European Rugby Champions Cup: Connacht 23-21 Toulouse

Toulouse’s Carl Axtens tries to dispossess Connacht’s Caolin Blade
Toulouse’s Carl Axtens tries to dispossess Connacht’s Caolin Blade
Connacht (11) 23
Tries: Adeolokun, O'Halloran, Aki Con: Ronaldson Pen: Carty 2
Toulouse (21) 21
Tries: David, Doussain Con: Bezy Pen: Bezy 2, Fritz

Connacht came from 10 points down to beat Toulouse at home on their return to the European Champions Cup.

The Pro12 champions trailed 21-11 at the break with Niyi Adeolukun's early try cancelled out by scores from Yann David and Jean-Marc Doussain.

Tiernan O'Halloran and Bundee Aki crossed for second-half Connacht tries.

Toulouse failed to score in the second half as they crashed for a fifth away defeat in a row in the competition for the first time in their history.

Niyi Adeolokum dots down in the corner at the end of a superb Connacht move
Niyi Adeolokum dots down in the corner at the end of a superb Connacht move

Scrum trouble

Connacht's deficiencies in the scrum were exposed by Toulouse early on at the Sportsground.

They conceded three scrum penalties which were punished with penalties from Sebastian Bezy (two) and Florian Fritz as the visitors coasted into a 9-0 lead.

Connacht then sprang to life with a stylish 10-minute spell which produced 11 unanswered points, though it could have been more.

Ultan Dillane's lineout steal sparked a swashbuckling move by the Connacht backs who ran the ball from inside their '22' and Adeolukun dotted down for an easy finish in the corner.

Jack Carty missed the conversion but landed two subsequent penalties to put Connacht ahead briefly, at 11-9.

Toulouse hit top gear

Connacht's dynamic play brought the best out of Toulouse, who sprang to life with two tries before the interval.

The four-time champions were at their best in the second quarter, scoring 12 unanswered points, with an expert off-loading game resulting in a try for Yann David, who powered over after 34 minutes.

Connacht's defence was again found wanting when Jean-Marc Doussain crossed the whitewash three minutes later.

The visitors, who had won all three previous trips to Galway since 2011, led 21-11 but failed to press home the advantage in a second half dominated by the home side.

Will to win

With Wasps running in 12 tries in the rout over Zebre, Connacht could ill-afford to start their campaign with a home defeat.

Pat Lam's side played with heart and a lot of spirit in the second half and despite Jack Carty struggling to convert penalty and conversion chances, they were worthy winners on their first game in the competition since 2013/24.

Tiernan O'Halloran thundered his way through after 58 minutes to reduce the arrears and the brilliant Bundee Aki skipped through a missed tackle to draw Connacht level after 67 minutes.

Craig Ronaldson assumed the kicking duties from the unconvincing Carty and nailed a sideline conversion with his left foot to secure a memorable victory for Connacht.

Connacht: T O'Halloran,; N Adeolokun, B Aki, C Ronaldson, C Kelleher, J Carty, C Blade, F Bealham, D Heffernan, C Carey, U Dillane, A Browne, E McKeon, J Heenan, J Muldoon (capt).

Replacements: K Marmion for Blade (46), JP Cooney for Carey (52), S Delahunt for Heffernan (55), S O'Brien for McKeown (55), S Ili for O'Halloran (65), R Loughney for Bealham (68), L Stevenson for Dillane (73), S O'Leary for Aki (78).

Toulouse: M Médard; Y Huget, F Fritz, Y David , P Perez; JM Doussain, S Bézy; C Baille, C Tolofua, C Johnston; R Gray, J Tekori; F Cros, P Faasalele, C Axtens.

Replacements: G Lamboley for R Gray (30), K Vasil for Baille (41),J Marchand for Tolofua (47), A Dorian for Johnston (47), G Fickou for Huget (49), T Gray for Faasalele (55), E Maka for Axtens (69), T Flood for Fritz (68).

Top Stories