THE final shrill of the referee’s whistle on Saturday was greeted by an outpouring of unconfined celebration, on and off the field, as Connacht celebrated Champions Cup qualification with the kind of gusto that is rightly reserved for such seldom pleasures. This remarkable feat by this remarkable team cannot be glossed over, it might only be a first step towards their goal of winning more silverware for the province but it felt like more than that and, as a result, was worth basking in for a few hours at least.
This was a twelfth win of a season that has now surpassed all before bar the title winning campaign of three years ago and while they enter this year’s play-offs as outsiders, who is to say for sure that it can’t get even better. It took a whirlwind display from the home side in a frenetic second half to overcome a stern opponent and with every player contributing to a season’s best effort, Cardiff were kept at arm’s length from beginning to end.
The wind howled from long before kick off on Saturday, Cardiff thought they were ready for it and elected to play into the elements in the first half. The game was finely poised at half time with just a seven point lead for the men in green but a ten minute spell of scintillating rugby after the restart, where the visitors barely touched the ball, stretch the lead to 17 and set Connacht up for another one of these special Sportsground days that is making the venue such a pleasure to visit for supporters.
Connacht truly have made their Galway home something of a fortress in recent years and it is the prospect of experiencing games like this that draws in people from all four corners of province time and again. Days like this are why the vision of a 12 thousand capacity venue – that will be equipped with modern day amenities and suitable for the kind of audience this team deserves – seems so appropriate and needed.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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