Connacht 23

Montpellier 20

Connacht marked their return to the top table of European club rugby with a three point win over Montpellier in the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup. With Captain Jarrad Butler along with wingers Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy withdrawn late on due to injury, Connacht knew they had a huge challenge on their hands. But ultimately it was meant to be for Connacht as 22 year old replacement out half Conor Fitzgerald kicked the winning penalty with 14 minutes remaining in the contest.

The odds of a Connacht win had lengthened considerably in the second minute of this game when Montpellier raced into a seven point lead with a try from Aaron Cruden which was duly converted. Connacht’s response was a penalty from the boot of Jack Carty which was cancelled out by one from Benoit Paillaugue for Montpellier. Montepllier’s early positive start leaving them 10 points to 3 to the good with 22 minutes on the clock.

Connacht increased their foothold on the game over the next 15 minutes and their influence was rewarded 3 minutes before the break when Paul Boyle powered over. Then with the half time clock in the red, Connacht kicked to the corner with a shot at goal was on the cards. The home side were then rewarded on the double as Tom McCartney carried over from a maul and Montpellier were reduced to 14 men when Paul Willemse was yellow carded for a tackle on Colby Fainga’a.

Montpellier responded first on the second half when Paillaugue converted a straightforward penalty after they patiently went through the phases.

With the sides level, Man of the Match Caolin Blade stepped up to score a decisive try with 52 minutes on the clock which was converted by Carty.

Montpellier now put some real urgency into their attack and despite some solid Connacht defence to hold them out, Anthony Bouthier raced over, with the resulting conversion bringing the sides level yet again. Crucially though, this was to be Montpellier’s final score of the game.

Replacement out half Fitzgerald was on the field just two minutes when he put the ball on the tee and his kick from the left of the posts was to prove the winning score.

So another historic win for Connacht as they take a French scalp in the Sportsground. Not much time to rest on their laurels though as the squad travel to Toulouse next weekend, where the winners will find themselves on top of Pool 5 next Saturday evening.


Connacht Scorers

Tries: Paul Boyle, Tom McCartney, Caolin Blade

Conversions: Jack Carty

Penalties: Jack Carty, Conor Fitzgerald


Connacht Team: Darragh Leader, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Kyle Godwin, Jack Carty (Conor Fitzgerald), Caolin Blade, Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney (Captain) (Dave Heffernan), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Conor Kenny), Cillian Gallagher (Joe Maksymiw then replaced Eoghan Masterson), Ultan Dillane, Paul Boyle, Colby Faing’a, Robin Copeland.

Ultan Dillane has returned to the Connacht starting team to face Montpellier in the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup in the Sportsground on Sunday (Kick off 1pm).
Irish international Bundee Aki is also set for his first start since the World Cup, following his appearance off the bench against Leinster last weekend.
The return of Aki and Dillane comes as a boost to Andy Friend and his coaching team as Connacht return to Champions Cup action after a two year absence. Dillane comes into the second row alongside Sligo man and former Ireland Under 20 international Cillian Gallagher.
In the front row, the inclusion of Dominic Robertson-McCoy is the only change from last weekend. The tighthead prop lines up alongside experienced hooker Tom McCartney and Denis Buckley at loosehead.
In the backrow, Colby Fainga’a comes in at blindside with Jarrad Butler at openside and Paul Boyle in his now familiar number 8 jersey.
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade continue their half-back partnership and with Irish international Kieran Marmion on the injured list, Stephen Kerins is named as the replacement scrum-half for the second game in a row.
Bundee Aki will partner Kyle Godwin in midfield while the back three is made up of Darragh Leader at full back with Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy on the wings.
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We have received a boost this week with Ultan Dillane and Matt Healy returning from injury and Bundee Aki back in the starting side. They bring a huge amount of experience at this level and that will be invaluable to us. We are looking forward to the game on Sunday and we know the importance of getting off to a good start in this competition, especially at home”.
“We have had incredible support so far this season in the Sportsground and we are expecting a huge occasion again on Sunday afternoon. Everyone associated with Connacht Rugby is excited about our return to the Champions Cup and our focus now is on delivering a win against Montpellier”,
Friend added.
Connacht Matchday Squad V Montpellier (SUN 17 NOV, 1PM)

(15-9): Darragh Leader, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade (1-8): Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Cillian Gallagher, Ultan Dillane, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Conor Kenny, Eoghan Masterson, Robin Copeland, Stephen Kerins, Tom Daly, John Porch

After three seasons, the Heineken Champions Cup is back in the West.

Connacht begin their latest European adventure this weekend when French side Montpellier visit The Sportsground in our opening Pool 5 encounter.

Here’s everything you need to know about the tie.
When’s the game?

Kick-off at the Sportsground is at 1.00pm on Sunday 17th November – the perfect time for a family afternoon out.
What’s the state of play so far?

This is the opening game of the Pool but as with every European campaign every game is crucial in determining who goes on to the knockout stages.

Our first opponents are a Montpellier side who currently sit in 7th place in the Top 14 after 3 wins and 2 draws from their first 9 games. The Top 14 has been incredibly tight this season with just 3 points separating 3rd and 12th, and Montpellier are right in the middle of it.

Connacht head into the Champions Cup on the back of 4 wins from 6 in the Guinness PRO14, with a run of impressive wins bookended by disappointing losses to Scarlets and Leinster.
How’s our recent record against them?

It’s been nearly 10 years since the two sides met in competitive action, with Connacht often getting the better in their Challenge Cup fixtures during the 2000s.

They last met in the 2009/10 Challenge Cup, when Connacht came away with a 22-19 win in France before a 20-10 win at The Sportsground in early 2010.

How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht management team will announce their squad at 12pm on Friday when it will be named on and the Connacht Rugby social channels.
Are tickets still available?

Yes but you need to be quick! As with every European fixture there is a huge demand for tickets, particularly for a Champions Cup game. The sooner you book the better.

What if I can’t make the game?

BT Sport will have live TV coverage while Galway Bay FM have live radio commentary. Please note unlike our home Guinness PRO14 ties, the game will not be on free-to-air TV.
How can I get there?

There is plenty of car parks within walking distance to The Sportsground, all of which are listed below. Please note that local restrictions will be in place so please respect our neighbours at all times.

Anything else I should know?

Please note that NO SMOKING is allowed in any of our stands at The Sportsground. Thank you for your co-operation.


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