ANOTHER European thriller and another European win for good measure. The Challenge Cup is like an oasis in a desert for Connacht these days. If Kieran Keane really does need time to get the best out of this squad, this competition is proving to be a key component in that area as his squad are playing a more balanced and effective game in Europe when compared with their PRO14 efforts.
On a cold but dry night in Brive, Connacht initially looked as troubled as we saw them in Parma against Zebre a week previous. Disjointed, ponderous and ill disciplined and boy did they suffer for it. By the 30 minute mark they had conceded eight penalties to one, watched as captain John Muldoon was sent to the sin bin and shipped three tries during the half hour spell for good measure, leaving them 19-3 in arrears.
Yet by the half way mark they were a different team, with their backs to the wall and another show stopping result in the making, a whiff of calm seemed to come over them and after a neatly worked training ground move helped by a perfectly timed run and clean line break from Tiernan O’Halloran, Ultan Dillane scored a try to turn the tide and set up a big fightback.
From that point to the game’s end, Connacht seemed in control. They had blips along the way conceding two more tries for good measure but in terms of attacking play and overall accuracy, they were very much a different side. Jack Carty had played his part in the team’s early struggles but he also proved to be the master at the helm for the comeback, turning his own game around and dominating at out half right to the end.
Carty had a masterful display during the second half here, the kind which we have seen from him time and again over the years against all manner of opponents from Toulouse in the Stade Ernest Wallon, to Munster in Thomond Park. The jury has long since returned a verdict of capable of top class performances on the Athlone man, it’s just that run of form that eludes him at the moment.
It’s not for the want of analysis and trying. Carty’s first point in the post game press conference was to highlight the two poor kicks in open play that cost Connacht. Some would say he shouldn’t focus on the negative but each to their own and it seems to be part of a process that allows him to both accept the errors and use them as motivation.
Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune.