Connacht’s brave efforts fall agonisingly short as Jonny May strikes again

Gloucester through to Champions Cup play-off final after extra-time win

Connacht’s Jack Carty converts his side’s fourth try at Kingsholm. Photograph: Kevin Barnes/Inpho

Connacht’s Jack Carty converts his side’s fourth try at Kingsholm. Photograph: Kevin Barnes/Inpho

 
Champions Cup

, Gloucester prevailed in extra time to host Bordeaux-Begles in the play-off final next Sunday.

Not for the first time Connacht had a nightmare start, and not for the first time either they suffered a heartbreaking loss to this English outfit, but boy, they did come close to victory. Agonisingly so. And it was Jonny May – the player who broke their hearts several years ago – who finished with a flourish, sealing the deal with a try in the ninth minute of extra time.

Connacht looked to have done enough when Matt Healy broke through to score under the posts midway through the second half of extra time, but a yellow card to Connacht’s replacement hooker Dave Heffernan ensured David Humphrey’s side prevailed, with Darren Dawidiuk crossing to put Gloucester one point ahead and May finishing off in style.

It ended a pulsating contest in which Connacht would have been deserving winner. Only 122 seconds had elapsed when number eight Ross Moriarty was given the nod for the first try by TMO, and Greig Laidlaw added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

Second Captains

Perfect riposte

Jack Carty

As mistakes crept into Connacht’s game, Gloucester countered with a penalty after 19 minutes with a powerful scrum and Laidlaw levelled matters, and when the home side forced an overlap out wide, Meakes fed Sharples who finished off in the left corner, with Laidlaw missing the touchline conversion.

With sides playing open running rugby in perfect conditions, Connacht were back on the attack minutes later. Keeping ball in hand, they showed considerable patience to work their way into the 22. Fionn Carr made some yards from a deft inside pass from Carty, but the young outhalf finished off, scampering under the posts for Connacht’s second try and then adding the extras to give Connacht a 17-15 lead going into the break.

The home side restored the lead within three minutes of the restart from a Laidlaw penalty after Connacht were penalised for going off their feet at the breakdown, but they failed to add to their score after Connacht flanker Eoghan Masterson was yellow carded for not rolling away with Laidlaw making a rare kicking mistake.

Valuable foothold

As the fixture swung from one end other, neither side could add to the score. Gloucester were denied a try when O’Halloran’s tackle forced a May into touch, but in a frantic finish, thanks to a John Muldoon intercept and Healy’s well-judged kick, Connacht finished the game in their opponent’s half. When Gloucester failed to clear their lines, Connacht forced the penalty and Carty added an extra three points for a 25-18 lead.

However, Gloucester had one more chance to launch an attack with a penalty to touch. From the rolling maul, Bill Meakes struck, weaving his way through a host of bemused Connacht players to touch down. The TMO was once again was called in, Laidlaw added the conversion to level the contest, sending the game into extra time.

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