead of Billy Burns, who is named among the replacements.


15. Jason Woodward
14. Charlie Sharples
13. Henry Trinder
12. Mark Atkinson
11. Tom Marshall
10. Owen Williams
9. Willi Heinz

1. Val Rapava Ruskin
2. James Hanson
3. John Afoa
4. Ed Slater
5. Jeremy Thrush
6. Ross Moriarty
7. Lewis Ludlow
8. Ben Morgan


16. Motu Matu’u
17. Josh Hohneck
18. Fraser Balmain
19. Tom Savage
20. Ruan Ackermann
21. Callum Braley
22. Billy Burns
23. Billy Twelvetrees.

Pat Lam is back in Galway this afternoon and has just received a warm reception from the Clan Terrace. The former Connacht head coach is on duty for BT Sport 3 alongside Brian O’Driscoll and Lawrence Dallaglio.

Jack Carty and Nigel Carolan before the game Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A general view of pre match entertainment Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Willi Heinz, Romain Poite and John Muldoon at the coin toss Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The winners of this quarter-final tie will face Newcastle Falcons in the last four after the Premiership club beat Brive 25-10 at Kingston Park last night.

Pau are also through to the semi-finals after defeating defending champions Stade Francais 35-32 on Friday.

Crowd filtering into the Sportsground as we approach kick-off for the second meeting of these sides in the Challenge Cup and their fourth overall in Europe. Gloucester have won the last three, but which way do you see this one going?

Poll Results:

Connacht (171)
Gloucester (19)

“Both teams are willing to attack and to keep the ball. It will be a beauty,” says Kieran Keane, speaking to BT Sport pre-match.

Jack Carty and John Afoa lead their respective teams out on the occasion of their 100th appearances. The Sportsground is rocking and we’re all set!


1 mins – Charlie Sharples is a little eager from kick off and tackles Matt Healy in the air, with the Connacht winger doing well to avoid a heavy fall. Bundee Aki then knocks on over on the far side as the hosts looked to run it from deep.


3 mins – A big shove from the Connacht front row forces the turnover penalty at scrum time but again a loose pass gifts possession back to the visitors, who have a line out inside the Connacht half.

Flag 5Mins

4 mins — TRY! Connacht 0-5 Gloucester (Hanson)

Quinn Roux does brilliantly to get up and steal the line out but the bouncing ball pops straight into the arms of hooker James Hanson, who shows good pace to streak clear after it opened up invitingly for him. A cheap score to give away from Connacht’s point of view.


6 mins – Perfect chance for Connacht to reply straight away. Gloucester look to run it from their own 22 but a poor pass and knock on gives the home side the attacking platform, with the pack winning a penalty at the set-piece.

Flag 8Mins

7 mins — TRY! Connacht 5-5 Gloucester (Marmion)

Carty kicks for the corner and after the maul brought the home side within metres of the line, the ball is spread out to the backs and Marmion darts over for his sixth Challenge Cup try. A great response from Keane’s charges, but Carty is unable to add the extras.


MATCH SHOT: Gloucester celebrate James Hanson’s early try.

James Hanson celebrates with teammates Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO


13 mins — Gloucester work it well from a scrum in midfield as they go down the left with Moriarty hugging the far touchline, but Adeolokun comes across to make a strong tackle on the back row and bundle him into touch. The Welsh international appears to be in a bit of trouble, however, and is down receiving treatment.


14 mins – Roman Poite is losing his patience at line out time as he penalises Gloucester for again failing to maintain the gap. ‘Very undisciplined,’ he tells skipper Willi Heinz as Carty pings it into touch down the right.


15 mins – Connacht go to the back towards Jarrad Butler and they’ve got good, front-foot ball here. Gloucester’s defense is up quickly and Ben Morgan then goes in very high on Tom Farrell. He could be in a spot of bother here.


15 mins — Yellow! Romain Poite says ‘enough is enough’ as he sends Morgan to the bin for the high tackle. A bit unfortunate to see yellow for that offence alone but the number eight pays for his side’s indiscipline in the opening 15 minutes.


