Depleted Connacht defy the odds
Connacht 22 Biarritz 14:Connacht made light of their injury woes at the Sportsground to record possibly their most famous win to date with a truly powerful performance against Biarritz to move second in the Heineken Cup’s Pool 3.
The province were missing 13 players, among them leaders like Nathan White, John Muldoon, Michael Swift and Gavin Duffy, but to a man they tortured the visiting French in Galway, keeping them scoreless in the second half until injury time, when Imanol Harinordoquy’s try counted for northing after Dmitri Yachvili missed the conversion for a losing bonus point.
Connacht had a one-point lead at the break. A seventh-minute try from Fetu’u Vainikolo, after David McSharry pounced on a loose ball and set him free, was followed up by a Dan Parks drop-goal. Yachvili missed two routine penalties by his standards but ended the half having scored three and with McKeon binned late in proceedings for taking the scrumhalf out underneath a high ball, there was legitimate concern of a second half French reaction.
It never materialised, despite the numerical advantage. In fact, it took Biarritz all of 25 minutes to get back into the Connacht half, as the home pack, having coped without their number eight, dominated the visitors.
Mike McCarthy was particularly ferocious in the tackle and Parks did little wrong when the opportunities presented themselves. And that they did, as Biarritz were rattled for 40 minutes, their scrum on the back foot and their handling unsure under severe pressure.
Parks slotted two early penalties and when he had a shot to nothing with a penalty awarded against the French pack, he pushed Connacht 10 points ahead with another drop-goal. A final penalty, three minutes from time, underlined the homeside’s dominance.
They trail pool leaders Harlequins by one ahead of the English side’s meeting with Zebre, and crucially, they now lead Biarritz by three by next week’s trip the Basque.