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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020
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Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 5 clash between Connacht and Toulouse at the Sportsground.

It’s another big day for the province as they look to keep their Champions Cup ambitions alive ahead of the final weekend of action. As for Toulouse, two points will see them top the group, with Connacht and Gloucester set to battle it out for second place in the pool. 

There’s one late change for Connacht as Tom Daly comes in at centre in place of Peter Robb, who failed a fitness test earlier today.

We’ll be back a little closer to kick-off (3.15pm) with more.

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KICK-OFF

We’re up and running in Galway as Jack Carty get us underway.

Conditions don’t seem to be too bad, particularly by the Sportsground’s standards, so hopefully we’ll get some good free-flowing rugby.

It’s a strong Connacht team, and it will be interesting to see how scrum-half Stephen Kerins fares on the occasion of his first Champions Cup start. 

Tom Daly is welcomed into the game with a bone-shuddering hit by Toulouse’s Clement Castets, while Bundee Aki is already trying to shake off what appears to be a dead leg.

There really are some big units in this Toulouse team, and the French side have made a bright start as they look to steal an early score.

7Mins

CHANCE!

Just after we said conditions weren’t too bad, the rain pours down and plays a big role in what could have been an early Connacht try.

Jack Carty gets the block in on a kick near the half-way line and chases down the loose ball. He kicks it ahead and just as Niyi Adeolokun looks poised to win the race and dot down, Cheslin Kolbe gets a boot in to nip the wet ball away from the Connacht wing.

Connacht get the five-metre scrum, win a penalty, and Carty will kick to the corner. 

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PENALTY TRY

Connacht find themselves camped out in front of the Toulouse line for the guts of five minutes, and win a series of penalties. Carty has already kicked to the corner three times with just 10 minutes on the clock.

The last of those line-outs sees Connacht maul towards the try-line, and referee Luke Pearce blows for a penalty try.

A great start for Connacht after weathering that early Toulouse pressure.

Toulouse are down to 14 men as a result of that penalty try, after Joe Tekori brought down the driving maul.

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YELLOW CARD

A long TMO review after Colby Fainga’a clashes with Sofiane Guitoune.

Fainga’a makes contact with the head, but it was an awkward tackle more than anything, as Guitoune was falling at an angle after shipping an earlier tackle.

The referee settles for a yellow card, which seems fair, and now both teams are down to 14 men.

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TRY!

It’s all Toulouse now, and after trying their luck down the wing they change things up and attempt to bash their way through the Connacht defence.

Jerome Kaino eventually thinks he has the ball down, and although a TMO review is required to check for a double movement, the try is given, despite the footage not being too clear.

Thomas Ramos adds the extras and Toulouse are level. It had been coming.

26Mins

CHANCE!

What a let-off for Connacht.

Matt Healy’s kick is blocked down by Toulouse’s Florian Verhaeghe just in front of the Connacht line, but the big lock knocks the ball on as he tries to gather it for what looked like a certain try.

Risky stuff from Healy, but he gets away with it.

28Mins

Both teams are now back to their full compliment of 15 men. 

31Mins

CHANCE!

Toulouse are almost in for a second try as they attack off the back of a scrum with an overlap down the right. Matt Healy manages to get a hand to Antoine Dupont’s pass, which was intended for Arthur Bonneval, but Healy knocks the ball on in the process and we go back for another scrum. 

33Mins

A brilliant turnover by Tiernan O’Halloran takes he pressure off Connacht after a long period of Toulouse possession.

Thomas Ramos broke towards the try-line but a well-timed tackle by Bundee Aki brought him to ground before O’Halloran swooped in for the turnover. 

A big moment, and Jack Carty boots the ball down the pitch as the home crowd find their voice again.

36Mins

Jack Carty just produced a lovely bit of skill to chip a loose ball up into his hands in the middle of the pitch. Nothing came of the attack unfortunately, and the game is getting a bit loose and scrappy now as Connacht look to end the half on a high.

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TRY!

It’s a second Toulouse try and it’s been coming, with the French side enjoying 66% of the territory so far.

It was rather straight forward too, a simple lineout and maul and Marchand bundles over with Connacht looking a little out of sorts defensively.

Ramos adds the conversion and Toulouse move 14-7 clear as the referee blows for half-time.

A disappointing end to the first half for Connacht but it was nothing more than Toulouse deserved.

The Top14 team ended the half with 78% of the possession and 80% territory. A big second half ahead for Connacht, who need to work out how to keep hold of the ball. They spent far too much of the opening period camped inside their own half.

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The second half is underway in Galway, and Connacht have 40 minutes to try save their Champions Cup season. A huge half of rugby ahead for Andy Friend’s team, who are probably lucky to be only seven points behind.

One change for Connacht at half-time, with Joe Maksymiw coming in for Ultan Dillane, who seemed to have picked up a knock towards the end of the first half.

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TRY!

That is disastrous for Connacht. 

After Matt Healy got away with a blocked clearance in the first half, Carty sees a kick blocked down by Dupont right on his own try-line, and Pita Ahki wins the race to score the try.

Ramos kicks the conversion and Toulouse take a comfortable lead as Connacht send in Caolin Blade for Kerins.

55Mins

It’s all a little bit miserable now, as it’s all Toulouse. It’s very hard to see how Connacht can find a way back into this game, even with 25 minutes left on the clock.

Plenty of players impressing for the visitors, but Jerome Kaino is looking particularly good. A string of substitutions has taken the pace out of the game for the moment, which is good news for Connacht as Toulouse look very keen to add to their lead.

62Mins

CHANCE!

Much better from Connacht, who piece together some nice passages of play in their own half before Carty sends Paul Boyle racing clear on the half-way line. He does well to burst forward but ultimately doesn’t have the legs and a combination of Toulouse players bring him down inside the ’22. 

Toulouse recover and clear their lines, but that has at least injected a bit of life into Connacht.

72Mins

Connacht having one of their better spells of the game as we enter the final 10 minutes. Still finding it hard to break down a very stubborn Toulouse defence though. They need something to happen quick if they are to salvage something here.

73Mins

YELLOW CARD

A really awkward tackle as Yoann Huget more or less picks up Tiernan O’Halloran and appears to drop him on his head. 

He gets away with a yellow card, which is probably down to the fact that Connacht players joined the tackle as O’Halloran fell to ground, taking the control away from Huget, but the home crowd expected to see red.

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RED CARD

A second card in the space of two minutes for Toulouse. It’s a high tackle and again O’Halloran is involved. 

This time he charges forward and Sébastien Bézy and Zack Holmes both tackle the Connacht man. Holmes’ tackle is the one that the referee isn’t happy with, and replays show that he raises his shoulder into the tackle with no attempt to stay low, and it’s a clear red card.

Toulouse will play the last seven minutes with 13 men. This could makes things interesting.

78Mins

Less than two minutes left to play and Connacht have failed to take advantage of their two extra men. There was one opportunity to break but a forward pass killed the move, and currently Toulouse are looking comfortable with a scrum inside the Connacht ’22.

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FULL-TIME

Connacht lose 21-7 at the Sportsground as Toulouse book their place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals.

So that’s that for Connacht. A strong display from Toulouse before their discipline totally unraveled in the final 10 minutes, finishing the game with 13 men on the pitch. They have had a poor run in the Top14 this season but they certainly have the potential to have a big say on this tournament going forward.

Connacht had their opportunities but were on the wrong side of the ball for the majority of the evening, and the losing bonus point is of no use to them.

We’ll have a full report and reaction up shortly. Thanks for joining us, and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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