18 mins – Bundee Aki knocks on and Gloucester look to pounce, but Owen Williams attempts the cross-field kick. It was a poor decision from the out-half as Muldoon always had it covered.


MATCH SHOT: Kieran Marmion got over to draw Connacht level.

Kieran Marmion scores a try despite Tom Marshall Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Flag 20Mins

20 mins — TRY! Connacht 10-5 Gloucester (Bundee Aki)

Superb score from Connacht. Buckley’s glorious tip on pass sends McCartney free initially and the hosts then show patience to recycle the ball for Bundee Aki to crash over from close range. Carty is unable to convert.


21 mins – Frantic stuff in Galway as Gloucester’s indiscipline continues to cost them. On this occasion, however, it’s Connacht who concede a penalty at the set-piece.


25 mins – Ben Morgan is back on after his 10 minutes in the bin as Gloucester win the scrum five metres from the Connacht line. The home defence standing firm so far but under severe pressure now.

Flag 29Mins

28 mins — TRY! Connacht 10-10 Gloucester (Tom Marshall)

Gloucester are level. The visitors work a huge overlap from the scrum and Marshall is on hand to finish in the left corner. A well-executed move ties in the Connacht defence.


MATCH SHOT: Bundee is back in Connacht colours and enjoyed his try.

Bundee Aki celebrates scoring a try Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO


32 mins — NO TRY! Gloucester are moving through the gears now and again they expose Connacht down the left, with quick hands sending Ed Slater over in the corner. But Poite goes upstairs and the TMO rules the score out for a forward pass, which is a real let-off for the home side. 


33 mins – We’re going back for a Gloucester penalty after Connacht were caught offside. The visitors go for the line out and a powerful rolling maul, with the home side really stretched now — but Tom McCartney forces a crucial turnover. A big moment.


34 mins – Pressure on the Connacht scrum but it holds firm and Carty clears his lines.


36 mins – Gloucester are camped inside the Connacht half and they win another penalty, allowing Williams to ping it into touch within metres of the line.

Flag 37Mins

37 mins — TRY! Connacht 10-17 Gloucester (Trinder)

Gloucester eventually strike in that far corner as centre Henry Trinder slaloms through midfield with a glorious step past Roux and then a powerful finish. Williams strikes the conversion sweetly and the visitors lead.


HALF TIME: Connacht 10-17 Gloucester 

A frenetic 40 minutes of rugby which produced five tries, but it’s the visitors who go into the break with a seven-point advantage. Connacht barely played despite tries from Marmion and Aki and they will need to be much improved if Keane’s men are to keep their Challenge Cup hopes alive.


42 mins – Gloucester have come out of the traps quickly and win a penalty inside the opening minute of the half, as Connacht are pinged at the breakdown. Williams has called for the tee.


42 mins — Penalty! Connacht 10-20 Gloucester (Williams)

Sweet strike from the out-half and it just drops over the bar to extend Gloucester’s lead to 10 points.


44 mins – Big 10 minutes coming up for Connacht and you feel they need the next score to just settle back into this game. Bundee Aki knocks on but Poite brings it back for a home scrum.

Flag 45Mins

45 mins – TRY! Connacht 15-20 Gloucester (Niyi Adeolokun)

A huge moment. With a penalty advantage, Marmion wheels away from the back of the scrum and grubbers through for Niyi Adeolokun to chase it down and ground it ahead of Marshall, who appeared to have the danger covered. Carty is again off target with the conversion attempt.


48 mins – Incredible stuff in Galway. Connacht have come alive again as Adeolokun streaks clear and then quick ball brings them within inches but Bealham’s attempted offload for Farrell goes to ground. We’re going back for a penalty.


49 mins — Penalty! Connacht 18-20 Gloucester (Carty)

No mistake from Carty this time and all of a sudden, Connacht are back to within two points of Gloucester. All the momentum is with the hosts now.


