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Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Cathal Noonan/INPHO
# All over
Connacht exit Challenge Cup despite second-half fightback
James Hook created the first two scores of the game as Gloucester took a 14-point advantage into the break.

Updated at 22.29

Gloucester 14

Connacht 7

CONNACHT’S CHALLENGE CUP adventure ended tonight as the western province failed to overturn a 14-0 half-time deficit against Gloucester in Kingsholm, despite a much-improved second-half from the Irish side.

In the second half, a penalty try was awarded after a maul towards the line was illegally impeded to give Connacht hope, with Jack Carty converting in front of the posts to make it 14-7.

The visitors rallied with the pressure on their opponents intensifying as the game wore on, however the hosts ultimately held on for a spot in the semi-final.

The Premiership side bossed territory throughout the first 40 minutes, with the visitors’ pack unable to get an attacking foothold.

Some loose kicking from out-half Carty didn’t help Connacht’s cause in the first quarter and after 20 minutes of resistance, one such kick was punished by the hosts.

The deadlock was broken by a touch of class from Welsh international James Hook. The number 10′s show and go after taking a loose Jack Carty kick prised open the Connacht defence and he found the pass inside to Charlie Sharples who headed for the posts.

Pat Lam Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Hook was also responsible for the second score of the game, sending a left foot grubber through the Connacht defence. The ball would sit up kindly for centre Bill Meakes to collect and cross the whitewash.

A difficult task for Connacht was made more difficult after 30 minutes when All Black Muliaina limped off to be replaced by Darragh Leader. The injury came after Mick Kearney was forced to pull out of the game late due to a toe injury.

Though Robbie Henshaw was back in Connacht colours for the first time since his starring role in Ireland’s Six Nations success and had a hand in their only try, he otherwise had a quiet game.

Connacht

15. Mils Muliaina
14. Tiernan O’Halloran
13. Danie Poolman
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Rodney Ah You
4. Quinn Roux
5. Aly Muldowney
6. Andrew Browne
7. Eoghan Masterson
8. John Muldoon (captain)

Replacements:

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16. Shane Delahunt
17. JP Cooney
18. Finlay Bealham
19. George Naoupu
20. James Connolly
21. Ian Porter
22. Craig Ronaldson
23. Darragh Leader

Gloucester

15. Steve McColl
14. Charlie Sharples
13. Bill Meakes
12. Billy Twelvetrees (captain)
11. Jonny May
10. James Hook
9. Greig Laidlaw

1. Dan Murphy
2. Richard Hibbard
3. John Afoa
4. Tom Savage
5. Tom Palmer
6. Sione Kalamafoni
7. Matt Kvesic
8. Gareth Evans

Replacements:

16. Darren Dawidiuk
17. Nick Wood
18. Sila Puafisi
19. James Hudson
20. Ross Moriarty
21. Dan Robson
22. Billy Burns
23. Henry Purdy

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France).

Additional reporting by Paul Fennessy

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