(Picture – European Professional Club Rugby)
Connacht completed their Pool Five campaign in the European Challenge Cup on Saturday as eight tries in the Sportsground set up an Easter meeting with Gloucester in the quarter-finals.
Niyi Adeolokun struck three tries in a dominant first half as Connacht made light work of bottom side Oyonnax with Bundee Aki, Tiernan O’Halloran, Matt Healy and Tom Farrell also getting over the whitewash.
HIGHLIGHTS | Relive the action from yesterday's 8 try victory over Oyonnax. It sealed a home @ERChallengeCup quarter final in the Sportsground.
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) January 21, 2018
Adeolokun opened after just 22 seconds after good work from Kieran Marmion and, in the complete opposite to their trip against Worcester, Connacht had two tries scored in as many minutes.
Conor Carey and O’Halloran provided the impetus for Adeolokun to get over the line and after Aki and O’Halloran registered their five-pointers to secure the bonus point, Adeolokun concluded his hat-trick in the 31st minute.
Axel Muller and Daniel Ikpefan got tries for the French outfit before half-time but Matt Healy crowned his 100th appearance for the Irish province with the sixth try on 33 minutes.
Connacht were in control as both coaches emptied their benches. Substitute Tom Farrell got the seventh Connacht try with 13 minutes remaining before constant pressure secured a penalty try in the closing stages.
— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) January 20, 2018
“The failure to win (against Worcester Warriors) last weekend hit a nerve with the boys,” said Keane at the post-match press conference. “It certainly hit a nerve with some of us.
“The continuity of our game in European competition has allowed us to develop and has given us a bit of confidence and belief. And the ambition we’ve been seeking, it’s been a good platform for us to achieve that.
“It’s a challenge (Gloucester) for us. It’s nice to be a part of it. We’ve had some disappointing results and we’ve thrown a few fixtures in the Pro14 away, dare I say it. We’re disappointed about that aspect but we have to look at the positives. This (competition) offers us an opportunity to perhaps get some silverware.”
Connacht will face Gloucester in the Sportsground between Thursday, 29th March and Sunday, 1st April. Details to be confirmed.
Connacht – Niyi Adeolokun (15 – three tries), Tiernan O’Halloran (9 – one try, two conversions), Bundee Aki (5 – try), Matt Healy (5 – try), Tom Farrell (5 – try), Craig Ronaldson (4 – two conversions).
Oyonnax – Axel Muller (5 – try), Daniel Ikpefan (5 – try), Anthony Fuertes (2 – conversion), James Hall (2 – try)
Connacht Team: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Craig Ronaldson, Kieran Marmion; Peter McCabe, Dave Heffernan, Conor Carey; Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux; Eoghan Masterson, Naulia Dawai, John Muldoon. Subs used: Cian Kelleher for Ronaldson (33 mins), Caolin Blade for Marmion (47 mins), Tom Farrell for Aki (47 mins), Dominic Robertson-McCoy for Carey (48 mins), Shane Delahunt for Heffernan (54 mins), James Connolly for Dawai (54 mins), Denis Coulson for McCabe (69 mins), Cillian Gallagher for Adeolokun (72 mins).