La Peña Baiona is the famous Bayonne rugby song which translates as the Bayonne Pain and for nearly an hour it looked like Connacht were going to suffer the pain of their first home loss of the campaign as the Top 14 side came to Galway and dominated the majority of the match.
The first opportunity of points came after only two minutes when Connacht were caught offside at the lineout.
With the wind at their backs, captain Dewald Senekal pointed to the posts but fullback, Martin Bustos Moyano pushed his effort wide.
However, the Puma had a chance to make amends two minutes later when referee, Matthew Carley, pinged the home side for being offside in the midfield.
Moyano made no mistake this time and put the Basque side in front after five minutes. (0-3).
On their first venture into enemy territory, the Westerners earned a penalty and went to touch. After a number of phases Bayonne were adjudged to have come up offside in the midfield and Captain, John Muldoon, pointed to the posts.
Jack Carty, facing a strong breeze made no mistake and level the scores at 3-3.
Pat Lam’s men were trying to hold onto the ball due to playing into the wind but the wet conditions made handling errors inevitable.
From a scrum the away side secured a penalty and Bustos Moyano nailed his effort and handed the lead back to side after 13 minutes. (3-6)
Bayonne had defied pre-match assumptions that they would roll over and go down with a whimper as they smashed into every tackle and ruck.
And it was to get better for the Top14 team as referee Carley penalised George Naoupu for holding on the ground.
Bustos Moyano sneaked a few yards much to the crowd’s annoyance but the number 15 didn’t need the extra help as his kick sailed over with a bit to spare to extend his side’s lead. (3-9).
The Westerners finally give the home support something to cheer about on a bitterly cold, wet night when Danie Poolman went over for a try on the 20 minute mark.
From a driven lineout, scrumhalf, Kieran Marmion, whipped the ball out wide. Carty drew the defence and produced a deft offload to the onrushing South African wing to touchdown.
Carty slotted the conversion through the posts to hand Connacht the lead for the first time in the game. (10-9)
If anyone thought that Bayonne would then crumble after the home side had hit the front they were sadly mistaken.
The Basque side were proving to be an incredibly tough not to crack and again with Connacht not learning their lesson for playing too much rugby in their own half the referee pinged centre, Bundee Aki, for holding on.
Bustos Mayano stepped up again and landed the penalty to give Bayonne a two point lead after 29 minutes. (10-12)
The French side’s aggression in defence and at the breakdown was causing the Westerners real problems in maintaining possession.
But despite their tribulations, Connacht were handed another chance to hit the front after the away team were penalised at the breakdown.
Carty’s kick from inside the 10 metre line was not successful as the wind stopped the ball dead five metres out.
However, the home side went into the break ahead thanks to Poolman’s second try.
After a strong maul, Connacht went through the phases. Eventually an overlap was created and good hands from the midfield of Bundee Aki and Dave McSharry enabled Poolman to dive over at the corner on the stroke of halftime.
Carty missed the touchline conversion and the referee blew for halftime.
The home team went into the shed with a lead they scarcely deserved.
The majority in the Sportsground hoped that their heroes would have kicked on after the break but Bayonne came out of the blocks quicker.
After kicking to the corner, the Basque outfit kept possession. Their tactic of pick and jam carries close to the line was effective as Connacht ran out of defenders and big tighthead, Giorgi Jgenti, crashed over underneath the posts.
Replacement, Clément Otazo, added the extras from right in front and Bayonne were in charge again after 44 minutes. (15-19)
The home side’s execution was really letting them down as they were unable to build any momentum or pressure.
But they forced a penalty from the scrum and Carty nailed his effort to bring the scores back to the minimum after 53 minutes. (18-19)
Connacht were huffing and puffing but they looked clueless how to break the Basque’s side spirit and defensive system for that matter.
The turning point of the game came on 58 minutes when Carley sin binned prop and try scorer, Jgenti, for pulling down the maul.
Carty was successful with his penalty attempt to put the Westerners ahead after 59 minutes. (21-19)
Two minutes later the Sportsground erupted with delight as centre, Aki, went over for his first try for the province.
A Garryowen was allowed to bounce by Bayonne and the pill landed perfectly into the Kiwi’s arms who sped away for the score.
Carty used the wind beautiful to curl the ball over the bar and push Connacht’s advantage past one score. (28-19)
And the bonus point try came in the 69th minute with after excellent work by Connacht’s fatties.
A well worked maul brought the Westerners up to the try line and after a few failed close range assaults and outstanding, defiant Basque defence, Marmion decided fling the pill wide and Dave McSharry bruised his way over for a fourth and a vital score.
Young Carty bisected the uprights to put the result beyond any doubt. (35-19)
Prop, Jgenti, came back on to the field after Carty’s conversion. His side had conceded 17 points in his absence.
The home side grabbed another score via their maul, which was a real positive for Lam’s men on the night. Captain John Muldoon came up with the ball to the delight of the home support.
Craig Ronaldson added the extras to extend the difference to 42-19.
And that is how it finished.
After the game Pat Lam said, “They had too many troughs in the game but it was pleasing how the boys regrouped when they were down but we can’t afford these troughs in the upcoming games against Bayonne, Leinster and Munster.”
Once again the coach praised his fullback, Mils Muliaina, “It’s no coincidence that we are are starting to score tries in the back tries since Mils has arrived. His mentoring has really driven the performances of the backline.”
Man of the Match, Danie Poolman, “We didn’t have a great start but it is a real positive to come back from points down and fight and get the win.”
Tries- Poolman (2), Aki, McSharry, Muldoon
Pens- Carty (3)
Cons- Carty (3) Ronaldson
Pens- Bustos Mayano (4)
15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Dave McSharry, 11Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 1 Denis Buckley, 2 Tom McCartney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 4 Mick Kearney, 5 Quinn Roux, 6 John Muldoon (c), 7 Eoin McKeon, 8 George Naoupu
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Darragh Leader
15 Martin Bustos Moyano, 14 Pierre Sayerse, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Saimoni Vaka, 11 Jon Elissalde, 10 Mathieu Ugalde, 9 Bastien Duhalde, 1 Lucas Pointud, 2 Simon Labouyrie, 3 Giorgi Jgenti, 4 Dewald Senekal (c), 5 Lisiate Fa’aoso, 6 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 7 Clément Ancely, 8 Thibaut Visensang
Replacements: 6 David Roumieu 17 Florian Lapeyrade 18 Paul Bruno, 19 Mark Chisholm, 20 Christophe Loustalot, 21 Guillaume Rouet, 22 Clément Otazo, 23 Jean-Jo Marmouyet
Matt Cassidy @ The Sportsground, Pundit Arena.