52 mins – Gloucester look for an instant reply but after working the overlap down the right, Charlie Sharples hangs onto it for too long and butchers a gilt-edge chance. Marmion eventually, and gratefully, clears the danger.


MATCH SHOT: It has been a lively affair in Galway.

Jack Carty is tackled by Ross Moriarty Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO


54 mins – This game continues to ebb and flow. A sustained period of pressure from Gloucester stretches Connacht’s defence but O’Halloran does well to make an important tackle and force Woodward into touch. The fullback should have done better on that occasion.


55 mins – Slater steals the line out and Gloucester are really turning the screw now.

Flag 57Mins

56 mins –  TRY! Connacht 18-27 Gloucester (John Afoa)

The pressure eventually pays off. Williams’ beautiful pass out the back sends Atkinson through a gaping hole in midfield, with the supporting Afoa on hand inside to run it home on the occasion of his 100th appearance for Gloucester. Williams adds the extras.


58 mins – Gloucester’s lead is back to nine points and Kieran Keane has made a couple of changes.  Ultan Dillane, Craig Ronaldson and Dave Heffernan replace Quinn Roux, Jack Carty and Tom McCartney.


MATCH SHOT: Gloucester are over for their fourth try of the game.

Ben Morgan dejected after conceding Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO


61 mins – A little bit of frustration growing at the Sportsground.


61 mins – Another change for Connacht as Conor Carey replaces Bealham in the front row. Mistakes a common thread throughout this performance from the hosts as another knock on sees the move break down.

Flag 62Mins

62 mins — Penalty! Connacht 18-30 Gloucester (Williams)

Another nail in the Connacht coffin. The visitors win the scrum penalty and Williams dissects the posts to stretch Gloucester’s lead to 12 points.


67 mins – Connacht preparing themselves to launch everything at Gloucester in the final 13 minutes. They show good patience and precision to work it through the phases before Marmion spots the gap and streaks clear.

The scrum-half dances his way through but is then hit high by Lewis Ludlow and Poite is asking the TMO to have a look at this.


67 mins – Yellow! Poite says there was no attempt to wrap the arms in the tackle as his shoulder hit Marmion and awards Connacht the penalty and sends the Gloucester flanker to the bin.


67 mins — Penalty! Connacht 21-30 Gloucester (Ronaldson)

Interesting decision to go for the points, but Ronaldson slots over the penalty nonetheless. Nine points in it heading into the final 10 minutes.


68 mins – Peter McCabe is in for Denis Buckley for Connacht and Matu’u and Balmain are in for Hanson and Afoa for the visitors. A grandstand finish in store.


70 mins – Connacht probing and pressing against the 14 men. No way through as of yet but the intensity has gone up another few levels.

Flag 71Mins

71 mins — TRY! Connacht 28-30 Gloucester (Healy)

Oh my word! Bundee Aki stabs through a DELIGHTFUL grubber for Healy to latch onto and dot it down under the posts. Ronaldson makes no mistake from under the posts and we’ve got a two-point game all of a sudden.

72 mins – Incredible drama at the Sportsground.


73 mins – Tense, tense, tense.


75 mins – Gloucester are playing the final few minutes exactly where they want to as they go through 10 strong phases of possession to take the sting out of Connacht’s comeback.


76 mins — Yellow! Poite sends Jarrad Butler to the bin for a deliberate knock on and here’s a chance for Burns to extend Gloucester’s lead to five points.


77 mins — Penalty! Connacht 28-33 Gloucester (Twelvetrees)

Twelvetrees is the man to take over the kicking duties and he takes all the time in the world to slot the penalty over from in front of the posts.


80 mins – Last chance saloon for Connacht as the clock goes red. They have the ball but inside their own half.

Huge disappointment for Connacht as they bow out of the Challenge Cup at the quarter-final stage again, and with it goes their last realistic chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions Cup.

Full report and reaction from the Sportsground to come, but for now, goodbye!

About the author:

Ryan Bailey


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