Connacht cut sorry sight as visitors cut loose

Connacht 5

Bordeaux Bègles 41

John Fallon at the Sportsground

CONNACHT head coach Pete Wilkins said that leaving captain Jack Carty out of the match-day squad for the opening game of the Champions Cup was down to a tight selection call rather than any other reason.

Carty has only been selected once in the last four games for Connacht but Wilkins said he remains a key member of the squad and that there wasn’t any ‘deep story’ behind leaving him out for the biggest game of the season as they returned to Europe’s premier competition after missing out last season.

He said JJ Hanrahan had got the nod in recent games, including the loss to Leinster a week earlier. “We said at the start of the season when we recruited JJ, we are fortunate now to have two real quality No.10s, both of whom are certainly capable and good enough to start for us in the URC and in Europe. It’s a neat problem to have and I think at this stage JJ has just been a nose ahead and is getting a bit more selection than Jack.

“There is no sort of deep story behind it but it is just backing someone we think is playing well. The way Jack has handled it has been credit to him. He has not shirked anything in terms of wanting to keep improving himself and keep driving the team’s improvement and he trained fantastically well this week, as well as he has trained all season.

“Look, he is in a good spot rugby-wise and no doubt will get an opportunity again at some point and he is incredibly important to us,” said Wilkins.

His side was blown away  by a rampant Bordeaux Bègles side who ran in six tries as Connacht fell to their biggest ever home defeat in all European competitions.

Bordeaux Bègles, no strangers to the Sportsground having been here in 2018, opted to play against the wind and rain in the opening but while Connacht, with Bundee Aki back for his first action since the World Cup, penned them back in the early stages, they were unable to make them pay.

Two penalties to the left corner in the opening eight minutes failed to yield a score. Hooker Dave Heffernan was held up on the first assault and there was a crooked throw on the second one.

It got worse then for Connacht when Bordeaux-Bègles broke and the intensity of their pace in attack cut through the home defence when Japanese international Tevita Tatafu took an inside pass from former Wallaby Ben Tapuai and full-back Romain Buros raced in to score under the posts. His skipper Maxime Lucu tapped over the conversion for 7-0 after ten minutes.

Pictured: Connacht’s Cian Prendergast on the charge against Matthieu Jalibert of Bordeaux-Begles during the Champions Cup tie at the Sportsground on Friday night. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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