Connacht fail to recover from poor start in Challenge Cup defeat to Newcastle Falcons

Connacht fail to recover from poor start in Challenge Cup defeat to Newcastle Falcons

Updated: 10 days, 6 hours, 18 minutes, 38 seconds ago

Newcastle Falcons 35 Connacht 21

Connacht failed to secure a fourth successive European Challenge Cup pool victory, and with it the chance of a home fixture in the round of 16, with defeat to the Newcastle Falcons on Saturday.

Despite high hopes of completing a clean sweep of wins in the pool stages, this 35-21 loss and a lack of a bonus point means Connacht will now face an away fixture to Benetton in the next round.

It was a hugely disappointing evening for Andy Friend’s side as they failed to recover from the worst possible start.

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The early concession of three penalties on the bounce gave the home side the opening opportunity to kick for touch and drive, and with another penalty pending, scrumhalf and captain Michael Young darted through to score, with outhalf Tian Schoeman adding the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

With Connacht on the wrong side of the referee they conceded another penalty as Newcastle continued to control possession and territory. It eventually led to a yellow card for Connacht’s Byron Ralston and from the resultant penalty to touch, the Newcastle backs joined the forwards in driving to the line for a second try, scored by centre Matias Orlando, with Schoeman adding the extras. When a third converted try followed on 19 minutes from left wing Mateo Carreras, it was always going to be an uphill battle.

Connacht were able to claw back the deficit immediately, helped by strong carries from Leva Fifita before Alex Wootton finally got the visitors on the front foot and Finlay Bealham was able to burrow over, with Conor Fitzgerald adding the conversion.

Connacht, finally finding some rhythm and continuity, began retaining possession. With both backs and forwards involved, they went through a number of phases before Bealham scored his second try with Fitzgerald nailing the conversion to close the gap to 21-14 after 31 minutes.

The visitors however failed to convert successive penalty opportunities and never recovered the momentum. The hosts started the second half as they had the first, taking the game to Connacht and they exposed their defence when replacement Josh Barton scored a fourth try.

Bealham bagged his third try to give Connacht some hope at 28-21, but after Caolin Blade had a try disallowed for a forward pass, the hosts sealed victory with a 77th minute try from centre Pete Lucock.

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: A Tait; B Stevenson, M Orlando, P Lucock, M Carreras; T Schoeman, M Young (capt); L Mulipola, J Blamire, T Davison; G Peterson, S De Chaves; G Graham, P van der Walt, C Fearns.

Replacements: J Barton for Young (22 mins), P Rubiolo for Peterson (36 mins), F Lockwood for Fearns (53 mins), A Brocklebank for Mulipola (55 mins), A Radwan for Tait and R Palframan for Davison (both 62 mins), C Maddison for van der Walt and J Thomas for Schoeman (both 67 mins).

CONNACHT: M Hansen; A Byrne, B Ralston, C Forde, A Wootton; C Fitzgerald, C Reilly; D Buckley, S Delahunt, F Bealham; L Fefita, J Murphy; S Hurley-Langsto, C Oliver, J Butler (capt).

Replacements: T Farrell for Wootton (32 mins), D Murray for Fifita, D Tierney Martin for Delahunt and C Blade for Reilly (all 58 mins), T Daly for Fitzgerald (60 mins), J Aungier for Bealham, J Duggan for Buckley and C Booth for Hurley-Langton (62 mins).

Referee: Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy (France)