James Crombie/INPHO

As it happened: Northampton Saints v Connacht, Champions Cup play-off semi-final

We went minute-by-minute as Connacht tried to extend their season and hope of playing in the Champions Cup next season.
May 20th 2017, 5:47 PM Carty is smashed behind the gainline. Saints pour in after the breakdown AND WIN THE TURNOVER. FULL-TIME! Northampton 21 Connacht 15
May 20th 2017, 5:35 PM PENALTY! Northampton 21 Connacht 15 (Mallinder ’70)
May 20th 2017, 5:25 PM TRY! Northampton 18 Connacht 15 (Heffernan ’61)

That’s all from me then, folks.

Pat Lam’s terrific era in Connacht comes to an end. The season is over and hope of playing Champions Cup rugby next season is extinguished.

Carty is smashed behind the gainline. Saints pour in after the breakdown AND WIN THE TURNOVER.

FULL-TIME! Northampton 21 Connacht 15

The passing is not slick enough to stretch Saints just yet. The green and yellow shirts are winning the collisions.

Ronaldson kicks for the corner. Connacht have a line-out 15 metres out. They need all seven points.

Connacht mounting an impassioned late attack with O’Halloran offlaoding to Dillane. Carty sneaks through a gap. Penalty.

73 mins: Time is working against Connacht now.  They need a converted try.

PENALTY! Northampton 21 Connacht 15 (Mallinder ’70)

Northampton look more and more dangerous on the attack the more they unleash replacements into the fray, but they just can’t kill this game.

A forward pass from Foden brings a Connacht scrum on the visitors’ 22.

Oooh. Healy attempted to chip over the top of big Harry Mallinder and the out-half gratefully accepts the ball. Groom drills the ball into the corner.

Lovely maul from 5m and the hooker finishes the chance off.

Ronaldson can’t quite bend the penalty in, so the gap is three points again. 17 minutes to go.

TRY! Northampton 18 Connacht 15 (Heffernan ’61)

Craig Ronaldson is still putting in a phenomenal shift. His break puts Connacht in the 22, a penalty comes for a high tackle on Kieran Marmion.

They’ll go for the corner.

The question from the TMO was whether Adeolokun had been held off the ball. Connacht looked to have a very strong argument, but no dice from the officials.

Nah, the try’s given.

Tuitavake crashes through tackles near the left flank and the scrum-half scraps the rest of the way.

Hang on, John Muldoon ahs got his wish and we are with the TMO…

TRY! Northampton 18 Connacht 10 (Groom ’56)

He really is. The centre follows up his big aerial take with a tackle and rip metres from his line.

Unfortunately, he can’t quite keep hold of the pill after his steal and Saints are set up for a scrum in the middle of the 22.

53 mins: Precious few scoring opportunities in this second half, but it is a delicately poised game.

A big Craig Ronaldson take in the air is perhaps a signal that they are on the up, but a second Marmion box kick in as many phases is a poor choice.

The sun is out in Northampton, and that in all seriousness may well be a good omen for the westerners.

From that set-piece though, George North makes a huge amount of hay.

Saints don’t capitalise on the break as Connacht scramble well and bundle Foden out on the right flank.

Excellent exit from a scrum deep in their territory. Muldoon peels off and hands the ball to Marmion who puts in a superb grubber that bobbles 40 yards down the touchline.

48 mins: Ultan Dillane is back from injury and in the game.

The most important impact he can make right now though would be to sure up the line-out because it’s one malfunction after another at the minute.

Matt Healy continues the Connacht tactic of kicking in behind the Northampton back three and asking them to kick back.

North sends it to touch, but the resulting line-out is poor, lost… but good work from Bealham in his own half forces a penalty.

We mentioned in the first half that Mathieu Raynal sustained an injury. He was the only half-time replacement, Pascal Gauzere now holds the whistle after being assistant ref in first-half.

Saints steal an early lne-out and Groom fortunate not to be pinged for a knock on after he ‘controlled’ the bouncing ball.

The second half is off and running then.

Can Connacht bring a European play-off to the Sportsground? Or does the season and the Pat Lam era end here?

Terrific breakdown effort from Muldoon forces a penalty and prevents Saints from extending their lead before HT.

HALF-TIME: Northampton 13 Connacht 10

Muldoon steals a Hartley line-out and Connacht can mount an attack from halfway.

