In a Pro12 season pockmarked by inconsistency and disappointment, Connacht rounded off their home campaign at the Sportsground on Saturday night exactly as they had begun it in September — with a thoroughly dispiriting performance.
Head Coach Pat Lam’s final regular season game at the venue is not something that will dwell long in his memory after his under-motivated side conceded five tries to the Scarlets with a performance that reflected the fact that the result had no meaning for them, and had a whole lot for the semi-finals-bound visitors.
More pertinently, however, the display also illustrated how far Connacht have fallen from last year’s league-winning heights in terms of both attitude and execution.
True, there was much that was laudable about their Champions Cup showings — when they exhibited that at their best and most focused they can be competitive against most sides in Europe — but when it came to the bread and butter games they lacked both the elan and fortitude that combined to make the previous season so utterly memorable.
The tone for much of the season was set by those two calamitous home defeats to Glasgow and Ospreys at the start of the campaign, but at least then their defensive deficiencies that saw them concede 73 points over the two games could be attributed to insufficient pre-season preparation.
Not so now. Their inadequacies in this department resurfaced with frequency throughout the season, reaching a nadir on Saturday when Scarlets opened them up with startling ease in the first half.
Okay, the Welsh visitors were quite exhilarating at times, not unlike Connacht last season —with try scorers Steff Evans (2), Liam Williams and Johnny McNicholl all inflicting serious damage as well as the industrious Jake Ball up front and the excellent Rhys Patchell who pulled the strings at No 10— but the home side’s capacity to get themselves short-numbered in the wide channels was profoundly disturbing.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.