Connacht’s struggles hurt the hopefuls of the summer tour


Connacht concludes their campaign with a game of little consequence to sports fans outside their borders.

ndy Friend’s men will win today, capping a league campaign whose perfect symmetry – eight wins, eight losses – masks so many imperfections. Their race to Champions Cup qualifiers came much earlier than their cheerleaders would have them believe.

It is rather staggering that Connacht are not among the 24 sides in the elite phase of the competition next year as it appears they have, if not permanently, then at least embraced long-term lodger status.

If they thought the pressure had increased this season as they try to push a new style of play with a mostly inexperienced coaching staff, the heat will only increase next season.

The World Cup and a summer audition in New Zealand might give some thought to today; though not all. Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion could have been considered contenders early in the four-year cycle; Their removal from the top European tariff will most likely confirm their permanent competitive removal.

There are several likely boys in the Connacht pack looking to extend their campaigns.

Cian Prendergast, a conspicuous selection at the base of the scrum, leads that queue and Conor Oliver has also been very consistent all season despite being on a team that hasn’t.

Lockers Niall Murray and Gavin Thornbury will also be hoping there will be plenty of seating on the big bird of IRFU heading south; Unfortunately, other bolters like Joe McCarthy and Thomas Ahern have certainly overtaken them. A reminder that even on a seemingly inconsequential day, there is always someone who pays a price.

Verdict: Connacht

Connacht – O McNulty; J Porch, T Farrell, T Daly, A Wootton; J Carty (Captain), K Marmion; Buckley D, Tierney-Martin D, Bealham F, Thornbury G, Murray N, Masterson E, Masterson S, Prendergast C. Representatives: D. Heffernan, M. Burke, J. Aungier, U. Dillane, A. Papali’I, C. Reilly, C. Fitzgerald, S. Arnold.

Zebra Parma – L Pani; A Tuivuaka, F Smith Jr, E Lucchin, J Trulla; C Canna, C Cook; D Fischetti, L Bigi, E Bello, D Sisi (Capt), A Zambonin, L Andreani, I Bianchi, T Fox-Matamua. Representatives: G Ribaldi, P Buonfiglio, M Nocera, L Krumov, R Vintcent, N Casilio, A Fusco, J Laloifi.

ref – Adam Jones (WRU)

Connacht v Zebre Parma, Live, RTÉ2/Premier Sports 1, 5.0 Connacht’s struggles hurt the hopefuls of the summer tour

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