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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 24 July, 2019
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Connacht 'have nothing to fear' in Champions Cup visit to Gloucester

Captain John Muldoon explained the difficulty of first-halves at the Sportsground.

CONNACHT COULD AND possibly should have won in Gloucester when they faced David Humphreys’ side in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals back in April.

How many of the province’s games have we said that about this season?

Two soft first-half tries left them 14-0 down at the break in Kingsholm that day, before they launched a second-period resurgence that ultimately came up short at 14-7. Connacht’s first-half curse.

John Muldoon, Aly Muldowney, Michael Swift and Andrew Browne after the game Muldoon with Aly Muldowney, Michael Swift and Andrew Browne after last weekend's defeat to the Ospreys. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It’s been an issue throughout the campaign for Connacht, and was once again apparent on Saturday as Pat Lam’s men were beaten 24-20 by the Ospreys at the Sportsground in Galway.

The characteristic wind at Connacht’s home venue was into their faces in the opening 40 minutes and we saw the same tactics of retaining possession inside their own half as has become the norm.

“You’ve got to look after the ball and it’s a high-risk game,” explained Muldoon post-match, pointing out that kicking into that wind is extremely difficult to do.

You’re looking after the ball in your own half so you’re not defending all the time. If you get a turnover and get something wrong, you’re susceptible to them getting you on the bounce.

“They got a try on the back of a turnover, and then a scrum from us which was disappointing. I’ve got to hold my hand up, it was just a bad tackle by me which led to the third try.

“It was too easy an offload for Dan Evans, but take one or two of those out and you’re going into the half 10-0 or 17-0 down, instead of 24-0 down. They never looked like they were going to score in the second half. Maybe they parked the bus a bit, but at the same time they needed a bonus-point win to get a home semi-final.”

Source: PRO12 Rugby/YouTube

The Scarlets’ win on the road against Treviso saw the Welsh region secure sixth position in the Pro12 table, meaning even if Connacht had won against the Ospreys they would have finished seventh.

It means a trip back to Gloucester on Sunday [KO 15.30] with a desperate desire to start the game well and not leave themselves with it all to do in the second period.

We went over to Gloucester a month and a half ago now and lost,” said Muldoon. “Again, the first half was a bit slow and we got stuck into them in the second half. We’ve been there, this is the second time this season.

“Obviously they’ve got some very, very good players but it’s a one-off game and we’ve nothing to fear. We were there and mixed it with them for long periods of the game so hopefully we’ll be able to do it again.”

Two more wins would get Connacht to their Champions Cup target, but they’ll have to solve those first-half problems if they’re to do so.

The Hurricanes had a drop-dead gorgeous try chalked off for a marginally forward pass

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Murray Kinsella

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