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Connacht Bounce Back From Disaster To Claim Opening Day Win


Connacht welcomed Montpellier to the Sportsground this afternoon for their first Heineken Champions Cup game since 2017 and it proved to be a successful day for the western province.

However, it didn’t go all their own way as prior to kick-off, Jarrad Butler, Matt Healy and Niyi Adeolokun were all ruled out through injury. In a bizarre turn of events, while being interviewed on the pitch, club captain Butler predicted an 18-0 win for his side in the Sportsground.

From there, it began to unravel further as some quick handling allowed Yvan Reilhac to draw in defenders on the wing before offloading to Aaron Cruden who ran in under the posts after just 70 seconds.

Connacht’s nightmare start was once again compounded by Cillian Gallagher’s withdrawal through injury in the first quarter of the game. However, Jack Carty was able to settle the nerves slotting home a penalty to get Connacht on the board.

Montpellier came back once more and looked to be threatening a second try only for the ball to be knocked on following 11 phases of play. They did, however, manage to then force a penalty of their own and extend their lead back to seven.

Andy Friend’s side mixed the good with the bad as they gave away some needless penalties before atoning with great defensive plays. However, they rode their luck also and could have found themselves further behind if not for a forward pass spotted just five-metres out from the line.

As the half drew to a close, lady luck finally fell Connacht’s way when Paul Boyle finished off the move to bring them back to within two points. Their fortunes were turned around completely when captain Tom McCartney crashed over the line right on half-time to give Connacht a 13-10 lead at the break.

It took Montpellier six minutes after the half to level things up when Caleb Timu won a penalty for the French side converted by Benoit Paillaugue.

As the game entered the final half an hour, Caolin Blade ran in Connacht’s third try of the match after exploiting a gap in the Montpellier defensive line. Jack Carty converted to put seven between them and set up a nervy finish.

Just when it seemed as though a Bundee Aki turnover would provide Connacht with the spark needed to close the game out, Montpellier levelled matters when Anthony Bouthier sprinted through to finish before Paillaugue added the extra two points.

With a little over ten minutes to go, Conor Fitzgerald entered the fray for Jack Carty with his first port of call slotting a penalty to put Connacht back in front. Despite the tense atmosphere, Fitzgerald held his nerve to set up a grandstand finish.

Connacht were able to see out the win in the end with Fitzgerald making a telling impact in the end alongside some key interventions from Bundee Aki.

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