A strong second half Gloucester performance turned around Connacht’s three point half time lead as the English side claimed the bonus point win in this Champions Cup Round 3 clash. After the first of the crucial back to back fixtures, the return leg in the Sportsground next Saturday now becomes a must win for Connacht.
Gloucester drew first blood just 4 minutes into the game when Tom Marshall raced onto a pass outside the 22 and ran in under the posts. Amazingly though, Cipriani’s conversion was to prove their final score of the opening half for Gloucester as Connacht mounted a massive defensive display.
Connacht responded with their opening try after 8 minutes when John Porch scored his third try in two games. Porch looked confident in his new full back position and looked an attacking threat throughout.
While Gloucester made a handful of visits inside the Connacht 22 throughout the first half, they couldn’t break down a resolute defence. Connacht had their chances too and their period of pressure was rewarded on 18 minutes when Carty converted a penalty to leave the visitors 3 points to the good – a lead they held to the break.
It was a different Gloucester side that emerged for the second half and within seven minutes of the restart, Louis Rees-Zammit was in for the home side’s second try.
Connacht to their credit tried to stay in touch, but the English Premiership side had found a new level of confidence matched by greater accuracy.
At the game hit the 60 minutes mark, Gloucester were in again just after Kyle Godwin was sent to the bin following a succession of Connacht penalties – the final quarter was always going to be an uphill challenge from here. The home side capitalised on that numerical advantage and in the 65th minute Jake Polledri claimed the bonus point try with Cipriani scoring the conversion to leave it 24 – 10 with 15 to go.
From here Connacht went in search of a losing bonus point but and were unlucky not to have a try with 5 minutes remaining. The try did eventually come though when Quinn Roux drove at the Gloucester line 2 minutes into injury time. Unfortunately though, even with Fitzgerald’s conversion success, Connacht left with nothing.
So Gloucester draw first blood in the back to back battle. Both sides have just six days to regroup for the return leg in the Sporstground next Saturday.
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Tries: J Porch, Q Roux
Conversions: Jack Carty (1), Conor Fitzgerald (1)
Penalties: J Carty (1)
Gloucester: Tom Marshall, Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris (B Twelvetrees), Mark Atkinson, Ollie Thorley, Danny Cipriani (M Banahan), Joe Simpson (Callum Braley ) Val Rapava Ruskin (Josh Hohneck), Franco Marais (Todd Gleave), Fraser Balmain (Jamal Ford-Robinson) Gerbrandt Grobler, Franco Mostert (Alex Craig), Ruan Ackermann (Lewis Ludlow), Jake Polledri, Ben Morgan.
Connacht: John Porch, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Peter Robb (Tom Daly, Kyle Godwin, Jack Carty (Conor Fitzgerald) , Caolin Blade (Stephen Kerins) Denis Buckley (P McCabe), Tom McCartney (Jonny Murphy), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy) Joe Maksymiw (Ultan Dillane ), Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a (Robin Copeland), Jarrad Butler.