European Challenge Cup: Pau 30-40 Connacht – Irish side advance to quarter-final date with Benetton

Home » European Challenge Cup: Pau 30-40 Connacht – Irish side advance to quarter-final date with Benetton
European Challenge Cup: Pau v Connacht
Pau: (20) 30
Tries: Zeguer (2), Fisi’ihoi Pens: Simmonds (2) Cons: Simmonds (3) Drop-goal: Simmonds
Connacht: (12) 40
Tries: Heffernan, Prendergast (2), Bolton, Blade, Aki Cons: Carty (2), Hanrahan (3)

Connacht came back from a half-time deficit to beat Pau and advance to the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

The province trailed by eight points at the break but scored six tries across the contest to secure the win.

Irish international Bundee Aki scored the winning try with a quarter of an hour remaining at a time when Pau’s Jale Vatubua was in the sin bin.

Connacht will now play Benetton in the last eight.

Pete Wilkins’ side could not have asked for a better start, scoring after only four minutes.

When Pau gave away an early penalty, Connacht captain Jack Carty kicked to the corner and the pack mauled their way forward for hooker Dave Heffernan to score.

Frustratingly for the visitors, they would make a mess of the restart with a knock-on when exiting ultimately allowing Pau to level only four minutes later through number eight Sacha Zegueur.

Despite losing Jarrad Butler to early injury, Connacht would not have to wait long to regain the advantage.

Following good work from Aki, Carty’s pass to the right wing gave flanker Cian Prendergast a walk-in score.

Pau would suffer an injury blow of their own in the first half with captain Martin Puech taken off, but the Top 14 side would score 10 unanswered points before the turn to take a 20-12 lead into half-time.

After Simmonds kicked a penalty, Connacht had looked to strike back but Dan Robson hacked a loose ball ahead when Aki’s pass to Caolin Blade didn’t go to hand and, after good work from Thomas Carol, Zegueur was over for his second.

Pau looked to have started the second half the better of the sides but, in a try similar to Zegueur’s second just before the break, Shayne Bolton kicked ahead when Pau lost possession and gathered the loose ball himself to score.

Again the hosts stuck back almost immediately, this time through Tongan prop Ziggy Fisi’ihoi and former Exeter Chief Joe Simmonds added a mammoth drop goal soon after.

The influential Heffernan created a score for Blade to bring Connacht back within a score and Pau were reduced to 14 just after the hour mark when Jale Vatubua was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle.

It was during the yellow card period that Aki would grab the key try, wriggling over from close range with the score awarded after a lengthy TMO consultation.

While Pau pushed to force yet another lead change late on, it was Connacht who would have the final say with Prendergast grabbing his second thanks to a fine finish with two minutes left on the clock.

Line-ups

Pau: Maddocks; Carol, Roudil, Vatubua, Tuimaba; Simmonds, Robson; Fisi’ihoi, Delhommel, Tokolahi; Ducat, Tagitagivalu; Puech (capt), Hamonou, Zeguer.

Replacements: Rey, Parrou, Papidze, Cummins, Metz, Hewat, Daubagna, Desperes.

Sin-bin: Vatubua (62)

Connacht: O’Halloran; Bolton, Hawkshaw, Aki, Jennings; Carty (capt), Blade; Buckley, Heffernan, Bealham; Joyce, Murray; Prendergast, Hurley-Langton, Butler.

Replacements: De Buitlear, Duggan, Illo, D Murray, Oliver, Devine, Hanrahan, Farrell.

Match officials

Referee: Andrea Piardi

TMO: Matteo Liperini

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