Connacht put in a tremendous performance tonight to stun four-time European Champions Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon.

A try from Man of the Match Kieran Marmion came seven minutes into the second half and was added to Dan Parks’ assured kicking performance throughout for 11 points

It was Connacht’s first win on French soil in the European tournament and it has kept Pat Lam’s side alive in the pool table where they now sit on nine points, just one point behind Toulouse and Saracens.

Toulouse hadn’t been beaten at Stade Ernest Wallon this season or in the Heineken Cup since 2009, yet only managed to lead for five minutes in a game that started at breakneck speed and never let up for a second.

It was a team effort where all players 1 – 23 showed unbelievable commitment and determination but Connacht were particularly commended for their outstanding defence, highlighted in the last ten minutes where they never gave up.

Perfect conditions allowed both sides to play expansive rugby and provided a tense and thrilling clash for the 16, 742 supporters in attendance.

The traveling Connacht support erupted in the North Stand when Dan Parks gave Connacht the lead with a 13th minute penalty. The out half then added a sweetly struck drop goal three minutes later to make it 6-0.

His opposite number Jean-Pascal Barraque missed his first shot at goal on 30 minutes, but he make up for his first mistake with a brilliant individual try on the stroke of half-time. The French side had been working hard to prise open the Connacht defence and eventually found a gap with just a minute to go in the first half. Touching down at the posts for a try which he converted made it 7-6 to the home side at the break.

Half time: Toulouse 7 – 6 Connacht

That one-point lead didn’t last for long, however, as Parks hammered over a penalty five minutes into the second half. It was at that moment when ‘The Fields of Athenry’ resounded around the stadium from the North Stand.

Scrum half Kieran Marmion’s heroic efforts were rewarded when the 21-year-old’s pass gave backs Dave McSharry, Robbie Henshaw and Fionn Carr the space to make huge yards up the right wing. Carr was halted just short, but with the support of Jake Heenan and Eoin McKeon coming in, Marmion was there to burrow over for the try. Parks added the extras for a 16 – 7 lead after 48 minutes.

When Barraque missed his second penalty of the night, Toulouse coach Guy Noves moved to introduce Lionel Beauxis into the game for the final quarter.

An electrifying attack came just before the hour mark when Toulouse lost the ball in the Connacht 22. A Marmion pass found replacement winger Gavin Duffy who offloaded under huge pressure to the onrushing Henshaw. The full back was sent racing clear and touched down under the posts. But Romanian referee Marius Mitrea asked the TMO to check the origin of the move. An apparent knock on some 70 metres back in the play ruled out the try.

Seven minutes later Toulouse kicked to the left corner and rumbled skipper Thierry Dusautoir over for a try from a driving line-out. Beauxis converted off the touchline and the gap was suddenly only two points.

That score set-up a gripping final 15 minutes in which Connacht never stopped taking the game to their illustrious opponents. So much was asked of the Connacht defence and the entire defensive line were extremely clinical and disciplined to hold out until the final whistle.

Full time: Toulouse 14 – 16 Connacht 

Man of the Match: Kieran Marmion

Toulouse: Poitrenaud, Huget, Fritz, David, Gear, Barraque, Vermaak, Steenkamp, Ralepelle, Johnston, Maka, Maestri, Camara, Dustautoir, Picamoles. Replacements:Beauxis for Barraque (53), Ferreira for Vermaak (48), Millo-Chluski for Steenkamp (48), Bregvadze for Ralepelle (74), Montes for Johnston (74), Doussain for Maka (48), Tolofua for Camara (45). Not Used: Matanavou.

Connacht: Henshaw, Carr, E. Griffin, McSharry, Healy, Parks, Marmion, Wilkinson, Henry, White, Kearney, Clarke, Muldoon, Heenan, Naoupu. Replacements: Harris-Wright for Henry (46) Ronaldson for Henshaw (74), Duffy for Healy (53), Murphy for Marmion (69), Buckley for Wilkinson (59), Ah You for White (59), Swift for Kearney (59), McKeon for Naoupu (46).

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy).

 

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