Connacht’s first outing in the Heineken Cup ended in defeat this evening, when they came up just short against Harlequins at The Stoop.
The home side had the better of the early exchanges and led 3-0 after five minutes courtesy of a Nick Evans penalty. However, the inexperienced Irish side gave as good as they got once they found their feet, and a penalty from Miah Nikora tied the game.Evans restored the Quins lead two minutes later but then the hosts were stunned when Connacht crossed over for a try. Tiernan O’Halloran had the distinction of scoring his sides first five pointer in the competition and after Nikora converted, the visitors led 10-6.
Nick Evans had his shooting boots on and he narrowed the gap to a single point, with a penalty on 19 minutes(10-9). Scrum-half Karl Dickson then turned the game, when he touched down to give Quins back the advantage. Evans converted and suddenly at 16-10 the game was slipping away from Connacht. Evans had the final say in the half and his thirty seventh minute penalty left the score 19-10 at the interval. From there it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Irish province.
The second half was very slow to get going but Gavin Duffy ignited the tie with a try on fifty seven minutes. Substitute Niall O’Connor added the extra two points and suddenly the visiting fans began to dream of a famous victory. The Irish side battled bravely and gave their all,and at times in the latter stages they looked like pulling off the most unlikely of successes. It looked as if the home side would be held scoreless in the forty minutes, but that man Evans popped up in the dying minutes to convert two ate penalties to leave it 25-17.
It was a very promising first appearance in the competition for Eric Elwood’s men and on the evidence of tonight’s name they can expect to pick up points at home this season.