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Tiernan looking to create

Connacht silenced all their doubters with a mature and tactful display, gaining what is certainly the highlight victory of the past few seasons.

The scoreline is known to all and for the most part the reviews found all over the internet have summarised the game fairly; Connacht wanted it, they attacked effectively and took their chances with gusto. The team have received their well deserved plaudits from pundits who appear all too happy to accept that the match proved the predictions very wrong. Even this site has a preview that stated that the odds were stacked against Connacht, with their long injury list, and a young backline behind a pack that had more fresh faces in it than most would have liked. However these fresh faces should now be burning with pride, as they delivered a superb display across the park to win an "unwinnable" game.

The game started as most expected, with the French heavyweights hammering their way up the field and winning a penalty which Yachvili slotted. However the onslaught that most would have been expecting never followed. After some pressure from Biarritz the telling feature of their game began to rear its head... handling errors. In the 7th minute of the match one such error was a pass from Marcelo Bosch to Charles Gimenez that was spilled. The superb McSharry pounced with some speed, to gather and offload superbly to the supporting Vainikolo, who raced to the line to secure a try for Connacht, which Parks converted.

From this point on Connacht looked settled and, for the most part, in control of a game where Biarritz constantly failed to handle the pressure which Connacht's defense put on them. Parks played the match with a strategy of not allowing Biarritz easy territory, and, though he had a few ill-executed Garryowens, he carried that plan out very well indeed. He was ably assisted by Kieran Marmion, whose service was near faultless, and whose direction of the players around him is maturing at a ferocious rate. Marmion looked every part the shouty scrum half that is required for great teams to really gel.

The pack played the match with an intense focus, and though their efforts found them on the wrong side of the whistle there was little to fault in their endeavour or their execution. The lineouts were smooth, the scrum was a rock, and the break-down was practically owned by the men in grey. Faloon, Browne, and Harris-Wright were notable by their willingness to get onto ground-ball, but none could have performed the way that they did without the others. They constantly backed one another and it told.

Further out the field, much credit must be given to Dan Parks who stepped into the captain role with assurance, and whose constant direction gave those young players outside of him a lot of confidence about their attacking lines and their defensive positions. McSharry at 12 must surely have caught the eye of the attending Irish coach, Declan Kidney, with his superb, dangerous lines and thundering defense. At the same time the back three will only have to improve their fielding to become one of the most dangerous in the competition.

Tribute must be paid to the Biarritz fans whose grace in defeat should be an example to all. They not only played a lamenting version of "The Fields of Athenry" during the match, but they also entertained the Connacht fans in the Clan Bar afterwards with no hint of annoyance beyond that which they held for their non-performing players. Contrary to this, it should be noted that there was some un-sporting behaviour from some Connacht fans, including a lack of silence for Yachvili's final kick, and the dreadful booing of the match officials as they left the field at half time. This is silly and unnecessary behaviour and hopefully there were simply some fans that were carried away by the excitement, but no excuses should be made.

In all though, it was a superb night for Connacht Rugby, and it places us in 2nd place in the group, ahead of the trip to Biarritz next week. The young players who performed so gallantly on Friday should be given the chance to prove that this was not an accident of fate. These young (and not so young) men did not lack physicality, they did not lack skill, and they certainly did not lack belief. It is a great sight to see, and it shows the incredible work being achieved by the Connacht Academy and the coaching staff. 

No doubt we will see a backlash from Biarritz. They are a proud club. So are we.

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