razzle dazzle

Matt Healy demonstrates class with sublime showing at 15 for Connacht

The 27-year-old had a starring role in all four of Connacht’s tries at Stade des Alpes.

Murray Kinsella reports from Stade des Alpes

INJURIES PUSHED PAT Lam into the decision, but the Connacht head coach’s relocation of Matt Healy to fullback for yesterday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final clash with Grenoble proved to be a masterstroke.

Matt Healy scores his sides fourth try James Crombie / INPHO Healy crosses for his second-half try. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

While the westerners lost out to Bernard Jackman’s FCG in agonising fashion on a 33-32 scoreline, the performance of Healy in the 15 shirt was nothing short of stunning.

Calls for the 27-year-old to be capped by Ireland will only increase in volume and frequency after this latest demonstration of his attacking class. Healy scored one try, directly assisted Niyi Adeolokun’s brace and starred in the build-up to Connacht’s fourth score, dotted down by Robbie Henshaw.

His footwork and burst of pace are truly frightening propositions for defenders and the manner in which he stood up and beat Tino Nemani twice in the first-half was sublime. The scorching run outside former Springbok Gio Aplon for his own try was similarly impressive.

Afforded more time on the ball in the fullback position, Healy thrived for Connacht. He could launch counter attacks or, as for his try, be ready to pounce in wide channels when Lam’s men turned the ball over.

There were slight hiccups with how he dealt with Grenoble’s kicking game early on, but Healy grew into that task comfortably too as he adapted to the changed positional demands.

Tiernan O’Halloran would have started at 15 if fit for this game, the unlucky Darragh Leader would have provided another option but for his injury issues, while youngster Ciarán Gaffney was name-checked by Lam last night too in addressing how Healy ended up at fullback.

Robbie Henshaw started at 15 against Ulster last weekend, but Lam said Connacht wanted to bring him into the midfield alongside Bundee Aki and Shane O’Leary to provide strength in that department.

Matt Healy goes past Gio Aplon to score his sides fourth try James Crombie / INPHO Healy was in sublime attacking form. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

It all meant that moving Healy from the wing suddenly made sense, despite the ex-Lansdowne man having started just a single senior professional game in that role before yesterday.

Healy’s selection at fullback also allowed Lam to play Adeolokun and Danie Poolman on the wings, with both of the wide men impressive too.

“We knew what Matt would bring us with the moves and counter attack we wanted to do, it just gave him a bit more room,” said Lam afterwards.

He was superb, he put Niyi away. It wasn’t just his composure to put the accelerator on, then draw and pass and put Niyi away for two tries, but also his positional play was good too. He did a really good job there and we’re pleased for him.”

It remains to be seen if this switch will continue for Healy in the coming weeks, with Connacht turning their attention to a home tie with Munster next weekend as the Guinness Pro12 resumes.

Connacht fans would certainly be excited by the proposition of Healy being retained at 15, while you sense that Munster’s defence would not be too happy about it.

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