Connacht overcome Wasps in Saturday's Champions Cup fixture not by a controversial referee's decision, but by taking the chance and working hard, says coach Pat Lam. "That decision did not win us the game. We had a maul earlier in the game and we thought we had got over the line, but we didn't. It's never guaranteed.
“The main thing is, it has nothing to do with us. John [Muldoon] asked the question. He asked can we kick to the corner, the referee said yes, so we kicked to the corner and scored the try. If he’d said no, we’d have a quick tap and go for the try – nothing at all to do with us, we played the call.”
Lam had sympathy for assistant referee Mathieu Raynal, who replaced referee Jerome Garces late in the game due to an injury. "To be fair to the ref, there is so much in transition from one World Cup to the next when rules are being looked at. Some teams are playing some rules, but everyone is discussing it, there's all sorts of transition, so I can easily understand it."
However Lam says the controversy did not detract from Connacht’s win which now puts them level on 13 points with Wasps and Toulouse with two rounds remaining.
"We play what is in front of us. If it had been Wasps, and they kicked to the corner, we'd have to defend it; if they had tapped, we'd still have to defend it. There was no guarantee from that lineout, but it gave us a chance, and ultimately the work of Seán O'Brien, Rory Parata, Niyi Adeolokun in getting the turnover gave us the chance to have a go, whatever the chance it was going to be. We still had to work hard to do it, and that was the best part about it."
Wasps however have branded the refereeing error as “hugely disappointing”.
“We all understand referees are only human and mistakes do occasionally happen,” a Wasps statement read. “However, for a referee and fourth official to get the laws of the game wrong at a crucial stage of a big match is hugely disappointing.”
Meanwhile, Lam says Connacht need to step it up again to add more history with a victory in Ravenhill on Friday. "We beat Ulster here for the first time in a while, and there is real massive history available to us this weekend."
Connacht are expected to be without Conor Carey following a foot injury suffered in the win against Wasps. He is awaiting scan results, as is Dominic Robertson McCoy following a shoulder injury in training. Jake Heenan's knee and ankle injuries in the Wasps' away fixture are not as serious as first thought, and there is an outside chance he could be fit. However utility back Stacey Ili is sidelined for six weeks due to an ankle injury.
Good news for Connacht is that former Auckland Blues hooker Tom McCartney has agreed a contract extension for three years.
McCartney (31), who will be eligible to play for Ireland in October next year, was brought to the Sportsground by Lam in 2014 and quickly established himself as a key leader in the New Zealander’s youthful squad.