Connacht’s season fizzles out after disastrous defeat

Connacht 12

Stormers 16

JOHN FALLON at Dexcom Stadium

CONNACHT coach Pete Wilkins said one of the many disappointing aspects of this defeat is that they did not give a winning departure to the 11 players who are leaving the province this summer.

A lot of experience is heading out the gate with the likes of former captain Jarrad Butler, centres Tom Farrell and Tom Daly, tighthead Dominic Robertson-McCoy and local boy Tiernan O’Halloran who is retiring after 238 games over 15 years.

The Clifden native, whose father Aidan was an All-Ireland SFC winner with Offaly in 1982, was given a great ovation when he was replaced going into the final quarter.

“For him to have got that reception from the crowd, not just when he came off the field around the 60 minute mark when he was substituted, but also the end when he was presented with his jersey, it sums up how important he’s been to the club, what he’s achieved with the club, but also how our supporters, how our community relate to guys that are from the province,” said Wilkins.

“He’s been here man and boy, as a Clifden boy, and everyone is so proud of him. Working with him, seeing that resilience he’s had to overcome, he’s had to battle injuries, that resilience of trying to battle his way into the Irish squad, and everything in between. He’s won a trophy and had some difficult seasons. For any pro to last at the top of the game for that long, you need that level of resilience, and that level of self-belief.”

Connacht will head to play Leinster in their final game on Friday week, needing a bonus point win and several other results going their way. It’s unlikely to happen and their season is set to fizzle out, failing to make the knockout stages of the URC having made it to the semi-finals a year ago.

They will also miss out on playing in the Champions Cup and will instead feature in the Challenge Cup, a competition which a lot of teams treat with indifference. Connacht have played more games than any team in Europe in that competition but they have never reached the final, despite being one of the few to take it seriously.

Pictured: Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran on the charge against DHL Stormers in the United Rugby Championship at Dexcom Stadium on Friday, It was O’Halloran’s last game for the province in a stellar career. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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