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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 12 May 2021


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Full time: Connacht 10 Toulouse 36; Leicester 20 Ulster 9

Let’s do this. The Sportground looks a sea of green as the players emerge for  the first Heineken Cup game in Galway.

Pyrotechnics in the sky over the idiosyncratic stadium may not be the last of the fireworks tonight you suspect.

With Enda Kenny and Michael D in the stand, we’re up and running.

As Gavin Duffy draws a loud cheer from the 9,000 or so (?) in attendance, with a lovely kick for touch, here’s your teams. You may recognise a few big names:

Connacht: G Duffy; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, B Tuohy; M Nikora, P O’Donohoe; B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Ah You; M Swift, D Gannon; M McCarthy, J Muldoon, G Naoupu

Replacements: E Reynecke, R Loughney, D Rogers, TJ Anderson, R Ofisa, F Murphy, N O’Connor, H Fa’afili

Toulouse: C Poitrenaud; M Medard, F Fritz, Y Jauzion, V Clerc; L Beauxis, L Burgess; Y Montes, W Servat, C Johnston; G Lamboley, Y Maestri; J Bouilhou, T Dusautoir, L Picamoles.

Replacements: G Botha, JB Poux, J Falefa, R Millo-Chluski, N Vergallo, Y Nyanga, L McAlister, G Galan

As Seamus Brennan told the Greens during coalition neogitiations: you’re playing senior hurling now, lads.

It’s first blood to the French. Toulouse get the put in to the scrum a few yards from the Connacht line because of a slight knock on, they then win a penalty. Beauxis tacks on the points despite a pretty casual kick.

Moments later they look to be gone over in the corner but the ref pulls it back for a pretty blatant forward pass.

As I type, Beauxis bisects the points with a drop kick.

This is ominous. Beauxis kicks another penalty to make it 9-0 after 15 minutes or so.

It’s Ewan Murray in the gantry with Frankie Sheahan and the commentator familiar to us from the BBC’s rugby coverage hits the nail on the head: this is exactly what Connacht didn’t want or need.

The former Munster man in the commentary position meanwhile tipped Connacht to shock Toulouse on the Last Word on Thursday night. It’ll be some going from here.

Score update from Welford Rd? It’s currently Leicester 3 Ulster 6 after two penalties from Humphries.

TRY! Toulouse

The Connacht scrum is wheeled around yards from their line, Picamoles drove on, fed Dusautoir who flopped for the line but came up short. Ultimately, Bouilhou made it count.

After that hammer blow, Connacht react admirably. Gavin Duffy, the skipper, leads by example as he wins the ball and lifts the entire ground.

The go for the corner in an attempt to snatch a seven-pointer rather then the three, but Toulouse pinch it back and almost break downfield for another try. Phew!

YELLOW Mike McCarthy is sin-binned for a neck-high closeline on Vincent Clerc, and he can probably count himself lucky at that.

This is now an impossible task for the tournament new boys, you’d imagine?

It’s now nine-all in Leicester after a half an hour. Delicate.

Beuxis ignores the whistles and jeers from the crowd to convert anther kick- evidently; the Sky director decided to ignore the attempt to show a replay of the earlier try for some reason.

We return to a 19-0 scoreline however. Half-time cannot come quickly enough for Connacht.

After 25 tough minutes of Heineken Cup action in Galway, Connacht are up and running thanks to a penalty from Nikora.

Mike McCarthy trots back on as Beauxis lines up another penalty. And he makes no mistake whatsoever again to make it a 19-point game with seconds til the break.

The teams are jogging out for another half of European Cup rugby.

After what Frankie described as ‘the worst possible’ first period, it’s no surprise that Gavin Duffy leads his side out to find the French already waiting. Eric Elwood is pitured back in his seat, no doubt after making his thoughts quite clear in the dressingroom.

As I type, we get up and running once again.

Toulouse are camped, ominously, five yards from the Connacht line. As Frankie Sheahan explains the diminutive white-haired man in the expensive seats is our new president, the French will be planning on making this one count.

Wow. Penalty try is awarded to Toulouse as the scrum is turned. Frankie insists that should be a reset scrum to the home side and it’s a ‘crazy decision’.

Boos ring around the packed ground and Beauxis converts.

Highlight of a disappointing night in Galway: the Connacht mascot – a 6ft bird of some description – trying to field a ball in front of the stands and landing on his beak. Glorious.

Meanwhile in Leicester, Toby Flood has nailed another kick, his fourth, to put the home side 12-9 up on Ulster. Ian Humphries has notched all the Irish side’s points.

That was a bit better from Connacht as they stole a Toulouse line out, worked it wide and tried to open up the French. The ref ultimately awards a penalty against the Irish province however and there’s even a little bit of handbags. We’re about to hit the hour-mark and there’s 26 points in it.

Super take under a high ball from Gavin Duffy and Toulouse ultimately give away a penalty. The skipper sensibly has a word with the ref and Sheahan reckons there could be a card in the offing for the French before this one is out.

Much better from the home side.

Connacht almost get over as they’re camped out feet from the line. Rogers passed into his fellow sub Reynecke and he was halted on the line.

Rogers may have been better advised going himself. They’re still a metre or so from the posts.

But the ball is spilled and the danger is gone once again. So unlucky.

Leicester are now 17-9 up on Ulster at Welford Rd.

And as I type, Connacht are denied a try again after some great pressure. Clerc is bundled over the end line to the delight of the home fans; scrum Connacht.

PENALTY TRY to Connacht The Showgrounds erupts and the green flags are raised as the ref awards the second penalty try of the night after some great pressure again. That’s a long time coming.

Here’s a picture of Michael D in the stand with former Connacht branch President Jim Foy. You’re quite welcome.

On the pitch, replacement hooker Reynecke walks off ruefully as he denies Toulouse a certain try under the posts.

TMO It looks like Toulouse might have another try as Nyanga looked to get over and the ball down in the corner. Frankie says it’s 100% a try, we wait and see however.

And indeed the try is counted. Beauxis is named man-of-the-match as he makes no mistake from the conversion again.

Toulouse now have two minutes or so to earn a precious bonus point with a fourth try.

That’s all folks. Connacht were outclassed by one of the aristocrats of the tournament and Eric Elwood will have a job picking his side up for their third outing.

Toulouse, for their part, failed in the end to bag the bonus point and may rue that when all’s told.

In Leicester, Ulster too went down as Leicester ran out 20-9 victors at Welford Rd. Irish rugby fans will hope Leinster do better tomorrow lunchtime. Do joins us then.

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