Pat Lam: ‘You miss out by two points, it’s a killer blow’

Connacht coach frustrated after side fail to make European quarter-finals

Connacht’s James Cannon shows his dejection after the defeat to Toulouse at the Stade Ernest-Wallon. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Connacht coach Pat Lam admitted to feeling acutely frustrated after his side came up just short of reaching the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup for the first time in their history, the 19-10 defeat to Toulouse thus bringing to an end his last Euro campaign with the province.

“You miss out by two points, it’s a killer blow, particularly when we had enough chances to get over the line. The last thing you want to do when you come over here is give them a 14-point lead, particularly off a couple of system errors . . . 14 points, a lot of teams that come here could have easily folded.

“[The] Boys came back really well and we all knew the situation. We just needed a penalty or a try to get it within seven. We were keeping track and had chances and unfortunately we didn’t take them.”

Connacht will also have regrets over their failure to make the most of some attacking platforms in the last 10 minutes when, with a little more composure and patience, they may have engineered the three-pointer that would have taken them through, as defeat by six or seven points would have earned them a quarter-final against Munster at Thomond Park.


“That was that in the changing room. I had to pick the boys up. In the heat of the moment everyone is frustrated and everyone knows we could have taken it, could have been part of history and an opportunity to get Connacht there.

“But then reflecting on it, three years ago we were here and it was great but realistically we had no chance of getting out of the pool. We were there by default but we have earned our right to be here and to go down to the last play against a team that we all know what they have and what they have got, the history and the record. There was no surprise factor, they knew they had to win and to take them right to the last play just shows how far we have come.

“But it still doesn’t take away the disappointment. There are some great learnings there for a lot of the young guys in the team that will hold them in good stead. But it’s frustrating.”

Entering the last 15 minutes messages were relayed to the team confirming exactly what was needed of them.

“The key was we knew if they scored four tries, then we’d have to go for another three tries,” added Lam. “If we hold them out we have only got to get within seven (points). Everyone was well aware of what we needed and even if we got the drop goal it would have brought us closer, but ultimately there is chances to score, there was a chance to go back down the right and we didn’t. We’ll look at that last bit of play, there was so many things we could have taken and we didn’t. We have only got ourselves to blame for that and we have to put it away as a learning.”

Connacht have now no option but to focus on the Pro12 and seeking to qualify for next season’s Champions Cup.

“We have got to make sure we earn out our right to be back in this competition next year,” said Lam. “We have a week off now, boys can recover and then we have got five big games on the trot, Cardiff, Dragons, Zebre, Treviso, Zebre. There is no doubt we have got to win all of those to get us back hunting around that top six and see what happens.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times