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Dublin: 17 °C Monday 3 August, 2020
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Liveblog

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Hello, and welcome to our liveblog of this evening’s game between Connacht and Harlequins.

Here are your teams:

Connacht: Duffy, Vainikolo, Tonetti, McSharry, O’Halloran, N O’Connor, O’Donohoe, Wilkinson, Flavin, Loughney, Swift, McCarthy, Muldoon, Ofisa, Naoupu.

Replacements: Reynecke, Buckley, Rogers, Kearney, McKeown, Moore, Nikora, Fa’afili.

Harlequins: Brown, Monye, Hopper, Turner-Hall, S Smith, Evans, Care, Marler, Brooker, Johnston, Vallejos, Robson, Fa’asavalu, Robshaw, Easter.

Replacements: Gray, Lambert, Fairbrother, Kohn, Wallace, Bolt, Clegg, Casson.


It is a “typical Galway night” according to the Sky commentators.

And we’re off…

Connacht 3-0 Harlequins: Niall O’Connor, with a little help from the wind, kicks a successful penalty from distance.

Evans has an opportunity to respond as Harlequins are awarded a penalty, but he decides to go for touch rather than the posts, with the wind no doubt in his thoughts.

The ref’s going to the video replay, but Sam Smith may well have got the first try of the night.

5-3: A series of quick passes from Harlequins, as they give the ball out to Smith, who finishes expertly, getting the ball down just before being tackled out into touch. The conversion is missed, largely thanks to the strong wind, which will undoubtedly be a factor tonight.

Connacht will be worried about the ease in which Smith brushed off Vainikolo for that try – an area of concern perhaps.

6-5: O’Connor restores Connacht’s advantage with an extremely well-judged kick, with the ball curling between the posts, aided by the heavy wind.

9-5: O’Connor with yet another excellently-taken penalty. He has done very well considering the conditions.

Harlequins aren’t adapting quite as well to the conditions at the moment.

Harlequins have 83% of the possession apparently. The scoreline is thus a testament to the clinical opportunism of Connacht and in particular, Niall O’Connor.

Wonderful kick from O’Donoghue into the Harlequins 22. The play has gone from one 22 to another within the space of a minute – an indication of the wind’s force more than anything else.

The other game in this group sounds like it’s turning out to be a bit of a cracker – Toulouse lead Gloucester 17-14 at the moment.

The Sky commentator indicates that playing with the wind (as Connacht currently are) is worth “at least 15 points”.

Harlequins are under considerable pressure now, as Connacht have a lineout inside their 22.

Real edge of your seat stuff, as Connacht threaten to cross the Harlequins try line on several occasions, before winning a penalty and opting to kick.

Amazingly, O’Connor misses what was (for once) a relatively straightforward kick. Connacht will be gutted not to have gotten anything from that attack.

HALF TIME: CONNACHT 9-5 HARLEQUINS

The commentators are suggesting that Harlequins will be the happier of the two teams at half time, as they have the advantage of the wind on their side in the second period. I’m not so sure though, given their inability to capitalise on their dominance in the possession stakes.

Nick Evans is currently “the best fly-half in world rugby with Carter being injured” according to Sky. That’s a contentious claim, to say the least.

Here’s a a poll to distract you while we await the beginning of second half.

Are Connacht better than their recent results have indicated?


Poll Results:

Yes (563)
No (64)
I don't know (32)



The second half is underway…

It’ll be interesting to see how these much-discussed conditions affect Connacht in the second half (if at all).

Toulouse have just gone behind against Gloucester apparently.

Dear oh dear! Evans kicks the ball forward, but an onrushing Monye fails to keep hold of it as he attempts to collect it while crossing the try line.

Connacht are currently defending manfully, but a Harlequins try looks almost inevitable. In fact, Connacht have yet to venture into the Harlequins half in the second period.

Harlequins opt for the scrum instead of the three points, clearly with a possible bonus point in mind.

And Connacht win back possession – Harlequins will already be ruing the aforementioned penalty decision.

If Connacht win this game, it’ll go down as a near-heroic performance, such has been the doggedness of their defending.

Excellent from Evans, who kicks expertly into the Connacht 22. Surely all this pressure has to tell at some stage.

Incredibly, it’s been 43 minutes since the last points were scored.

9-8: And right on cue following my last post, Evans’ penalty brings his side to within a point of Connacht.

9-8 here and 24-24 in the other Pool 6 game, there’s no doubting that this has been a thrilling evening.

Connacht are penalised in the scrum, but Evans, the so-called “best fly-half in the world,” misjudges the wind and kicks a relatively straightforward penalty wide.

5 minutes to go as Connacht win a penalty amid one of the loudest roars of the night.

Meanwhile, Toulouse have lost and failed to gain a bonus point. They must wait and see what happens here.

Results tonight also could mean Ulster are guaranteed a quarter-final spot.

It could not be more simple now: Harlequins need to score in the next five minutes (at most) or they’re out.

Less than a minute to go and Harlequins knock on. It should be all over now.

This is the last play of the game *takes a deep breath*

FULL TIME: CONNACHT 9-8 HARLEQUINS

Harlequins must really regret going for the try instead of the three points now (see 21.18)

Meanwhile, it’s official, Ulster are through to the next round thanks to the results tonight.

Amid all the hoopla, John Muldoon has been handed the man of the match award.

In summary, in the wake of much criticism, this performance could be seen as a stepping stone for Connacht.

However, supporters should be advised not to get too carried away. This game was a dramatic improvement compared with their dour loss to Aironi recently, but it will mean nothing if the level of performance tonight is not consistently maintained in the future.

Harlequins, meanwhile, will wonder how they let that game get away from them. With the wind behind them in the second half, they could only manage a mere three points in 40 minutes of play. Despite encouraging signs since Conor O’Shea has taken over, this match represents a clear setback and is a sign that much work still needs to be done.

Okay, that’s it from me. Thanks for reading and commenting, and don’t forget to join us again over the weekend when we’ll be liveblogging more Heineken Cup action, in addition to a number of pivotal Premier League games. Laters!

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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