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Disappointment for brave Connacht after tight tussle in Northampton

It finished two tries each at Franklin’s Gardens but Harry Mallinder kicked the points that made the difference.

Matt Healy and George North Connacht's Matt Healy is tackled by George North of Northampton Saints. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Northampton Saints 21
Connacht 15

John Fallon reports from Franklin’s Gardens

A BRAVE CONNACHT effort came up just short as the Pat Lam era ended with them being confined to the Challenge Cup for next season.

Connacht gave everything they had but in the end were unable to fashion a winner despite a late onslaught.

Northampton Saints will now host Stade Francais next Friday, with the winner claiming the 20th and final spot in next season’s Champions Cup.

Connacht’s task, uphill before the start, became much steeper when Harry Mallinder got in for a converted try in the opening minute.

To compound matters Connacht, having lost experienced lock Andrew Browne to a calf injury before the game, then had to replace winger Cian Kelleher, who was injured in the build-up to the try.

But Pat Lam’s men didn’t panic and were back on level terms by the fifth minute when Craig Ronaldson sent a neat grubber through for Niyi Adeolokun to collect and slide over.

Harry Mallinder scores his side's opening try Harry Mallinder scores Northampton's opening try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht enjoyed plenty of possession after that but couldn’t find a way through, with Saints tacking on two penalties in rare attacks. But Connacht cut the gap to 13-10 at the break when Ronaldson landed a 38-metre penalty after 29 minutes.

There was nothing between the sides in the third quarter but Northampton scrum-half Nic Groom struck a telling blow after 57 minutes when he sniped over to make it 18-10.

But once again the Connacht response was superb. Captain John Muldoon pointed to the left corner when Kieran Marmion was tackled high and it was a good call as Connacht drove over, with hooker Dave Heffernan credited with the touchdown in a week which started with him being called into the Irish squad for the tour to USA and Japan.

Mallinder extended the lead to six points 10 minutes from time before Connacht came with a massive late onslaught but they were unable to snatch a winner at the death.

Northampton Saints scorers:Tries: Harry Mallinder [1], Nic Groom [1]

Conversions: Harry Mallinder [1]

Penalties: Harry Mallinder [3]

Connacht scorers:

Tries: Niyi Adeolokun [1], Dave Heffernan [1]

Conversions: Craig Ronaldson [1]

Penalties: Craig Ronaldson [1]

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS: A Tuala (M Haywood, 78); B Foden, N Tuitavake, L Burrell (R Hutchinson, 23), G North; H Mallinder, N Groom (L Dickson, 67); A Waller (C Ma’afu, 62), D Hartley, K Brookes (G Denman, 62); C Lawes, C Day (A Ratuniyarawa, 63); J Gibson, T Harrison (T Wood, 59), L Picamoles.

CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun, D Poolman, C Ronaldson, C Kelleher (M Healy, 3); J Carty, K Marmion (J Cooney, 64); D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham (C Carey, 67); Q Roux, J Cannon (U Dillane, 49); S O’Brien, J Heenan (N Dawai, 56), J Muldoon.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal [France].

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About the author:

John Fallon

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