Connacht’s slim hopes of securing a European place received a boost on Sunday as they secured a 19-13 win over Cardiff Blues at Arms Park.
The reigning Pro12 champions’ title defence has not exactly gone to plan, with Pat Lam’s side currently finding themselves in eighth place in the table. However, they earned a vital win against their Welsh opponents in dramatic fashion, with a drop goal from fullback Tiernan O’Halloran putting Connacht in front for the first time with just two minutes remaining.
The hosts had looked like taking a 13-0 lead into half time, but a try from Matt Healy (and conversion from John Cooney) proved to be a turning point in the match.
Two further penalties from Cooney had the sides level by the hour mark, but the game looked like heading for a draw before O’Halloran’s late intervention. Craig Ronaldson rounded off the scoring with another penalty, in what turned out to be a very satisfactory afternoon for outgoing coach Lam.
O’Halloran’s man-of-the-match performance has added more fuel to the debate surrounding Ireland’s fullback position. Rob Kearney has been selected by Joe Schmidt as the national side’s starting number 15 for the opening two matches but with the Leinster man’s displays thus far not exactly garnering universal praise, many have lamented the 25-year-old’s continued exclusion.
— PRO12RUGBY (@PRO12rugby) February 12, 2017
Tiernan O’Halloran showing unbelievable leadership today. Ireland’s loss, Connacht’s gain. Great game. #CARvCON
— Cian A Murray (@CianMur) February 12, 2017
@Murray_Kinsella what does Tiernan O’Halloran have to do to get picked by Schmidt?
— John Rogers (@JohnRogersShow) February 10, 2017
Pity Tiernan O’Halloran is lining out for Connacht instead of Ireland this weekend. Would’ve been a great game to introduce him to #6Nations
— Cillian O Conchuir (@killeroc) February 10, 2017
Given the fact that O’Halloran has been named in Schmidt’s squad for the Six Nations as a whole there is every chance that he will be selected on the panel for the match against France in Dublin later this month, slim though that possibility may be.
On this week’s edition of The Oval Office podcast, we talk about the Irish back row with Niall Ronan and get the Scottish perspective from The Scrum Magazine’s David Arnott.