In recent seasons, 2016 has seemed a long time ago for Connacht. The year they beat Leinster in the Pro12 final to claim their first ever major title was a huge triumph, but ahead of it’s time. The subsequent years brought Connacht back down to Earth. It hasn’t been unsuccessful, with some play-off appearances and consistent European Cup appearances. However they’ve still been the weakest of the 4 provinces, with last seasons interpros at Christmas making that abundantly clear.
The final two games of last season (just a few weeks ago) were a mixed bag. They were on top against Ulster, but were by far 2nd best against Munster. Fears of missing out on European Cup rugby were put to the side when they were granted a place with the format of the competition changing to adapt to unusual circumstances. They will be playing European Rugby past January as well, as the bottom teams in the Heineken Cup will go into the Challenge Cup. Coming into this game against Glasgow, there would have been fears that the Westeners may be off the pace in a physical game.
And physical it was, but off the pace they were not. Despite being behind at halftime Connacht fought back time and time again in a contest of haymakers. While the first half was largely a case of hanging in there, Connacht showed class in the second period with Bundee Aki, Kieran Marmion, and captain Jarrad Butler impressing, with outhalf Jack Carty landing some crucial kicks.
One of those kicks came in the first half, but Connacht would fall behind to a Nick Grigg try. Connacht had been down to 14 when Quinn Roux was shown yellow for a high tackle. They survived that period of being down a man, but eventually the relentless pressure from Glasgow would tell.
A stop-start first half gave way to a thrilling second half. Adam Hastings kicked a penalty to extend the Scots’ lead, but they would be pegged back with Tom Farrell linking up with Bundee Aki who crossed the line. Carty’s conversion leveled things up. Both sides would touch down in what turned into an end to end affair, Quinn Roux and Adam Hastings touched down. Both tries were converted to leave the score at 17-17 with 20 to go.
Connacht pushed on from there with Jack Carty kicking a penalty and Bundee Aki diving over for a second try. It would be a nervous 10 minutes as Tommy Seymour got Glasgow’s 3rd try, converted by Hastings. Carty’s penalty made it a 4-point game, before Connacht’s defensive intensity pinned Glasgow into their own half and eventually forced a turnover.
The 200 fans littered throughout the stadium had a great game to watch, and will go home delighted with their sides battling attitude. Bundee Aki showed that Ireland’s center options are certainly not limited to Ringrose and Henshaw. Jack Carty ensured he would get a look in if Sexton’s injury rules him out of Ireland’s game against Italy in the resumed Six Nations. It’s hard to write articles like this without saying “Put his hand up”, but that’s exactly what Connacht did.
FT Connacht 28 – 24 Glasgow Warriors
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