# positives
'We have to celebrate what we've achieved' - Connacht's Pat Lam
The western province will play Gloucester in the Champions Cup qualification play-offs next weekend.

THERE WAS ONCE again frustration and disappointment for Connacht after they came up short in a 24-20 defeat to the Ospreys in Galway on the final day of the Pro12 regular season.

The Connacht team huddle after the game James Crombie / INPHO Connacht's huddle after defeat to the Ospreys. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

As it transpired, even a bonus-point win at the Sportsground wouldn’t have been enough to bring Pat Lam’s men into the top six and therefore secure them automatic Champions Cup qualification.

Instead, Connacht travel to Gloucester next Sunday for a one-off play-off clash with David Humphreys’ side. The winner of that encounter will then have home advantage in a one-off play-off meeting with the Top 14′s seventh-place finisher for a Champions Cup place.

All season, Lam and his lieutenants have spoken about the top six being their minimum goal in achieving a successful season. They’ve failed to hit that target, but the province remain positive about their progress over the course of the last year.

Even if we’d won, we wouldn’t have got ahead [of the Scarlets in sixth],” said Lam post-match in Galway.

“To get 50 points this season is 11 points greater than we’ve ever had, 10 wins and a draw. It’s been a massive effort for us and the reason we set top six was because we wanted to get into Europe.

“I suppose we look back now and we’ve the highest ever finish Connacht’s had, the boys can take credit for that. But the reason was about getting into Europe and now we’ve got the chance next Sunday to go to Gloucester, carry on and try and get into that final.

“All we have to do is celebrate where we are now, what we’ve done, what we’ve achieved, then put it aside, recover and have a really good build-up.”

Captain John Muldoon echoed Lam’s sentiment at the Sportsground, pointing out that this ranks as the province’s best league campaign ever.

Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and Jack Carty after the game James Crombie / INPHO Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and Jack Carty post-match. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“We’ve won ten games, we’ve our highest ever finish, most ever wins in the league, most ever points in the league,” said Muldoon.

“We know when we get good ball, we can score tries and we probably let ourselves down when we concede a try and we’ve a habit of conceding again straight away. That’s probably cost us a lot of games throughout the year.”

While a win against the Ospreys this afternoon might have meant little in deciding Connacht’s final Pro12 position, the loss does mean that they head for Gloucester having been defeated in five of their most recent six games.

There was a poor first-half performance again today, as Connacht found themselves 24-0 down at the break before scoring 20 unanswered points thereafter. A microcosm of recent months.

We were probably four or five points away from a month ago shooting for the top four, top five,” said Muldoon.

“Things change a little bit, you look at games throughout the year that you maybe let slip and suddenly you’re going into the last two games playing for top four as opposed to trying survive in the top six.

“Things could have had a completely different outlook, but we’re growing and we’re learning. We still have a very young squad in terms of some of the players that are in key positions.

“They’re learning all the time, so you’re going to have highs and lows. Our oldest back has been 26 for most of the season, so that’s going to happen unfortunately.”

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