Tough season ends on a dismal note for Connacht

Leinster 33

Connacht 7


CONNACHT’S season fizzled out as expected at the RDS on Friday night when a largely second-string Leinster outfit proved far too strong, leaving Pete Wilkins’ side finishing in 11th spot in the 18-team URC table.

They finish in no-man’s land. Not good enough to claim a knockout spot and a place in next season’s Champions League and not low enough to set alarm bells off about their future.

Last season ten wins was enough to accumulate 50 points, seventh spot in the table and after a quarter-final win away to Ulster, they bowed out to the then reigning champions the Stormers at the semi-final stage in Cape Town. A decent run all told.

This season nine wins got them 45 points, five points adrift of Ospreys who snatched eighth place. No doubt plenty of regrets about some of the nine losses, not least the Edinburgh, Leinster and Lions games. Close, but certainly not close enough and with a high error count in just about every game, even the ones they won, not really much Connacht can complain about.

The next three or four seasons are going to define the next generation for Connacht. The eventual opening of the redeveloped Sportsground, a €40m investment which takes the capacity from 6,000 to just 10,000 — I know there is a lot of GAA people in this county wondering how all that adds up — with room behind the goals for an additional 2,000 with temporary stands, is going to be the biggest development ever by Connacht.

There already is a new pitch and there will be a state of the art gym, conference facilities and umpteen bars and food outlets as part of that €40m splurge, half of which the Government are forking out for. The hope is that it will become a revenue generator to finance a greater investment in players. It’s a chicken and egg situation. There will be a curiosity aspect — if they don’t go mad with ticket pricing — which should ensure good crowds initially but the reality is that you can instal the softest cushions in the world but you will won’t put bums on seats unless the fare on the pitch is producing winning results.

Pictured: Scrum-half Colm O’Reilly who scored a consolation try for Connacht in their heavy United Rugby Championship loss to Leinster at the RDS on Friday.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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