Connacht’s season ended with a 21 – 15 defeat at the hands of Northampton Saints today. It was a much improved performance by Pat Lam’s men who threw everything into the 80 minutes at Franklin’s Gardens but ultimately couldn’t break the Saints’ defensive line in the closing stages.

It was the worst possible start for Connacht, conceding a try inside 57 seconds. Outhalf  Harry Mallinder touched down in the right corner and stepped up to kick the conversion clear.

Connacht wasted no time in responding, wing Niyi Adeolokun driving hard at the home defence and reaching over the line for the try after four minutes. Craig Ronaldson, on kicking duties today, duly slotted the conversion.

After the initial flurry of scores, the pace of the game slowed down but both sides exchanged penalties – two from Mallinder and one from Ronaldson.

Half time: Northampton Saints 13 – 10 Connacht Rugby

Saints’ scrumhalf Nic Groom extended the home side’s lead when he scampered over in the 57th minute. Mallinder missed the conversion and five minutes later, Connacht kicked a penalty to the corner and mauled it over for Dave Heffernan to touch down.

The next score was vital and it fell to Saints when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. Mallinder extended his tally to 16 points and put his side 6 points clear with nine minutes remaining.

Saints’ second row Jamie Gibson was sent to the bin for slowing down the ball at ruck time and Connacht got one last chance to strike. Ronaldson kicked to touch and the lineout was won but the Saints defence drove play back. Lam’s men fought to the very end but time ran out and Saints held out to book a home playoff final with Challenge Cup winners Stade Francais next Friday night.

For Lam and Connacht it was a heart-breaking finish but it was a performance to be proud of on the last day of the season.

 

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