Revitalised Connacht head to Italy on revenge mission against Benetton


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Revitalised Connacht head to Italy on revenge mission against Benetton Revitalised Connacht head to Italy on revenge mission against Benetton


A season which looked like derailing when Connacht were pipped in Treviso the weekend before last to suffer a second successive URC defeat to a mid-table rival, is suddenly very much back on track and they will head to northern Italy on Sunday (12.30pm Irish time) full of confidence after winning in Pau.

Victory on Sunday against a Benetton side who defeated them last year 41-19 at Stadio de Monigo in the last 16 would set up an away Challenge Cup semi-final against either Gloucester or Ospreys.

Connacht have not been in a Challenge Cup semi-final since 2010 and a victory on Sunday would send them into the last four for only the fourth time in history.

The Westerners will fancy their chances, not least as they should have won in Treviso less than two weeks ago, even though they were without their Six Nations winners Bundee Aki and Finlay Bealham.

Benetton struck for a late winner a week after a Lions team with 14 men for three-quarters of the match, hammered them at the Sportsground.

Connacht looked set for a similar fate when they fell 30-19 behind on Sunday evening in Pau after 51 minutes, but they rallied to win the remainder of the game 21-0 to advance to the last eight.

“We haven’t always played well enough to get the wins, but we stuck at it,” said head coach Pete Wilkins. “At one stage the self-belief wavered, but there was a huge amount of energy and physicality.

“We have always known the character was there, what we have been working on is greater consistency, consistency of mindset that when in the fight, we can hang in there. We might have negative moments, but we can regroup and go again.

“It really was an exceptional performance, not just in delivering in this one, but for the way they have applied themselves over the last few weeks and months.”

The key now will be to build on this win and take out a Benetton side who struggled against them a couple of weeks ago despite fielding a near full strength side.

It’s within Connacht’s grasp to secure the victory and advance to the last four of a competition they are more than capable of winning.

But to do that they will need to sort out their inconsistency with even the most optimistic Connacht supporter not sure at this stage which team will turn up.


Pictured:Connacht players including try scorers Cian Prendergast and Bundee Aki celbrate their Challenge Cup victory over Pau.

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