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Magnificent Connacht leave French men out on their feet

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Connacht's Jake Heenan prepares to hand off Toulouse's Maxime Medard during the European Champions Cup clash at the Sportsground on Saturday evening. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Connacht 23

Toulouse 21

THE rusty form of September is in the rear view mirror and Connacht are clicking through the gears and powering forward. In a pulsating Saturday evening clash at a heaving and sold-out Sportsground, the Westerners came from ten points down in the second half to win a game that might have done more to redefine their status in European rugby than last May’s Pro12 triumph.

The third consecutive home win in as many weeks was a seismic one for sure but ironically, in hindsight, probably not the most significant of the three. Toulouse are a big powerful side with none of the finesse that we have come to admire over the last three decades of European competition whereas the Ulster side that came here last week offered a lot more of an all round game and were simply harder to beat. Yet this certainly was more significant.

Significant because here was the epitome of what is going wrong with Top 14 rugby. Bish, bash bosh is all we see from most French and English clubs these days. Their national teams aren’t much better and all the while the New Zealanders are pulling further and further away with a new brand of the game focused more and more on the skills. While Europe insists on picking big men and running hard straight lines, all of New Zealand laugh.

There have to be some limits in what Connacht can achieve as they shun the Northern Hemisphere trends and go the route of a high tempo attacking brand of rugby that sees all risks with ball in hand as opportunities to unearth space and unlock defences. Almost every side Connacht meet, knows what they are going to get, the days of underestimating Pat Lam’s men are done but that doesn’t seem to matter. That’s what is mesmerising.

If there is a bigger scrum in the Champions Cup than Toulouse this season, it will be a sight to see. The game was billed as big men versus fast runners and it lived up to it in every way. Yet by the end, the big men were out on their feet after failing to contain the electric Connacht backline and being out foxed by the home pack. It was a sight for sore eyes for sure.

You don’t want running rugby to always beat a forward orientated game. Rugby is about balance and there’s nothing wrong with going for power and set piece dominance as a route to victory. However, if that’s your only trick in the bag, then there is everything wrong with that approach and the biggest, most powerful side in European rugby lost to a team at the weekend with a fraction of their budget and nothing like their history. They got schooled in fact.

When Toulouse centre Florian Fritz kicked their third penalty on 13 minutes to add to two scores from Sebastien Bezy the signs weren’t good for Connacht. They had barely touched the ball, the penalties had all come from scrums and the prospect of any reprieve in that area seemed non existent. Yet besides that, Toulouse hadn’t offered any other attacking threat and were coughing up lineouts for fun.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway Utd to use last three league games to get players match-fit for play-offs

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Killian Brouder in action against Athlone Town back in May - if fit, he will feature against the Midlands outfit in Eamonn Deacy Park tonight. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Galway United manager John Caulfield is taking a ‘softly-softly’ approach to United’s final three games of the regular season as he lets one eye glance towards the end-of-season play-offs and an escape route after five seasons of hell in the First Division.

Last week’s draw with Treaty United has not mathematically ended United’s hopes of catching Cork City for the title, but with the Leesiders six points ahead with three games remaining – and a far superior goal difference – it is only a matter f time before they are officially crowned champions.

In truth, United’s title hopes ended with back-to-back defeats to Waterford and Bray Wanderers in August – and to be fair to him, the United manager admitted as much at the time – so he has been using the game since to prepare for the play-offs, preparation that will continue this evening with the visit of Athlone Town to Eamonn Deacy Park (7.45pm).

Town are the only side United have beaten in every meeting this season, with a 3-0 win on the Dyke Road back in May sandwiched between 2-1 and 3-1 wins in Lissywoolen in March and July respectively.

As has been his habit before every game this season, Caulfield insists that his side are in for a tough game this evening. Athlone are second from bottom of the table, with just five wins all season, and a whopping 40 points behind United, so while they might provide stiff opposition, there really is no excuse for not winning comfortably tonight, even if United use the game as a stepping stone for the play-offs.

“We have a number of weeks to get more a few fellas more game time and get ready for the play-offs,” he said after last Friday’s draw in Limerick.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway United get out of jail thanks to dubious spot kick

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David Tarmey with his parents, Seamus and Sabina, and Brian O’Riordan, the chairman of Cregmore/Claregalway, his former club, after he signed his first professional contract with Galway United.

Treaty United 1

Galway United 1

 THE thinking heading into this game in Limerick last Friday night was that Galway United would use the opportunity to make a statement of intent with regards to the upcoming promotion play-offs, especially given the likelihood of facing their hosts again in knockout football at the end of this month.

Instead, all we got was an incoherent mumble from a visiting side that seems to be lurching from one game to the next, one that needed a ridiculous penalty decision to go in their favour late in the game to rescue a point against their hosts.

Failure to win last Friday means it is just two wins in the last their last eight league games, which is hardly the form needed to come through the gruelling, protracted play-off series and climb out of the purgatory of the First Division.

They finished fifth in 2020, scraping into the play-offs on goal difference ahead of Cobh Ramblers, but after beating Bray Wanderers in the semi-final, they then lost to Longford Town in the final.

Last year saw a second-place finish in the table but an immediate failure in the play-offs with defeat to Bray Wanderers in the semi-finals; and unfortunately, they look to be going backwards this season as with Waterford winning both at the weekend and in a rearranged game on Monday night, United have now slipped to third in the table.

They do still have three games to play as opposed to two for Waterford, but given recent displays, it is difficult to have too much confidence in overhauling the Blues in the table.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Friend in bullish mood ahead of big battle with Munster

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Connacht's Director of Rugby Andy Friend who is expecting a big display against Munster at the Sportsground on Friday night.

TWO teams which have made wretched starts to the season will hope to kick-start their campaigns this Friday as Connacht host Munster when they meet in the Sportsground (7.35pm).

The visitors have at least got a win under their belt, flattering to deceive against perennial basement side Zebre in a 21-5 win in Cork last weekend, but Connacht head into the game propping up the table with nothing to show for their three games to date.

All three of those games have been on the road, as work continued on replacing the grass pitch at the Sportsground with a synthetic surface, and that is now ready to be unveiled on Friday for a game which Connacht simply have to win if their league season is not to be declared a write-off before the kids have even gone trick-or-treating.

“We want to be a team that plays fast and this [new synthetic pitch] allows us to be fast. This is a massive investment by Connacht Rugby, and I think a brilliant investment, and let’s hope Friday night is the first of many wins on it,” a bullish Andy Friend, Director of Rugby at Connacht, said in his pre-match press conference this week.

It has been a tough start to the season for Connacht: they were trounced 36-10 in Belfast by Ulster on the opening weekend of the season, and followed that with two defeats in South Africa, losing 38-15 to defending champions, the Stormers, and then going down to a 28-14 defeat to last year’s runners-up, the Bulls.

That has left Connacht as the only side in the table without a point, with all three of their opponents to date picking up the maximum five points on offer. Friend knows that has to change, and fast, and he feels there is no better game than the visit of their southern neighbours to get the season off to a belated start.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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