The bonus-point win over the Top14 outfit guarantees a home Challenge Cup quarter-final against Gloucester in late March.
“The failure to win last weekend hit a nerve with the boys” said Keane after the game in reference to the draw in Worcester. “It certainly hit a nerve with some of us.”
“We were determined to come out and get off to a good start this week and we certainly managed that” added hooker David Heffernan.
The blistering start saw Connacht bag six tries in the first half, including a hat-trick for Niyi Adeolukun and one each for Tiernan O’Halloran, Bundee Aki and Matt Healy, on the occasion of his 100th cap for Connacht. They were added to after the interval by substitute Tom Farrell and captain John Muldoon.
The home side were in for their first try within 20 seconds of the kick-off as Adeolokun capitalised on an Oyonnax spill to cross over. He touched down again five minutes later and completed his hat-trick in the 31st minute, by which stage both Aki and O’Halloran had already grabbed tries and Healy, who led his side out for the match as he reached his century, cut in for another to give Connacht a 36-14 half-time advantage.
“The continuity of our game in European competition has allowed us to develop and has given us a bit of confidence and belief. And the ambition we’ve been seeking, it’s been a good platform for us to achieve that,” said Keane.
“It’s allowed us to develop that confidence and rotate players, to give everyone a good feel for what we’re trying to do. And it’s allowed us to put a little bit of polish on that aspect of continuity.”
Connacht now have a three-week break before the visit of the Ospreys in the Pro14 on February 9, and the Head Coach said the break will allow the squad to recover some of their walking wounded before the final stretch of the campaign.
“I think we’ve done well, but we’ve got a few knocks and a few bangs. We’ve lost a couple of props and asked another couple of props to step up. I think the break has come pretty much at the right time for us,” said he.
The Challenge Cup quarter-final will take place on the weekend of March 30-April 1 at the Sportsground. Although there are still some big name teams left in the competition, Keane was confident when asked if he thought Connacht could go all the way in the competition.
“Yeah, sure. I think the boys do too. It’s a challenge for us. It’s nice to be a part of it. We’ve had some disappointing results and we’ve thrown a few fixtures in the Pro14 away, dare I say it. We’re disappointed about that aspect but we have to look at the positives. This offers us an opportunity to perhaps get some silverware” he offered.
Heffernan agreed, stating that Connacht won’t worry unduly about the identity of their last-eight opponents and looking forward to what promises to be a terrific atmosphere in the Sportsground.
“It’ll be unbelievable. The last time we played Glasgow in the knockout stages (the 2016 Pro12 semi-final) was incredible, so if it’s anything close to that it’ll be unbelievable. The fans that day were something else, so we’d hope for the same again,” said the Ballina man.
Heffernan had an excellent hour’s work in Connacht’s front row on Saturday and said that he was delighted to be back in action after some time out of the team.
“It’s been really good to get back for the last few weeks. I was disappointed with a couple of games at the start of the year and I hadn’t been in the team for a while, so to get back in the team has been really good. There’s serious competition there at hooker so any time you get on the pitch you have to take that opportunity,” he said.