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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 29 January, 2020
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Cipriani swings it as Connacht suffer four-try loss in Gloucester

John Porch and Jack Carty helped the Westerners to a half-time lead, but it unravelled from there.

Gloucester 26

Connacht 17

A CHAMPIONS CUP campaign that began with such rich promise three weeks ago against Montpellier has hit a cold, hard plateau as Connacht have not added to their points tally in the two away games since.

Gloucester meanwhile, breathed some life into their own knockout hopes with a bonus point win against the Westerners. And they will walk away feeling their four-try haul was a poor reward for their dominance.

The home side’s first-half profligacy meant the match was finely balanced at the halfway stage, but as Connacht attacked with a 7-10 lead the game swung as Danny Ciprani pounced to intercept Jack Carty’s pass and the former England international teed up winger Louis Rees-Zammit.

danny-cipriani-makes-a-break Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Connacht, who lost influential openside Colby Fainga’a to injury during the first-half, will hope that the return to home turf in six days’ time will bring a change of fortunes.

Having lost their opening two pool fixtures, Gloucester appeared as good as out of the running for the knockout stages before today. However, Johann Ackerman had clear designs on securing a first pool win as he named his strongest possible side to face Connacht.

The early intensity of the home side’s attack matched up with that plan as Joe Simpson energetic pace had caused the western province problems even before Tom Marshall sold a dummy and step to Niyi Adeolokun and darted in for a fourth-minute try.

The Premiership club sought more change out of Connacht’s back three as they tested John Porch with the boot and the elusive threat of Olly Thorley managed to bowl over Adeolokun on their next attack. But Porch is a man making sure his value remains on the rise. The Australian grabbed an intercept and cleared the ball long up the right.

And there, Quinn Roux’s line-out forced a steal and gave the visitors an ideal attacking platform. Porch, having delivered the territory, was the man to apply a sublime finish as he cut a beautiful angle in under the posts after Carty got his hands through a tackle and delivered a beautiful basketball pass to his fullback.

Seven apiece after eight minutes and, remarkably, that was the last of the first-half try-scoring. Carty kicked the visitors into a 7-10 lead on 17 minutes, but as temperatures dropped and the wind and displeasure of Kingsholm picked up Connacht’s try-line was living something of a charmed life.

On two separate occasions Bundee Aki got over the ball to force vital breakdown penalties within five of his line. Then, on the half hour, centre Mark Atkinson made a huge midfield break but appeared to over-think all the options that laid before him. While Porch did a good job of back-pedalling out of committing to a tackle, the big centre went down of his own accord as his feet went from under him on the 22.

In a half where the penalty count ended 6-3 against the hosts, there were ironic cheers as a penalty chance came on the 22. Ben Morgan and Danny Cipriani shunned a gimme of a chance to level the scores and instead kicked to the corner on two occasions expecting to turn the screw. Turn it did, but at the crucial moment Franco Marais spilled over the line.

colby-faingaa-leaves-the-field-injured Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The 7-10 halfway lead vanished from under Connacht within seven minutes of the turnaround. Having passed up gilt-edged chances in the first half, Gloucester pounced on a gift as Cipriani intercepted a short Carty pass, broke and unleashed Rees-Zammit to finish.

The hosts grew in confidence and stature once they had a lead to work from. Set up in Connacht’s 22, Cipriani’s boot twice came close to creating daylight between the sides. The efforts would soon yield fruit as the penalty count levelled up and Kyle Godwin was sin-binned for the visitors’ persistent infringement.

Gloucester made light work against the 14 men. Directly from a scrum the attacked the short side in Godwin’s absence and Marshall touched down for a second time with another dummy. And within three minutes they had the bonus point and a 26-10 lead as Jake Polledri romped in from 35 metres.

connacht-players-dejected-after-gloucester-scored-their-third-try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

From there, the hill was too steep for Connacht to mount a comeback, but they did at least manage to end the game on the attack. And, with the clock in the red Quinn Roux forced his way over the line to put a gloss on the scoreboard.

The pool table makes for painful reading, however, with Connacht bottom before Toulouse and Montpellier face off this evening.

Scorers

Gloucester

Tries: T Marshall (2), L Rees-Zammit, J Polledri

Conversions: D Cipriani (3/4)

Connacht

Tries: J Porch, Q Roux

Conversions: J Carty (1/1) C Fitzgerald (1/1)

Penalties: J Carty (1/2)

Gloucester: Tom Marshall,  Louis Rees-Zammit,  Chris Harris (B Twelvetrees ’72),  Mark Atkinson,  Ollie Thorley,  Danny Cipriani (M Banahan ’73), Joe Simpson (Callum Braley ’65): Val Rapava Ruskin (Josh Hohneck ’53), Franco Marais (Todd Gleave ’73), Fraser Balmain (Jamal Ford-Robinson ’69); Gerbrandt Grobler,  Franco Mostert (Alex Craig ’67), Ruan Ackermann (Lewis Ludlow ’68), Jake Polledri,  Ben Morgan.

Connacht:  John Porch,  Niyi Adeolokun,  Bundee Aki, Peter Robb (Tom Daly,  Kyle Godwin,  Jack Carty (Conor Fitzgerald ’51) , Caolin Blade (Stephen Kerins ’65):  Denis Buckley (P McCabe ’65), Tom McCartney (Jonny Murphy ’65), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy ’55); Joe Maksymiw (Ultan Dillane ’55), Quinn Roux,  Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a (Robin Copeland ’28), Jarrad Butler.

Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)

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About the author:

Sean Farrell  / Reports from Kingsholm

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