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Dublin: 17 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020
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Heartbreak for Connacht, as they fall just short of repeating 2013 Toulouse shock

Andy Friend’s men were full of bravery against a home side who started with 13 full internationals.

Bezy breaks away for Toulouse's first try.
Bezy breaks away for Toulouse's first try.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Toulouse 32

Connacht 17

John Fallon reports from Stade Ernest-Wallon

THIS WAS heartbreaking for Connacht in the Toulouse rain as an understrength side, which many feared faced a hammering, came close to repeating their shock 2013 win here on a day when Andy Friend’s men were full of bravery against a home team who started with 13 full internationals.

But Connacht were unable to pull it off in the end and not only did they fail to snatch a bonus point, their former centre Pita Ahki, who only made three starts in his season at the Sportsground, broke through with the clock in the red to secure the bonus-point try for a Toulouse side flattered by the scoreline.

Connacht were well in contention when they trailed by just 15-14 at the interval having spent the closing 10 minutes of the half with flanker Colby Fainga’a in the bin after a tackle on Toulouse out-half Romain Ntamack, which had the home crowd screaming for a red card, especially when the French international had to go off for a HIA.

Connacht had to saturate enormous pressure before they stunned Toulouse when Tom Farrell cut the centre after an initial break by Ultan Dillane to score under the posts after 13 minutes.

The Toulouse response was instant and having butchered a couple of earlier attempts, the French champions got in when scrum-half Sébastien Bézy finished a move started by his full-back Thomas Ramos.

Ramos converted and then added a penalty as their superiority in the scrum continued, with Connacht not helping their cause with a couple of crooked lineouts.

But Andy Friend’s side again hit the front after 25 minutes when a superb break by Fainga’a allowed Caolin Blade time to change his run and the scrum-half raced in to score, with Conor Fitzgerald’s second conversion making it 14-10.

The yellow card to Fainga’a led to the home side opting for a scrum from a penalty in front of the posts and a few phases later, Yoann Huget, the only Toulouse survivor from Connacht’s shock win here six years ago, finished in the right corner despite the best efforts of Kyle Godwin. Ramos was unable to add the touchline conversion and Toulouse had to be content with a one-point interval lead.

colby-faingaa-makes-a-break Colby Fainga’a on the run. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht again had to defend stoutly after the restart, but they grew in confidence, taking the game to Toulouse and edging back in front with a drop goal from the superb Fitzgerald after 50 minutes.

Both sides began emptying their benches, before Ramos pushed Toulouse back in front with a penalty from 35 metres going into the final quarter, as the rain belted down in front of the crowd of 15,100.

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Incessant Toulouse pressure pushed them clear when Jerome Kaino squeezed over after a series of drives following another penalty to the corner. Ramos, crucially, added the conversion from the left to leave eight between them with 16 minutes left.

Connacht pressed on looking for at least the bonus point and almost got back in contention when Jack Carty chipped to the left but Healy was unable to hold the greasy ball and the chance was lost.

Worse was to follow when their former player Ahki snatched the try bonus point in the dying moments.

Scorers
Toulouse
Tries: Sébastien Bézy, Yoann Huget, Jerome Kaino, Pita Ahki
Conversions: Thomas Ramos 3/4
Penalties: Thomas Ramos 2/2Scorers
Connacht
Tries: Tom Farrell, Caolin Blade
Conversions: Conor Fitzgerald 2/2
Penalties: Conor Fitzgerald 0/1
Drop goal: Conor Fitzgerald

Toulouse: Thomas Ramos; Yoann Huget, Sofiane Guitoune, Lucas Tauzin (Pita Ahki ’66), Maxime Médard; Romain Ntamack (Pita Ahki ’30-40 HIA), Sébastien Bézy (Pierre Pages ’71); Cyril Baille (Thomas du Toit ’50, Baille ’64), Peato Mauvaka (Julien Marchandt ’52), Charlie Faumuina (Dorian Aldegheri ’55); Richie Gray, Joe Tekori  (Rory Arnold ’55); Alban Placines (Francois Cros ’50), Rynhardt Elstadt (Selevasio Tolofua ’68), Jerome Kaino.

Connacht: Matt Healy; John Porch, Tom Farrell (Jack Carty ’63), Tom Daly (Peter Robb ’58), Kyle Godwin; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Angus Lloyd ’70); Pete McCabe (Matthew Burke ’50), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt ’50), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Finlay Bealham ’50); Ultan Dillane  (Joe Maksymiw ’70), Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Robin Copeland (Paul Boyle ’51).

Referee: Karl Dickson (England).

– Updated 16.18: An earlier version of this report incorrectly referred to Matt Healy as the Toulouse fullback; Thomas Ramos is the Toulouse fullback.

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About the author:

John Fallon

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