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Connacht 22-30 Harlequins (FT)

We’re just underway…

Here are the belated teams:

Connacht: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Adrian Flavin, Nathan White (capt); Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy; John Muldoon, Willie Faloon, George Naoupu

Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Brett Wilkinson, Ronan Loughney, Dave Gannon, Johnny O’Connor, Dave Moore, Miah Nikora, Mata Fifita.

Harlequins: Mike Brown; Tom Williams, Matt Hopper, Jordan Turner-Hall, Sam Smith; Ben Botica, Danny Care; Joe Marler, Rob Buchanan, James Johnston; Olly Kohn, George Robson; Maurie Fa’asavalu, Chris Robshaw (capt), Nick Easter.

Replacements: Dave Ward, Mark Lambert, Will Collier, Charlie Matthews, Tom Guest, K Dickson, Rory Clegg, Seb Stegmann

Harlequins 3-0 Connacht: Ben Botica gives the English side the lead with a straightforward penalty.

Harlequins have dominated the opening stages and the lead is consequently no more than they deserve.

TRY FOR CONNACHT!

Connacht 7-3 Harlequins: Excellent try from Dave McSharry, who runs over, after being set up by Dan Parks’ quick tap and go.

Parks then makes no mistake with the conversion.

Ben Botica registers another penalty, as Harlequins respond well to that try.

It’s been an entertaining start to this game.

Connacht 10-6 Harlequins: Excellent penalty by Dan Parks from a considerable distance extends his side’s advantage.

The former Scottish international is continuing where he left off last week against Zebre, producing another faultless performance so far.

Connacht 13-9 Harlequins: Ben Botica kicks another penalty, before Dan Parks produces an excellently judged kick to make it 13-9.

It’s been all about the two kickers so far, neither of whom have put a foot wrong.

Great break by Kieran Marmion, but his pass is just behind Tiernan O’Halloran, and the attack eventually comes to a halt.

Connacht 16-9 Harlequins: Connacht are rewarded after some sustained pressure, following another excellent break by Marmion, and they eventually earn a penalty, which Parks kicks.

Connacht have been very impressive so far, with Marmion in particular catching the eye.

Connacht 19-9 Harlequins: Dan Parks kicks a penalty straight in front of the posts, after another impressive Connacht attack.

Eric Elwood will be very pleased with his side’s play in the first half hour of this game.

TRY FOR HARLEQUINS!

19-14: Harlequins get a much-needed try, as Danny Care exposes a gap in the Connacht defence and runs over.

Botica misses the conversion, much to the delight of the home crowd.

TRY FOR HARLEQUINS!

21-19: More disappointment for Connacht, as a series of swift passes ultimately ends with Care diving over for an opportunistic try.

This time, Botica makes no mistake, with a relatively easy conversion.

24-19: Another penalty from Botica, with the last kick of the half, brings an end to a disastrous final few minutes, as far as Connacht are concerned.

HALF-TIME: CONNACHT 19-24 HARLEQUINS

So at half-time, Eric Elwood will be disappointed that his side seemingly failed to maintain the intensity of their performance throughout the opening 40 minutes.

Some very good rugby was marred by some elementary errors and lax defending in the final few minutes, which saw Harlequins score 15 points, having coming from being 19-9 down.

Conor O’Shea, meanwhile, will be satisfied that his side have refused to panic, sticking to their gameplan – and they were eventually rewarded for their persistence.

The second half has begun…

Brilliant run from Mike McCarthy brings Connacht into their opponents’ 22.

Connacht 22-24 Harlequins: Dan Parks gets his sixth consecutive successful kick after Harlequins are penalised for going over the top.

Connacht have made 98 tackles according to Sky’s statisticians.

They’re certainly having to defend doggedly, though a number of mistakes are beginning to creep into the visitors’ game, as they perhaps grow frustrated at Connacht’s increasingly impressive defence.

Interesting how this second half has been a lot less frantic than the first, at least in terms of points registered.

It’s unsurprising, as that pace is almost impossible to maintain for 80 minutes.

27-22: Ben Botica with another hugely impressive penalty – he was almost at the halfway line when taking it.

While the second half has been low on scores, this has still easily one of the best games of the competition so far.

There’s very few stoppages and each side has, at times, played some excellent rugby.

Harlequins 30-22 Connacht: Botica shows his class by kicking yet another successful penalty. They’re hardly missing Nick Evans at all right now.

Interestingly, Connacht have had 59% of the possession in the second half, yet they’ve failed to make it count.

Declan Kidney has just been shown by the Sky cameras.

He’ll have surely have been quite impressed with the likes of Marmion and McCarthy.

Connacht desperately need to get hold of the ball, but instead, Harlequins have it deep in the hosts’ 22.

Less than ten minutes remaining, and both sides are starting to look exhausted – the pace of this game really has been furious.

Botica proves he’s human by dragging a kick from a difficult angle well wide.

However it doesn’t look like it’ll matter, ultimately.

Connacht’s Mike McCarthy tackled by Harlequin’s Matt Hopper (INPHO/Billy Stickland).

FULL-TIME CONNACHT 22-30 HARLEQUINS

Danny Care was named Heineken Man of the Match.

It’s difficult to argue with that, given that his two tries ultimately won the game for Harlequins.

So a valiant effort from Connacht, but in truth, it was a well-deserved victory for Harlequins.

The hosts put an awful lot into the opening half an hour of the game, and consequently, failed to maintain such intensity for the remainder of the contest.

Harlequins, meanwhile, justified their status as one of the favourites to win this competition.

Conor O’Shea’s men were clinical in attack when they needed to be, and rarely looked like giving up their lead once they went ahead, controlling the game with a palpable confidence to their play for most of the second half.

Alright, that’s your lot from me. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Stay tuned though, as we’ll have reports from today’s other Heineken Cup matches up on the site shortly.

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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