Oh no. Carty’s kick is loose and Foden can call an easy mark. Foden blasts to touch though, so it’s effectively a 10-metre gain for the Westerners.

Massive penalty win for Connacht off a second line-out drive from Saints. Accidental offside called and they can clear the lines.

34 mins: Connacht spill the ball in trying to play expansive rugby in their 22. Saints force a penalty off the scrum and Lam’s men are under the pump now from the maul.

Referee Mathieu Raynal has called for some physio attention after awarding a penalty.

He’ll battle on, and Connacht aren’t about to be killed off either.

PENALTY! Northampton 13 Connacht 10 (Ronaldson ’28)

O’Halloran beaten in the air by Tuala again. Connacht losing momentum bit by bit.

PENALTY! Northampton 13 Connacht 7 (Mallinder ’23)

Connacht continue to probe and dominate possession and make yards. But the error comes to let their hosts off, James Cannon passing left and gets intercepted. Muldoon concedes a penalty soon after and Saintscan attack from inside the Connacht 22.

PENALTY! Northampton 10 Connacht 7 ( Mallinder ’15)

George North is down on his knees after a clash. Sean O’Brien penalised at the breakdown and Mallinder has a chance to nudge his side in the lead.

Connacht threatening to get their attacking rhythm going, though they were fortunate not to give away an intercept as the passing gets loose.

Saints’ set-piece is thwarting the visitors, Mallinder clearing into the opponents half after a scrum penalty.

Didn’t quite see who Matt Healy has come into the game for, but he’s buzzing around attacking rucks, eager to step and test the Saints defence.

TRY! Northampton 7 Connacht 7 (Adeolokun ’5)

Never in doubt.

It was Ronaldson’s footwork that gave Niyisy a chance to chase there and he did not disappoint, barelling over Nic Groom and stretching to plant down a brilliant score.


Niyi Adeolokun has crashed over the line from Carty’s grubber.

We’re with the TMO.

Tiernan O’Halloran missed a dropping ball and it spilled for Tuitavake to carry into the 22. Nice hands out towards the right from Foden and Tuala put the young out-half in the corner.

And the conversion comes too.

Saints 7 Connacht 0

TRY! Northampton 5 Connacht 0 (Mallinder ’1)


Carty gets proceedings underway. Saints truck it up, but the real yards come with O’Halloran mis-judges a Garryowen… this start is horrific.

A late change for Connacht James Cannon in the second row, replacing Andrew Browne who has picked up a calf injury.

The Connacht XV now looks like this.

15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Danie Poolman
12. Craig Ronaldson
11. Cian Kelleher
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Quinn Roux
5. James Cannon
6. Sean O’Brien
7. Jake Heenan
8. John Muldoon (captain)

Pre-match pic of Ultan Dillane. His impact from the bench will be absolutely vital for the Westerners this afternoon.

Ultan Dillane arrives James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Pre-match formalities before the game faces get pulled on tight.

Here are your teams for today’s clash, which kicks off at 4pm (live on TG4).

JJ Hanrahan is out injured for the Saints, while Connacht had hoped to play Eoin Griffin in place of the suspended Bundee Aki in the centre, only to find that he was not registered when they submitted their team yesterday.


15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Danie Poolman
12. Craig Ronaldson
11. Cian Kelleher
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Quinn Roux
5. Andrew Browne
6. Sean O’Brien
7. Jake Heenan
8. John Muldoon (captain)


16. Shane Delahunt
17. JP Cooney
18. Conor Carey
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Naulia Dawai
21. Caolin Blade
22. John Cooney
23. Matt Healy

Northampton Saints:

15. Ahsee Tuala
14. Ben Foden
13. Nafi Tuitavake
12. Luther Burrell
11. George North
10. Harry Mallinder
9. Nic Groom

1. Alex Waller
2. Dylan Hartley (captain)
3. Kieran Brookes
4. Courtney Lawes
5. Christian Day
6. Jamie Gibson
7. Teimana Harrison
8. Louis Picamoles


16. Mikey Haywood
17. Campese Ma’afu
18. Gareth Denman
19. Api Ratuniyarawa
20. Tom Wood
21. Lee Dickson
22. Sam Olver
23. Rory Hutchinson

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France).

Welcome along to a make or break day for Connacht.

The western province are in Northampton hoping to join Stade Francais (who trounced Cardiff last night) in the Champions Cup play-off final.

It won’t be easy against a very physical Premiership side… but this side has been written off once or twice before.

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