CONNACHT 3 CASTRES OLYMPIQUE 17, The Sportsground
Scorers: Connacht: Pen: Peter Durcan
Castres: Tries: Rodrigo Capo Ortega, Luc Ducalcon; Cons: Anthony Lagardere, Romain Teulet; Pen: Romain Teulet
A brace of tries originating from powerful forward play at either end of the contest sealed victory for the French visitors in a game that lacked continuity and was indicative of a pre-season challenge match.
John Muldoon captained Connacht for the first of two games against the Jeremy Davidson-coached Castres this week. The visitors were at full strength, save for second row Lionel Nallet who is part of France's World Cup squad.
Castres began in unforgiving mood pinning Connacht back in their own 22 with a four-minute spell of controlled and powerful rugby. Connachtâ00s resilient defence was eventually broken with Uruguayan Rodrigo Capo Ortega driving over and Anthony Lagardere converting.
Right on 30 minutes, the home side registered what proved to be their only score with younster Peter Durcan slotting over a deserved penalty after a much better spell of phase-building from the Connacht attack. Michael Bradley's men trailed by 7-3 at the break but looked in much better shape after enduring a shaky start.
The second half promised much for Connacht but ultimately offered little. Replacement Romain Teulet's penalty midway through the half extended the Castres lead to seven points, while ten minutes from the end Luc Ducalcon sealed the victory for the visitors with a late try converted by Teulet.
Sligo man Durcan again showed his promise, this time at out-half, after a stirring display at full-back last week. Ofisa Treviranus was a lively inclusion off the bench while veteran Michael Swift was Connachtâ00s leading light in the pack. The westerners will have a chance to redeem themselves with a rematch against Castres at the same venue on Saturday (kick-off 4pm).
CONNACHT: Danny Riordan; Darren Yapp, John Hearty, Mel Deane, Alipate Tuilevuka; Peter Durcan, Rob Shaw; John Lyne, Joe Merrigan, Brett Wilkinson, Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Michael McCarthy, Johnny O'Connor, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements used: Tim Donnelly for Durcan (11-16 mins, blood sub), David Gannon for Ofisa (14), Donnelly for Durcan, Aidan Wynne for Deane, Brian McGovern for Wilkinson (all half-time), Conor Muldoon for Merrigan, Conor McPhillips for Shaw (both 49), Ofisa Treviranus for Yapp (52), Andrew Farley for Browne, Durcan for Riordan (both 59), Wilkinson for Lyne (63), Swift for Browne (74).
CASTRES OLYMPIQUE: Matthieu Bourret; Brad Fleming, Olivier Benassis, Laurent Marticorena, Phil Christophers; Anthony Lagardere, Sebastien Tillous-Bordes; Kees Meeuws, Matthieu Bonello, Daniel Saayman, Rodrigo Capo Ortega, Gambo Amadou, Lei Tomiki, Patrick Tabacco, Florian Faure.
Replacements used: Romain Terrain for Bonello (28 mins), Luc Ducalcon for Meeuws, Carl Hoeft for Saayman (both 50), Lionel Mazars for Benassis, Romain Teulet for Bourret (both 52), Vincent Jacca for Tillous-Bordes (65), Anthony Pradalie for Amadou, Cameron McIntyre for Lagardere (both 71).
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)