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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 8 April, 2020
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Good afternoon and welcome to what could be another huge weekend for the Irish provinces in Europe.

Ulster got the ball rolling in impressive fashion last night, and Leinster and Munster will surely be hoping to follow suit later on today.

But first, it’s a chance for Connacht to show that last weekend’s heroic effort against Montpellier was no flash in the pan.

They’ll have their work cut out for them against a Toulouse side that beat Gloucester in Kingsholm last week.

Kick-off is at 1pm.

TEAM NEWS: First up, the hosts.

Toulouse

15. Thomas Ramos
14. Yoann Huget
13. Sofiane Guitoune
12. Lucas Tauzin
11. Maxime Médard
10. Romain Ntamack
9. Sébastien Bézy

1. Cyril Baille
2. Peato Mauvaka
3. Charlie Faumuina
4. Richie Gray
5. Joe Tekori
6. Alban Placines
7. Rynhardt Elstadt
8. Jerome Kaino (captain)

TEAM NEWS: It’s a much-changed Connacht side from last Sunday’s Sportsground win. A big day in particular for Conor Fitzgerald who, after kicking the winning penalty against Montpellier, starts at 10 with Jack Carty on the bench.

Connacht

15. Matt Healy
14. John Porch
13. Tom Farrell
12. Tom Daly
11. Kyle Godwin
10. Conor Fitzgerald
9. Caolin Blade

1. Peter McCabe
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
4. Ultan Dillane
5. Quinn Roux
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Colby Fainga’a
8. Robin Copeland 

The travelling Connacht fans look like they’re having a bit of craic anyway:

cathal-oconnor-megan-shagnasy-and-andrew-carr Source: James Crombie/INPHO

tara-fagan-and-aidan-ryan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

1Mins

KICK OFF: Conor Fitzgerald gets us underway.

1Mins

Good kick chase by Connacht and they have Toulouse under immediate pressure, forcing a knock-on and earning a scrum inside the 22.

2Mins

Disappointing. Connacht take a bit too long to use the ball out of the back of the scrum and while they’re waiting, Faumuina has McCabe under pressure and it goes down on the Connacht man’s side. Penalty Toulouse and they clear their lines.

4Mins

Toulouse win a lineout inside their own half and bring it down, mauling forward. The maul splits and Robin Copeland comes in to make a tackle, but it’s deemed to be the same maul by our referee Karl Dickson. Penalty Toulouse, which they kick into Connacht territory.

6Mins

Big chance for Toulouse as Guitoune dives over in the corner and touches down, but after the TMO review, his foot is in touch. John Porch with a timely intervention there on the visitors’ behalf.

8Mins

Toulouse come again but this time, Tauzin knocks it on a couple of yards short of the line with the Connacht defence under pressure.

10Mins

Ntamack kicks the ball down the throat of Matt Healy, who is happy to take it and return it with interest… too much interest though as he finds the space in behind the Toulouse defence but it rolls dead.

Flag 11Mins

TRY CONNACHT! Toulouse 0-7 Connacht (Farrell, 11′)

Connacht lead, and it’s definitely against the run of play. Ultan Dillane makes a great break to get them on the front foot, and them Tom Farrell ghosts through on a non-existent defence, with Elstadt drifting outside him rather than biting in to tackle, and loosehead prop Baille not able to get there on the other side.

Fitzgerald converts and Connacht are seven up!

Flag 13Mins

TRY TOULOUSE! Toulouse 7-7 Connacht (Bezy, 13′)

That didn’t last long! A great break by Ramos and Toulouse keep the ball alive, with Bezy running a great supporting line to finish it off. Connacht nearly manage to hold him out — Caolin Blade tried to jam an arm under the ball at the last moment — but it’s a try, converted, and we’re all square again.

17Mins

Connacht’s scrum is in all sorts of trouble. Peter McCabe goes down twice in quick succession, under huge pressure again from Charlie Faumuina. That’s a big worry.

18Mins

PENALTY! Toulouse 10-7 Connacht (Ramos, 18′)

Connacht pinged again and Ramos takes his shot at goal from the 10m line, slotting it.

21Mins

Connacht win a penalty as Faumuina tackles Blade illegally at the back of a ruck. Fitzgerald kicks them into a nice position and this will be a good platform for an attack.

23Mins

Kaino puts in a big hit on Masterson, and then Kaino does likewise on Tom Farrell. Connacht try to go in behind but the kick is not a good one.

Flag 25Mins

TRY CONNACHT! Toulouse 10-14 Connacht (Blade, 25′)

Super stuff from Connacht who carve Toulouse’s (again, pretty patchy defence) open.

Fitzgerald plays a lovely pass to Fainga’a who bursts through and he plays the situation perfectly to engineer the opening, shaping with two dummies while Dave Heffernan and Caolin Blade get up in support to keep the defenders guessing. 

The weight on the pass to Blade is perfect, and he does the rest.

30Mins

Big moment as Fainga’a puts in a huge tackle on Ntamack. The officials are reviewing it now to see what the sanction, if any, should be.

Flag 29Mins

YELLOW CARD! Karl Dickson and his officials take a long look. Ntamack certainly came through the horizontal but as mitigation in Fainga’a's favour, there was no driving motion and Ntamack came down on his back rather than his head or his neck. It’s yellow and Connacht are down to 14.

31Mins

Toulouse go wide with a penalty advantage in their favour but it’s knocked on in the tackle. Back for the penalty, and they decide to go to the corner to try to make that numerical advantage count.

33Mins

And again, Toulouse try to steamroll Connacht with a penalty advantage in their favour — this one for a Connacht offside — and again, they can’t find a way through. This time they opt for a scrum on the five-metre line.

Flag 34Mins

TRY TOULOUSE! Toulouse 15-14 Connacht (Huget, 34′)

No mistake this time. Pita Ahki moves it quickly to Médard who moves it quickly to Huget who dives over in the corner.

There’s a TMO review just to check the final pass and see if it was forward or not, but it’s fine.

Conversion is pulled left and wide and so Toulouse’s lead is a single point.

38Mins

More Toulouse pressure at the scrum but Karl Dickson says that it’s only gone round rather than down. Connacht will have the put in again, about 30 metres out from the Toulouse line.

39Mins

Much better from Connacht and they get it away, but they’re quickly bundled into touch as we near the final minute of this first half.

Flag

HALF TIME: Toulouse 15-14 Connacht

There’s the whistle. It hasn’t been a perfect opening 40 from the visitors by any stretch of the imagination but this game is very much alive and that’s good enough for now.

Back shortly.

41Mins

SECOND HALF: Romain Ntamack restarts the game by very charitably kicking the ball out on the full.

45Mins

Scrappy start to this second half with neither side making any real inroads in territory.

46Mins

After a bit of a kicking contest between Fitzgerald and Ntamack, Faumuina makes a big carry up to the halfway line and Farrell is pinged for not rolling away. Ntamack kicks to the corner.

47Mins

Toulouse in a good spot inside the Connacht 22…

48Mins

Super stuff from Tom Farrell! Fitzgerald makes the tackle on Tauzin, and Farrell is right there to pounce and force the turnover penalty. 

Flag

DROP GOAL! Toulouse 15-17 Connacht (Fitzgerald, 49′)

Connacht parlay that into a great position, and then Blade cuts through the Toulouse defence into the 22. There’s a bit of loose play around the breakdown, and Toulouse are waiting for a knock-on to be called, but Karl Dickson says it went backwards, and Conor Fitzgerald snaps over a drop goal anyone can argue otherwise.

Magnificent heads-up rugby.

51Mins

Connacht force another Toulouse penalty and Fitzgerald gets every possible bit of juice out of it as he puts it deep into the 22.

53Mins

But Toulouse survive, as Connacht can’t work the ball free in the maul.

54Mins

Julien Marchand is pinged for an offside just shy of the 10m line and you suspect this must be somewhere close to the limit of Fitzgerald’s range.

55Mins

We’re still waiting because the TMO is reviewing a late hit by Jerome Kaino on Quinn Roux. There wasn’t a huge amount in it, although it was late, and Connacht will stick with the original penalty for the Marchand offside.

55Mins

Fitzgerald goes for it, with whistles from the home crowd ringing in his ears, and he pulls it left and wide. 

60Mins

Toulouse try to bludgeon their way through and Finlay Bealham thinks he’s robbed possession at the breakdown, but he’s pinged for not releasing after making the initial tackle. Chance for the hosts to re-take the lead here.

61Mins

PENALTY TOULOUSE! Toulouse 18-17 Connacht (Ramos, 61′)

No mistake. Toulouse get their noses back in front with just under 20 to play.

62Mins

Huge stop from Connacht! John Porch somehow gets across to flick Maxime Médard’s ankles just as he’s about to race into the corner.

63Mins

Toulouse try to take their penalty quickly to catch Connacht napping with a crossfield kick — but referee Karl Dickson intervenes to say that they’ve taken it too quickly, much to the visitors’ relief.

Flag 64Mins

TRY TOULOUSE! Toulouse 25-17 Connacht (Kaino, 64′)

That could be decisive as Toulouse finally make their pressure pay. 

Ramos is finally given permission to kick to the corner, but Dillane does well to get up and disrupt the lineout at the front. Toulouse regroup and drive to the line with a series of picks-and-go, and Jerome Kaino is the last man in to finish things off.

As it stands, Connacht wouldn’t even leave France with a losing bonus but there are still 15 minutes to play.

70Mins

Ten to play as Andy Friend continues to make changes to get some fresh legs on — Angus Lloyd replaces Caolin Blade.

72Mins

Fitzgerald kicks a penalty down to the Toulouse 22 but Connacht’s lineout, which hasn’t been at its best today, malfunctions again and the chance is gone.

74Mins

What an opportunity for Connacht! Ramos kicks to touch but his foot was on the 22m line and so play comes all the way back for a Connacht lineout. From there, Jack Carty sees a bit of space in behind and plays a beautifully-weighted kick for Matt Healy, but with the rain falling, it slips through his grasp at the vital moment.

77Mins

Three minutes to play. The clock isn’t Connacht’s friend here, but even a penalty and three points could be huge in the context of this campaign.

78Mins

A Toulouse scrum on halfway yields another Toulouse penalty — looks like Bealham lost his bind under pressure — and that might well be that for the visitors.

80Mins

Toulouse work through the phases in the Connacht 22 as they chase their fourth try and a bonus, and Connacht are pinged for not rolling away. Seven or eight metres out, they’re going for a scrum. The clock’s in the red…

Flag 80Mins

TRY TOULOUSE! Toulouse 32-17 Connacht (Ahki, 80+1′)

And there it is. Pita Ahki, a familiar face to Connacht fans, picks and goes off the back of the ruck and gets the bonus point for Toulouse.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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